The Bombay High Court ruled that it is unacceptable for the investigating officer to refuse to consider relevant material brought to their notice by the accused. The Court stated that fair investigation requires the investigating officer to take into account all relevant material, regardless of whether it supports the prosecution or the defense. In this case involving Sections 498-A, 306 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, the accused had applied to the court seeking the quashing of the FIR. Additionally, the applicants had submitted an application requesting the police to consider certain documents, specifically printouts of WhatsApp chats of the deceased, during the investigation process.

A Division Bench of Justice Vinay Joshi and Justice M.W. Chandwani held, “No doubt, the investigating officer shall be given complete and full freedom to carry the investigation in accordance with law. The material which is sought to be produced by the accused may or may not help the investigating agency, but, it is totally unacceptable that he shall not look into the same. We do not see any provision of law which precludes the investigating officer to go through the material if he finds it relevant and germane to arrive at the truth.

Senior Advocate S.V. Manohar appeared for the Petitioners and Advocate M.J. Khan appeared for the Respondents.

The prosecution opposed the application, arguing that the documents submitted by the accused were a probable defense and should not be entertained at this stage of investigation. The prosecution contended that the court's intervention would amount to interference in the investigation process.

The Court emphasized the importance of fair, impartial, and transparent criminal investigation. It cited relevant Supreme Court decisions, including Babubhai vs. State of Gujarat and others, and Vinay Tyagi vs. Irshad Ali @ Deepak and others, which underscored the necessity of unbiased investigations aimed at discovering the truth. The court said, “It is essential to note that the essence of criminal justice system is to reach to the truth. The underlying principle of criminal jurisprudence is that, the accused is presumed to be innocent till he is proven guilty with requisite standard of proof. Fair, impartial and transparent criminal investigation is sine qua non for ensuring fair trial for the accused. The process of fair investigation and fair trial are as much necessary for the victim, as it is also equally necessary for the accused. The investigating officer is under an obligation to carry fair investigation with a sole moto to reach to the truth.”

The Court noted that the investigating officer must conduct a fair investigation, considering all relevant material, irrespective of whether it supports the prosecution or the defense. The Court added, “It is a requirement of fair trial that there is fair investigation, and there can be no fair investigation if the investigating officer does not take into consideration all relevant material which is desirable for the purpose of investigation. Needless to say that the Code of Criminal Procedure does not envisage one sided investigation aimed at collecting material only to substantiate the case of prosecution.”

The Court further said, “There can be variety of circumstances which we cannot predict, but, if the vital material is brought to the notice of the investigating agency they cannot shut their eyes by refusing the same. Of course it is within the domain of the Investigating Officer whether to rely or not on the said material

The Court allowed the application, directing the investigating officer to accept the documents submitted by the applicants. The investigating officer was instructed to consider the documents to the extent that they were relevant, necessary, or desirable for a fair investigation. However, the decision to rely on these documents was left to the investigating officer's discretion. The Court expressed the expectation that the investigating officer would conduct the investigation fairly and in accordance with the law.

Cause Title: Nikhil Ashokrao Waghmare & Ors. v. The State of Maharashtra & Anr., [2023:BHC-NAG:15764-DB]

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