Charansingh vs. The State Of Maharashtra - (Supreme Court) (24 Mar 2021)
Open enquiry at pre-FIR Registration stage in cases relating to allegations of corrupt practice is permissible
Appeal was against impugned judgment passed by the High Court by which the High Court has dismissed the writ petition challenging notice dated 4th March, 2020 issued by the Police Inspector, Anti- Corruption Bureau, calling upon the Appellant to personally remain present before the investigating officer of the Anti-corruption Bureau, to give his statement in an ‘open enquiry’ in respect of the property owned by him along with the information on the points stated in the said notice, the Appellant has preferred the present appeal.
It was submitted on behalf of the Appellant that, the Police Inspector, Anti-Corruption Bureau, has no power to issue the said notice. The short question which is posed for the consideration of present Court is, whether such an enquiry at pre-FIR stage would be legal and to what extent such an enquiry is permissible?
On the basis of the complaint against him, the Appellant is facing various allegations with regard to accumulating the assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, when the Appellant was a member and the President of the Municipal Council, Katol, District Nagpur – a public servant. At that stage and while considering the veracity of the allegation of accumulating the assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, the investigating agency has thought it fit to hold an ‘open enquiry’ and during the course of such ‘open enquiry’ the Appellant has been called upon to make his statement.
An enquiry at pre-FIR stage is held to be permissible and not only permissible but desirable, more particularly in cases where the allegations are of misconduct of corrupt practice acquiring the assets/properties disproportionate to his known sources of income. After the enquiry/enquiry at pre-registration of FIR stage/preliminary enquiry, if, on the basis of the material collected during such enquiry, it is found that the complaint is vexatious and/or there is no substance at all in the complaint, the FIR shall not be lodged. However, if the material discloses prima facie a commission of the offence alleged, the FIR will be lodged and the criminal proceedings will be put in motion and the further investigation will be carried out in terms of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Therefore, such a preliminary enquiry would be permissible only to ascertain whether cognizable offence is disclosed or not and only thereafter FIR would be registered. Therefore, such a preliminary enquiry would be in the interest of the alleged accused also against whom the complaint is made.
Statement of the appellant and the information so received during the course of discrete enquiry shall be only for the purpose to satisfy and find out whether an offence under Section 13(1)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is disclosed. Such a statement cannot be said to be confessional in character, and as and when and/or if such a statement is considered to be confessional, in that case only, it can be said to be a statement which is self-incriminatory, which can be said to be impermissible in law.
At this stage, it is required to be noted that, in the present case, the Appellant has produced the relevant documents of some of the properties owned by him and the Appellant has joined the ‘open enquiry’. It also appears from the counter filed on behalf of the Anti-corruption Bureau that, on the basis of the information given by the Appellant, letters have been issued to various authorities/banks, seeking further and better particulars. Partial statement of the Appellant has already been recorded. However, such a statement/enquiry would be restricted only to ascertain whether a cognizable offence is disclosed or not. Such a statement cannot be said to be a confessional statement. There is no reason to interfere with the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court. Appeal dismissed.
Tags : PRE-FIR REGISTRATION ENQUIRY VALIDITY