The Supreme Court yesterday directed further investigation against the former Minister of Maharashtra Jitendra Awhad in a case where four policemen beat a man for criticizing the Minister’s act of ridiculing the Prime Minister. The Court said that the victim has a fundamental right to a fair trial and investigation in this matter.

The allegation against the former Minister and NCP leader was that he caused police to bring a man who authored a critical Facebook post to his Bungalow and instructed his men to beat him and make him apologise.

The Court held that to do complete justice and in furtherance of fair investigation and fair trial, constitutional courts may order further investigation / re-investigation / de novo investigation even after the charge sheet is filed and the charges are framed.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar held, “… we are of the opinion that a case is made out for further investigation and the State agency may be permitted to conduct a further investigation and to bring on record the further material, which may be in the furtherance of fair investigation and fair trial. The High Court has committed a very serious error in not ordering and/or permitting the State police agency to further investigate into the FIR bearing Nos. 119 and 120 of 2020.”

The Bench was hearing an appeal preferred against the order passed by the Bombay High Court wherein it dismissed the appellant’s writ petition seeking transfer of the investigation to CBI or to any other agency to investigate or re-investigate the FIR registered against him.

“The endeavor of the Court should be to have the fair investigation and fair trial only”, said the Court.

Senior Advocates Mahesh Jethmalani and Siddharth Dave appeared on behalf of the appellant while Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Senior Advocates Shekhar Naphade and Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared on behalf of the respondents.

Brief Facts

The appellant was a Civil Engineer, working as a consultant, shared on his Facebook account, a viral picture of Jitendra Awhad, the then-sitting Cabinet Minister of Maharashtra, criticizing his act of ridiculing the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. At night on the very same day, four Policemen came to his residence and forcibly took him to the Bungalow of the Minister.

As per the appellant, the Minister instructed his men to beat him and make him apologize for circulating the said viral picture of him and also threatened him to delete the post immediately. The appellant was mercilessly and ruthlessly beaten up by the police personnel present at the premises of the Minister. Thereafter, an FIR was also registered against him by the Police on the complaint of a close ally of the Minister. The appellant made a complaint to the Police and the same got registered but Minister was not named in the FIR. Hence, he approached the High Court but his plea got dismissed.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether the High Court was justified in denying the relief of transfer of the investigation to CBI and refusing to order further investigation / re-investigation / de novo investigation.

In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, the Supreme Court noted, “We are in complete agreement with the view taken by the High Court insofar as refusing to transfer the investigation to CBI is concerned. … The allegations in the FIR were very serious including the misuse of powers by the sitting Cabinet Minister and of abducting, kidnapping and beating the complainant.”

The Court also noted that there was no proper investigation by the State investigating agency at the relevant time and even the material evidence was not collected.

“… the victim has a fundamental right of fair investigation and fair trial. Therefore, mere filing of the chargesheet and framing of the charges cannot be an impediment in ordering further investigation / re-investigation / de novo investigation, if the facts so warrant”, the Court further observed.

The Court confirmed the judgment of the High Court with regard to refusing the transfer of investigation but quashed and set aside the order of the High Court refusing further investigation into the FIR.

“… we direct / permit the State investigating agency to further investigate into the FIR bearing No. 120 of 2020 and on what aspects the further investigation shall be caried out is left to the wisdom of the State investigating agency. Further investigation be carried out and completed as early as possible, preferably within a period of three months from the date of receipt of the present order and the further supplementary report be placed before the learned Magistrate in the Trial/before the concerned Trial Court …”, directed the Court.

Accordingly, the Apex Court partly allowed the appeal.

Cause Title- Anant Thanur Karmuse v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors.

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