A sex scandal took place in the State of Madhya Pradesh against which a social worker has filed a petition by way of the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
The contention of the Petitioner is that earlier, a complaint was filed by the Superintending Engineer of Municipal Corporation, Indore, Mr. Harbhajan Singh, that he was being blackmailed by a ‘Honey Trap’ gang, working in the state of Madhya Pradesh and involved in blackmailing high profile politicians, bureaucrats, businessman, etc.
This Racket was unearthed by the Madhya Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad and Crime Branch of the State and a total of six people were arrested along with the seizure of a large number of electronic gadgets including spy-cameras, laptops, mobile phones, etc. The audiotapes relating to the conversation with leaders, bureaucrats, businessmen, etc., were also allegedly recovered.
However, when the Investigation Team was constituted to unveiled this Gang, there was a major replacement in the position of Chief and Chairman, resulting in the commission of offence related to money laundering and other offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
It was stated by the petitioner that the case should be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as many influential people are involved in this matter and unbiased investigation will take place.
A detailed reply was filed by the state, in which it was stated that due to difficulty faced by the previous investigating officer in handling the investigation, the replacement was made. It was further declared by the State that during the investigation, a heavy cash amount was recovered from the possession of accused persons involved in the ‘Honey Trap’ Gang, and the same was forwarded to the Income Tax department as well as to the Enforcement Department.
Additionally, the electronic gadgets which were seized in the matter have been forwarded to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Hyderabad for forensic analysis. Moreover, the investigation was monitored by this Court from time to time which ceases the question of handing over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Issue of the Case:
Whether in light of the report, which has been submitted to this Court, the investigation of the case deserves to be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation or not?
Observations of the Court:
During the pendency of the present writ petition, the entire investigation was carried out smoothly by the investigating officer-in-charge and their team and the charge-sheets have been filed in both the cases.
Also, it has been stated that after receiving the report in respect of electronic gadgets and the material which has been sent to CFSL, Hyderabad under Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the investigation is still in progress and appropriate steps under the law are taken by the Respondents.
It is indeed an extraordinary power of the Court in directing CBI for conducting an investigation but such power must be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances. Considering the facts of the case, it was pointed out by the court that the present case does not qualify the transfer of investigation from the hands of State police/ Special Team of State Police officers to CBI.
It is a well-established principle, that before parting with the case, we deem it necessary to emphasize that despite wide powers conferred by Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution, while passing any order, the Courts must bear in mind certain self-imposed limitations on the exercise of these Constitutional powers(State of West Bengal v. Committee for protection of Democratic Rights, (2010) 3 SCC 571).
Moreover, the Court has to keep in mind certain relevant issues i.e. sensitivity of victims or their next kin, the sensitivity of issues like loss of human life, shabby and partisan investigation, etc. while referring the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation(Mithilesh Kumar Singh & Others v. The State of Rajasthan & Others, (2015) 9 SCC 795).
It was observed by the Court that in the present case, a fair and impartial investigation has been carried out by the Madhya Pradesh police. The entire proceedings were seen by the Court in camera and did not find any reason for transferring the investigation to CBI on any count.
The entire progress report which was considered by the court was returned to the Investigating team and the investigating team shall be free to take appropriate measures under Section 178(8) of CrPC. Hence, the writ petition was disposed of.