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E. Sivakumar Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (18 May 2018)

Petition, if genuine and raises a reasonable apprehension of likelihood of bias in dispensation of criminal justice system, cannot be brushed aside on allegation of political vendetta



Present special leave petition takes exception to the judgment of the High Court, whereby the High Court has issued a writ of mandamus to transfer the investigation of a criminal case concerning the illegal manufacture and sale of Gutkha and Pan Masala, containing Tobacco and/or Nicotine, to the Central Bureau of Investigation ("CBI"). The Petitioner has been named as an Accused in the FIR because of his alleged involvement in the crime under investigation. The Petitioner at the relevant time was posted on deputation as Food Safety Officer in the Food Safety and Drug Administration Department, Ministry of Health. The stated crime was being investigated by the State Vigilance Commission, constituted by the State of Tamil Nadu, headed by a Vigilance Commissioner.

For instilling confidence in the minds of the victims as well as public at large, the High Court predicated that it was but necessary to entrust the investigation of such a crime to CBI. There is no infirmity in the conclusion reached by the High Court in the impugned judgment, for having entrusted the investigation to CBI. A person who is named as an Accused in the FIR, who otherwise has no right to be heard at the stage of investigation or to have an opportunity of hearing as a matter of course, cannot be heard to say that the direction issued to transfer the investigation to CBI is a nullity.

In the peculiar facts of the present case, the High Court has justly transferred the investigation to CBI after due consideration of all the relevant aspects, which approach is consistent with the settled legal position expounded in the decisions adverted to in the impugned judgment, including the decision in Subrata Chattoraj v. Union of India and Ors., which predicates that, transfer of investigation to CBI does not depend on the inadequacy of inquiry/investigation carried out by the State police.

Submission that, the High Court should have been loath to entertain a public interest litigation at instance of Respondent No. 14, who happens to be a member of the Legislative Assembly in the State of Tamil Nadu or that he had pro-actively participated in raising the issue in the Assembly, has also been answered in the impugned judgment. The Court, while entertaining public interest litigation at the instance of Respondent No. 14, has relied upon the dictum in K. Anbazhagan v. Superintendent of Police and Ors., wherein it is observed that, the political opponents play an important role both inside and outside the House and are the watchdogs of the Government in power. They are the mouthpiece to ventilate the grievances of the public at large, if genuinely and unbiasedly projected. A petition filed by such persons (such as Respondent No. 14) cannot be brushed aside on the allegation of political vendetta, if otherwise, it is genuine and raises a reasonable apprehension of likelihood of bias in the dispensation of criminal justice system. Petition dismissed.

Relevant : Subrata Chattoraj v. Union of India and Ors., MANU/SC/0453/2014: (2014) 8 SCC 768, K. Anbazhagan v. Superintendent of Police and Ors., MANU/SC/0930/2003: (2004) 3 SCC 767


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