Scope of Preliminary Inquiry is to Ascertain Whether the Information Reveals any Cognizable Offence: Supreme Court of India

The scope of preliminary inquiry as ‘open inquiry’ is not to verify the veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offence. This honorable judgement was passed by Supreme Court of India in the case of Charansingh Vs. State of Maharashtra and others [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.363 OF 2021] by The Hon’ble Mr. Shah.

The appeal was filled by appellant whereby writ petition challenging notice dated 04.03.2020 issued by the Police Inspector, Anticorruption Bureau, Nagpur, calling upon the appellant to personally remain present before the investigating officer 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 complaint was received, wherein various allegations have been made against the appellant and his brothers with regard to accumulating the assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. That time the appellant was a Member and President of Municipal Council, Katol, District Nagpur. A notice had been issued to the appellant asking him to provide documents relating to his property, assets, bank statements, income tax returns and asking the appellant to give statement to the police. It was submitted on writ petition that on behalf of the appellant that the Police Inspector, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Nagpur has no power to issue the said notice. It was also submitted that the said notice was issued in a purported exercise of power under Section 160 Cr.P.C., however, Section 160 Cr.P.C. would not be applicable at all as the appellant is not a witness in the case and there is no FIR against the appellant. On the other hand, it was the case on behalf of the State that the appellant had been called upon to give his statement in an ‘open enquiry’ which is in the nature of preliminary enquiry. It was the complaint received by the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Nagpur regarding amassing of huge properties by the appellant.

The learned council referred the case of Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh (2014) 2 SCC the High Court, dismissed the said writ petition, observed that not responding to such a notice, may be at the peril of the notice himself for the reason that the officer of the Anti-Corruption Bureau may draw some adverse inference against the person not cooperating with the preliminary enquiry.

The court opinioned that, “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.”

The court dismissed the appeal stating, “no reason to interfere with the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court and clarifications that the statement of the appellant on the points mentioned in the impugned notice would be only to satisfy whether a cognizable offence is disclosed or not and so as to enable the appellant to clarify the allegations made against him with respect to accumulation of assets disproportionate to his known sources of income and the same shall not be treated as a confessional statement.”

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