NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Tuesday rejected Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami's plea for transfer of cases against him to the CBI saying that an accused does not have the choice of a probe agency or the manner in which the investigation is to be carried out.
The top court said Goswami seeks to pre-empt an investigation by Mumbai Police despite the fact that he himself consented on April 24 for the transfer of an FIR lodged against him in Nagpur to NM Joshi Marg Police Station in Mumbai.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah rejected the prayer for transfer of the cases to the CBI saying, "The transfer of an investigation to the CBI is not a matter of routine.
"The precedents of this Court emphasise that this is an extraordinary power to be used sparingly and in exceptional circumstances".
The court is guided by the parameters laid down for the exercise of that extraordinary power, the bench added.
"The displeasure of an accused person about the manner in which the investigation proceeds or an unsubstantiated allegation (as in the present case) of a conflict of interest against the police conducting the investigation must not derail the legitimate course of law and warrant the invocation of the extraordinary power of this Court to transfer an investigation to the CBI," it said.
The bench said that Goswami had consented for the transfer of the FIR lodged in Nagpur city to Mumbai as another FIR lodged by him with regard to assault was under investigation under the same police station.
"The petitioner now seeks to pre-empt an investigation by the Mumbai police. The basis on which the petitioner seeks to achieve this is untenable.
An accused person does not have a choice in regard to the mode or manner in which the investigation should be carried out or in regard to the investigating agency.
"The line of interrogation either of the petitioner or of the CFO cannot be controlled or dictated by the persons under investigation/interrogation," it said.
The top court referred to a verdict of 2019 in the case of P Chidambaram versus Directorate of Enforcement and said that it was held that so long as the investigation does not violate any provision of law, the probe agency is vested with the discretion in directing the course of investigation, which includes determining the nature of the questions and the manner of interrogation.
The bench refused to accept the arguments of Goswami that length of investigation or the nature of questions asked from him or his Chief Financial Officer during the interrogation must weigh for transferring the probe.
"The investigating agency is entitled to determine the nature of the questions and the period of questioning. The Petitioner was summoned for investigation on one day.
"Furthermore, the allegation of the Petitioner that there is a conflict of interest arising out of the criticism by him of the alleged failure of the State government to adequately probe the incident at Palghar is not valid.
The investigation of the Palghar incident is beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the Mumbai police," it said.
The top court also refused to accede to the submission of the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the contents of the application filed by the Maharashtra police would make it necessary to transfer the investigation to the CBI.
"The investigating agency has placed on the record what it believes is an attempt by the petitioner to discredit the investigation by taking recourse to the social media and by utilizing the news channels which he operates," it said.
"Social media has become an overarching presence in society.
"To accept the tweets by the petitioner and the interview by the complainant as a justification to displace a lawfully constituted investigation agency of its jurisdiction and duty to investigate would have far-reaching consequences for the federal structure.
"We are disinclined to do so," it said.
The bench further said that applying the test spelt out in the consistent line of precedent of this Court, it is unable to find any reason that warrants a transfer of the investigation to the CBI.
In its 56-page verdict, the top cour gave Goswami partial relief by quashing all criminal probes related to a news show on the Palghar mob-lynching except the initial FIR being probed by Mumbai Police and said, "India's freedoms will rest safe as long as journalists can speak to power without being chilled by a threat of reprisal".