Apex court reserves verdict on courts’ power to order CBI probe

December 11th, 2008 - 10:53 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 11 (IANS) Can the high courts and the apex court order a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) without prior consent of the government? The Supreme Court Thursday heard arguments on a bunch of lawsuits on the issue and reserved its verdict.A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, reserved the verdict after hearing diverse arguments by various counsel on the higher judiciary’s power to entrust the CBI with the task of probing a criminal offence in any state without the permission of the government.

The other judges on the constitution bench, which heard this “important legal question” included Justice D.K. Jain, Justice R.V. Raveendran, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.M. Panchal.

The question if the higher courts are empowered to order a CBI probe was referred to the constitution bench by another bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal on March 22, 2007.

Justice Agrawal referred the question while dealing with an appeal by the West Bengal government against a Calcutta High Court ruling, dated Aril 7, 2001.

The high court had ordered a CBI probe into the alleged killing of 11 Trinamool Congress workers at Gabreta in Midnapore district.

The West Bengal government contended that if courts order a CBI probe, which was created under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, it amounted to violation of Section 6 of the said Act as it clearly provided that the CBI cannot investigate a cognisable offence in a state without the prior consent of the state.

During the two days argument on the issue, the union government and the CBI took differing stands.

Appearing for the union government, Solicitor General Goolam E. Vahanvati told the bench that there was no restriction on the higher judiciary’s power to order a CBI probe into sensitive cases having national and international ramification, besides those involving grave violations of the Fundamental rights of a citizen.

Appearing for the CBI, Additional Solicitor General B. Dutta, however, contended that as per the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, the higher judiciary have no power to order a CBI probe unless the state gives its consent.

Appearing for the West Bengal government, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal argued that though the apex court can order a CBI probe into the cases of violation of Fundamental Rights, the high court does not have that power.

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