The investigation into the murder of Trinamool Congress leader Tapan Dutta was given to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the Calcutta High Court on Thursday. It was ordered that the CID West Bengal, which was looking into the case, immediately turn the investigation over to the CBI.
The issue under consideration in Protima Dutta v. The State of West Bengal & Ors. (W.P.A. No. 12526 of 2012) before a single judge bench presided over by Honorable Justice Rajasekhar Mantha was whether the High Court, under Article 226 of the Constitution, can transfer the investigation from the State Police to the CBI and also order for the change of the prosecutor after a Division Bench of the High Court, while considering an appeal from
Facts of the case:
On May 6, 2011, Dutta, the Trinamool Congress’ Bally Jagacha block unit’s vice president at the time, was fatally shot. When Datta was killed, the block unit was leading a campaign to halt the filling up of a 750-acre wetland.
After that, the State had asked the CID to look into the murder case. The widow of the late TMC leader, Pratima Dutta, then petitioned the High Court to order a CBI investigation into the case, alleging that Arup Roy, the Trinamool Congress’ minister for food processing, was complicit in the plot to kill her husband and was a defendant in the case.
According to the opposing arguments, the Court concluded that the State police may have been under pressure to protect particular individuals and their nefarious behavior. As a result, the Court stated, “This Court’s mind is not free from doubt that the murder in question might have been the result of a rivalry and a conspiracy. The victim might have been impeding significant financial and/or political gain that some people were pursuing. Such people are influential and well-connected politically. Indeed, a thorough investigation may uncover new information or reveal any potential roles for powerful individuals. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that there may be pressure on the State police and the investigation agencies to defend particular people and their nefarious deeds. To restore confidence in the victim’s family and the general public, it is also necessary to change the investigating and prosecuting agency in the current case.”
The Court mandated a CBI investigation and instructed, “This Court orders that the Central Bureau of Investigation be given immediate authority over the investigation and prosecution of the case. The CBI has the right to carry out additional research as it sees fit.”
The Court emphasized the necessity of a thorough, sincere, honest, and fair investigation for a successful and impartial prosecution as well as trial. Further, it was noted that Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees an accused person their right to a fair trial and that this right includes the right to a fair investigation because the former taints the possibility of the latter in the absence of the latter.
“A fair trial requires an appropriate and thorough investigation. Finding the truth is essential for achieving the fundamental goal and purpose of the criminal justice delivery system. Innocent people should not be punished, and no real criminals should escape the reach of the law “the Court’s judgment was.
Justice Mantha continued by asserting that it is quite obvious that the CID of West Bengal’s investigation into the current case has been superficial, as noted by the concerned trial judge as well as by the Division Bench of this Court. The Court stated that it was urgent to foster public confidence in the investigation and trial.
“Thus, the petitioner’s claims and concerns have been confirmed. It is obvious that State agencies failed to properly investigate the crime and identify the real offenders. Thus, there is a pressing need to restore public confidence in the investigation and trial, which is sufficient justification for changing the investigation agency.”
It was further stated that crimes involving “influential persons,” such as public figures, members of political parties, and people connected to them, make independence of the investigation and prosecution from the executive control of the State, as well as the independence of the prosecution from the investigating agency, all the more crucial and necessary. The Court observed that such public figures have enormous power and influence, which may affect the course of the investigation and prosecution, as well as the overall case.
The 239th Report of the Law Commission of India, which was presented to the Supreme Court in the case of Virender Kumar Ohri v. Union of India, was also cited in support of this claim.
As a result, the Court determined that the prosecutor had not performed his duties properly in the current case due to his carelessness in presenting evidence to the court and adequately interrogating witnesses. The Court added that it is crucial that the prosecuting agency be changed, saying, “Given the likelihood of participation by powerful and politically influential individuals, the prosecution must remain outside the purview of any State or political influence. The prosecution or prosecution agency needs to be changed, according to this Court, in order to guarantee that the truth comes to light.”
The Court further expressed its opinion regarding the powers granted to the Trial Court by Section 311 of the CrPC, stating that these powers must be used with the utmost care, caution, and circumspection. Justice Mantha further emphasized that its indiscriminate use would only be equivalent to trying to fill in the “lacunae” in the prosecution case, particularly in situations where there are obvious gaps in the investigation and prosecution case, as in the current case.
The Trial Court cannot complete such a difficult task on its own without assistance from a capable prosecutor, the Court noted, ” this court is of the opinion that the task imposed on a Trial judge would be extremely onerous if the burden was entirely placed on the Trial Court to proceed with the Trial without an agency to assist with an effective investigation as well as an effective prosecution. Given that all of the courts in the nation, and Trial Courts in particular, are already incredibly overburdened with the ever-growing case load, this becomes even more pertinent.”
The Court further rejected the State’s argument that a change in an investigator and prosecutor has never taken place in a proceeding under Article 226 after the trial is over, noting that this argument cannot be used as a justification for refusing to impose measures aimed at ensuring that the wheels of justice turn smoothly. The Court remarked that the present case is in fact a rare and exceptional one that necessitates extraordinary action.
As a result, the Court stated when ordering a change in the prosecution agency, “Therefore, the CID West Bengal shall immediately turn over all cause papers and evidence gathered, including any that has been recorded but has not been presented at trial. The CBI has the right to see, examine, and copy all of the evidence used in the trial.”
The Court further mandated that the concerned Trial Court conclude the case within six months of the date it was reopened in accordance with the Division Bench’s order from April 10, 2017.
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Judgement Reviewed By Manju Molakalapalli.