Serious matter, says SC on multiple states withdrawing consent for CBI

Eight states in India — West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram — have withdrawn the general consent to CBI to begin a probe within their territory.
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The Supreme Court on Monday, November 8, said that it is a ‘serious matter’ that several states in India have withdrawn general consent for the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation within their territory. The CBI, in an affidavit, told the Supreme Court that eight states -- West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram -- have withdrawn the general consent and each time, a separate application has to be filed to seek permission from the state to launch a probe. The CBI told the apex court that 150 such requests were sent to these states during the period 2018 to June 2021 for grant of specific consent for the investigation of cases in their territory. Only 18 percent of these requests were granted, the CBI said.

"Requests were granted in less than 18 per cent cases, which were related mainly in cases of trapping of corrupt Central public servants. Requests in approximately 78 percent cases were pending, which mainly pertained to bank frauds of high magnitude impacting the economy of the country," it had said in the affidavit.

The CBI derives its powers to investigate from the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, which grants the CBI power to investigate a case in Delhi, without any permission, since it is part of the Union government. However, in all the states, the CBI needs the consent of the state to investigate any case relating to that state or having jurisdiction of that state.

On Monday, a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed that state governments not granting consent is a "serious issue."

The apex court also expressed concern over the pendency of the CBI's appeals in various courts — trial courts, high courts, and the Supreme Court. According to the CBI, a total of 13,291 appeals, revisions, or writ petitions are pending in these courts — 327 in sessions courts, 12,258 in high courts, and 706 in the Supreme Court.

The CBI said in several cases, during the course of the trial, proceedings are held up due to stay orders granted by the appellate courts, thus adversely affecting the pace of the trial.

"In some cases, leave to appeal is not granted immediately and it takes a lot of time for its admission. For instance, in 2G scam cases, leave to appeal was filed by the CBI within the prescribed timeline in 2018, but the same has not been granted to date. This also adds on to the difficulties being faced in the prosecution of such cases," said the CBI in its affidavit.

According to a counsel in the matter, the bench said the pendency of the appeals is a serious concern and it should be dealt with separately.

On September 3, the top court had decided to examine, within the ambit of investigation and prosecution, the CBI's success rate and performance leading a case to its logical conclusion. The top court sought a complete chart of how many cases the CBI has been prosecuting in trial courts and in the high courts.

"We will examine the success rate of the premier investigating agency," it noted. The top court was hearing a matter arising out of the CBI's appeal from a 2018 judgment of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court. According to a counsel, the top court has also issued a notice in this matter.

The high court had let off some lawyers from charges of fabricating false evidence against a few security forces personnel to implicate them in a case of rape and murder. Two girls from Shopian had died due to drowning in March 2009, the CBI had claimed that some lawyers and doctors created false evidence of rape and murder.

With IANS inputs

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