The Supreme Court on Friday said that a preliminary inquiry (PE) before registering an FIR by the CBI under the Code of Criminal Procedure or the Prevention of Corruption Act or the probe agency’s manual is not mandatory and the accused cannot insist on it as a matter of right.
The top court said that if the CBI has disclosed a cognizable offense in the complaint or information received through “source information” under the CBI manual, it can directly file a regular case instead of making a PE.
The top court, in its 64-page judgment, also clarified that if the CBI chooses not to keep the PE, the accused cannot seek it as a matter of right.
A bench of Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice BV Nagarathna moved the Telangana High Court on February 11, to quash the FIR lodged by the CBI against 1992-batch IRS officer Vijayalakshmi and her husband Audimulpu Suresh in the disproportionate assets case. Canceled the 2020 order. Education Minister of Andhra Pradesh.
“In view of the discussion, we are of the view that the institution of preliminary inquiry in corruption cases has not been made mandatory before registering an FIR under CrPC, PC Act or even the CBI manual, issued a direction to this Court. The effect on him to do so would be tantamount to stepping into the legislative sphere,” the bench said.
“Therefore, we hold that if the CBI discloses the commission of a cognizable offense if the information obtained through complaint or through “source information” under Chapter 8 (of the CBI Manual), it will directly register a regular case. may conduct a preliminary inquiry, where the officer is satisfied that the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence,” it said.
The bench, however, observed that its formulation does not take away from the value of conducting a PE in a suitable case, which has been accepted in the course of the judgment of this Court where it has been held that the accepted criterion – in the form of CBI manual or Similar tools – emphasis is on preliminary investigation.
“Registration of a routine case can have disastrous consequences for an officer’s career, if the allegations are ultimately proved to be false. In a preliminary investigation, the CBI is allowed access to documentary records and talks to people as they are. as they will conduct an investigation, which states that the information collected can also be used at the investigation stage.” Said it.
The bench said that holding a PE would not take away from the ultimate goal of prosecuting the accused persons in a time bound manner and “we once again clarify that if the CBI chooses not to conduct a preliminary inquiry, the accused will not seek the same”. can do. Right”. It said the earlier judgments of the apex court had clarified that a PE is valuable in corruption cases, but it does not vest authority in the accused and only ensures that the process of law is misused to target public servants. Don’t be
It said that it has thus been held in earlier rulings that a PE is not mandatory when the information received discloses the commission of a cognizable offence.
“Even when it is conducted, the scope of the preliminary inquiry is not to ascertain the correctness of the information, but only to find out whether it reveals the commission of a cognizable offence. The need for a preliminary inquiry will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. For example, “corruption cases” fall under the category of cases where a preliminary inquiry “can be carried out”.
The bench held that the CBI Manual held earlier by this Court is not a statute enacted by the legislature and is a collection of administrative orders for internal guidance of the CBI and the expression “can be made” goes to emphasize that the initial Testing is not mandatory.
It said the precedents of this Court and the provisions of the CBI Manual make it abundantly clear that PE is not mandatory in all cases involving allegations of corruption.
It states that similarly, the CBI manual notes that PE is required only when the information (whether verified or unverified) does not disclose the commission of a cognizable offence.
The bench observed, “Even when a preliminary inquiry is initiated, as soon as the officer finds that sufficient material has been collected, disclosing the commission of a cognizable offence, he shall be restrained.” Will happen.”
The proposition that a PE is mandatory is clearly contrary to law, as it is not only contrary to the decision of the Constitution Bench, but would also tear down the framework created by the CBI manual.
The bench said that the single judge of the Telangana High Court has acted completely beyond the prescribed norms governing the power to quash the FIR. “The Single Judge has played the role of a Chartered Accountant. The Single Judge has completely ignored that the Court was not at the trial stage or was not considering an appeal against the judgment in the trial”, it said.
The CBI, in its FIR registered on September 20, 2017, has claimed that the couple has acquired assets of more than Rs 5.55 crore against income of more than Rs 4.84 crore during the period of investigation from April 1, 2010 to February 29, 2016. .
It has said that their income has increased by 22.86 per cent in assets worth Rs 1,10,81,692.