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Consent of state govt cannot come in the way of CBI jurisdiction to investigate offences by public servants under Section 3 of DSPE Act: SC

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court on Friday held that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) need not seek consent from a state government to examine the role of a public servant from that state in an offence under Section 3 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE Act) [Kanwal Tanauj v. State of Bihar & Ors.].

The case pertains to an offence allegedly committed by an IAS officer from Bihar. While serving as District Magistrate (DM) at Aurangabad district in Bihar, the appellant before the Supreme Court was accused of siphoning off government funds and corruption.

The alleged offence took place during a construction project undertaken by the Bhartiya Rail Bijli Company Limited (BRBCL), and was supposed to have taken place at Delhi.

The CBI registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the appellant under Sections 120B, 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act).

This prompted the appellant to move the Patna High Court seeking to quash the FIR registered against him by the CBI, primarily on the ground that the CBI did not have jurisdiction to exercise its powers under the DSPE Act. Investigation in respect of such cases could be undertaken only after taking prior consent of the state government of Bihar, it was contended.

This High Court's rejection of the appellant's claims brought him to the Supreme Court in appeal.

Before the Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari, the appellant took the same grounds, and argued that he is accused of committing the said offence in his capacity as a state government employee. In this light, the CBI would require the state's consent to investigate his role in the alleged offence, as is required under Section 6 of the DSPE Act.

Section 6 of the DSPE Act deals with the consent of state government to exercise of powers and jurisdiction and reads:

"Nothing contained in section 5 shall be deemed to enable any member of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise powers and jurisdiction in any area in a State, not being a Union territory or railway area, without the consent of the Government of that State."

The Supreme Court, however, noted that the offence alleged to have been committed pertains to the BRBCL, which incidentally has its registered office in Delhi. Therefore, the CBI would have jurisdiction to investigate the offence.

Affirming the findings of the High Court, the Apex Court agreed that the alleged fraud was with respect to a project, funds for which were released by the Central government in its Union Budget of the year 2005-06.

The Court further added,

'...consent of the State under Section 6 cannot come in the way or constrict the jurisdiction of the special police force constituted under Section 2 to investigate specified offences under Section 3 of the 1946 Act committed within the Union Territories."
Supreme Court

This would be the case even if one of the accused involved in the commission of an offence happens to be a resident of the state of Bihar, the Court held.

The Court also stated that on the stage of taking cognizance, "when the Court of competent jurisdiction proceeds to take cognizance of offence and particularly against the appellant, it may consider the question of necessity of a prior sanction of the State of Bihar qua its official(s) as may be required by law."

Therefore, the Supreme Court upheld the view of the Patna High Court and dismissed the appeal.

ASG KM Nataraj with Advocate Anmol Chandan represented the CBI. Senior Advocate Vikas Singh represented the appellant.

Read Judgment:

Kanwal Tanuj vs Bihar.pdf
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