The Hon’ble Supreme Court in, National Confederation of Officers Association of Central Public Sector Enterprises vs Union of India, held that “There is no bar on the constitutional power of this Court to direct the CBI to register a regular case, in spite of its decision to close a preliminary enquiry.”
By: Likivi K Jakhalu, Campus Law Centre, Delhi University
In this case, the CBI registered a preliminary inquiry on 6 November 2013 based on ‘confidential source information’ in relation to the HZL disinvestment. According to this Court’s order dated 3 November 2014, CBI submitted a status report.
However, on 22 August 2014, the Additional Director, CBI, recommended that the preliminary inquiry be converted into a regular case.
In this matter, the Hon’ble Apex Court directed the police to register an FIR once a cognizable offence had been reported to them. A number of cases were cited by the Court in this regard:
In Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) v. Thommandru Hannah Vijaylakshmi @ T.H. Vijaylakshmi and another, a three-judge Bench of this Court held that it is not mandatory to hold a preliminary enquiry in all cases before registering an FIR against a public official, in a matter involving the possession of disproportionate assets.
In Manohar Lal Sharma v. Principal Secretary, a three-judge Bench of this Court, while monitoring an investigation in a matter of national importance, had elaborated on the duty of the CBI to convert a preliminary enquiry into a regular case, once a prima facie case involving the commission of a cognizable offence is evinced. Justice R M Lodha, speaking on behalf of the Court, had also remarked on the nature of the powers of the constitutional court, while monitoring an investigation in exceptional matters
In Shashikant v. Central Bureau of Investigation, a two-judge Bench of this Court held that this Court has the power to direct the CBI to conduct an investigation in exceptional cases, despite the CBI’s decision to close the preliminary enquiry, even in the exercise of its writ jurisdiction.
According to the Hon’ble Apex Court, the reading of the aforementioned reports and recommendations made it apparent that there is a prima facie case to justify the registration of a regular case regarding the disinvestment in 2002.
The Hon’ble Apex Court’s conscience about exercising its exceptional powers to direct the CBI to conduct an investigation into the matter was satisfied by some of the observations of the officials of the CBI who recommended the conversion of the preliminary inquiry into a regular case.
A prima facie case for a cognizable offence, as mandated in para 9.1 of the CBI Manual, was thus made out in this case which warranted the registration of a regular case.
The Hon’ble Apex Court thus directed registration of a regular case, followed by a full-fledged investigation to be conducted. And that the Court shall be duly apprised of the status of the investigation.
Accordingly, CBI was directed to register a regular case and periodically submit status reports of its investigation to this Court.