Suit of West Bengal plea on CBI probes maintainable: SC rejects UOI's preliminary objections

The verdict seemed to be a setback for the Centre, as the SC held the suit as maintainable. Meanwhile, the WB govt had alleged that the Union had allegedly misused CBI.
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of IndiaFile Photo | PTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday in its verdict held as maintainable the suit of the West Bengal government alleging that the CBI is pressing ahead with the investigation into the post-poll violence cases in the state without securing its prior nod as per the law and dismissed the preliminary objections of the Centre.

A two-judge bench of the top court, led by Justice B R Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta, which had reserved its verdict after hearing a detailed arguments from the West Bengal government and Centre, pronounced the verdict.

"Considering the arguments in the case, we have considered the scheme of the DSPE (Delhi Special Police Establishment) Act and also the SC Rules. We reject the preliminary objections of the Centre on the maintainability of the suit (filed by West Bengal government," Justice Gavai, said in the verdict.

He also made it clear in the judgement that the West Bengal government's suit on CBI probing cases despite withdrawal of consent by state shall proceed in accordance with law on its own merits.

The verdict seemed to be a setback for the Centre, as the SC held the suit as maintainable. Meanwhile, the West Bengal government had alleged that the Union had allegedly misused CBI.

The Centre, through its senior lawyer, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, had earlier told the apex court that a state government cannot claim a right to issue omnibus, sweeping, and overarching directions to withdraw consent for a CBI probe into any matter. "The state government can exercise the power to grant/refuse consent only on a case-to-case basis only," Mehta said and sought that the West Bengal government's plea should be dismissed by the SC.

It is to be noted that the CBI has lodged multiple FIRs in cases of post-poll violence in West Bengal, which had vehemently objected to it.

Mehta also raised a preliminary objection on the lawsuit filed by the West Bengal government and said that the state's original suit was not maintainable. "The CBI is not under the Centre. CBI is an independent body and not the one coming under the Central government. Therefore, the Central government cannot be sued in the matter," Mehta told the top court.

He further accused the West Bengal government of trying to litigate the same issue in two different cases before the apex court.

The Bench was hearing arguments in an original suit filed by the West Bengal government against the Central government over the alleged misuse of the CBI in matters concerning the State.

Opposing the arguments of Mehta, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, for West Bengal government, told the top court that the CBI could not probe cases concerning West Bengal without the State government's general consent.

Raising questions on how the CBI can probe cases within its territory without the State government's prior sanctions, Sibal said, "We are dealing with a statute (Delhi Special Police Establishment Act) that impacts the federal structure of this country. General Consent is necessary before you get entry in the State," Sibal said.

He also pointed out that once you gave a foothold to the CBI in a State, soon after the ED also entered for investigating the predicate offence. "It has huge ramifications on the polity of this country. All of this has enormous implications for the Indian polity," the senior lawyer said.

The West Bengal government, in its suit, filed before the top court, accused the CBI of going ahead with its probe in post-poll violence cases, without adhereing to the law for securing the prerequisite mandatory nod from the state in the case.

The West Bengal government has filed the plea in the top court alleging that the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) has been filing FIRs (First Information Report) and it was automatically proceeding with its probe, despite the fact that the State govt had not given its prior approval to the federal agency to probe cases within its territorial jurisdiction.

The State government in its plea said that it had filed the plea in the Top court against the Centre under Article 131 of the Constitution, empowering a State to move the Supreme Court directly in case of a dispute with the Centre or any other State.

It is to be noted that the WB government had on November 16, 2018, withdrew the general consent accorded to the CBI to conduct probe and raids in the State.

The West Bengal government has filed the original suit in the apex court against the Centre also under Article 131 of the Constitution, alleging that the CBI has been filing FIRs and proceeding with its probe, despite the state having withdrawn the general consent to the federal agency to probe cases within its territorial jurisdiction.

Article 131 of Indian Constitution deals with the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction in a dispute between the Centre and one or more states.

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