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After the Magistrate has taken cognizance of an offence and discharged an accused, he/ she does not have the jurisdiction to suo motu direct further investigation, the Supreme Court held.
A Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and MR Shah further noted that the power to direct further investigation in a case is available to the Magistrate under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) at the pre-cognizance stage of the case, and not post-cognizance.
“There is a distinction and/or difference between the precognizance stage and postcognizance stage and the powers to be exercised by the Magistrate for further investigation at the precognizance stage and postcognizance stage. The power to order further investigation which may be available to the Magistrate at the precognizance stage may not be available to the Magistrate at the postcognizance stage, more particularly, when the accused is discharged by him.”
The appellant in the case, Bikash Ranjan Rout, was charged with offences under Sections 420, 468, and 471 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). At the stage of framing of charges, the Magistrate considered the chargesheet and reports filed by the Investigating officer and discharged the accused.
However, while discharging the accused, the Magistrate, in the same order, directed the Additional Commissioner of Police to examine the quality of the investigation done in the case and to analyse the process of efficacy of sending any charge sheet before the prosecution branch for the purpose of scrutiny. The Magistrate also directed that the case requires further investigation to reach a logical conclusion. The same should be done responsibly and a report should be filed, it was ordered.
This order was challenged by the accused before the High Court which confirmed the same leading to the current appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court thus, examined the issue of the power of the Magistrate to direct further investigation.
The Court noted that the law as it emerges from Sections 167(2), 173, 227 and 228 of the CrPC and as laid down by the Supreme Court in various judgments is that after completion of investigation and submission of reports, there are three options that can be exercised by the Magistrate. She may either accept the report and take cognizance of the offence, or disagree with the report and drop the proceedings, or direct further investigation under Section 156(3) and require the police to make a further report. However, the Court noted that these options are available only at the pre-cognizance stage.
Once the Magistrate takes cognizance and, after considering the material on record along with the report under Section 173(2)(i) of CrPC, dischagres the accused in exercise of the powers under Section 227 of the CrPC, thereafter, it will not be open for the magistrate to suo motu order further investigation and direct the investigating officer to submit new report.
The power to order further investigation which may be available to the Magistrate at the precognizance stage may not be available to the Magistrate at the postcognizance stage, more particularly, when the accused is discharged by him/ her, the Court said.
After the Magistrate has taken cognizance of an offence and discharged an accused, the Magistrate does not have the jurisdiction to suo motu direct further investigation. There are separate remedies available against discharge of an accused, the judgments states.
A revision application can be filed against the discharge or the Court has to wait till the stage of Section 319 of the CrPC. Further, considering the provisions of Section 173(8) of the CrPC it is always open for the investigating agency to file an application for further investigation and thereafter to submit the fresh report and the Court may, on the application submitted by the investigating agency, permit further investigation.
However, the Magistrate cannot suo motu direct further investigation under Section 173(8) of CrPC.
Observing that such a course of action “is beyond the jurisdictional competence of the Magistrate”, the Court quashed that part of the order by which the Magistrate had directed further investigation after the discharge of the accused.
Read the Judgment below.