Stay Of Investigation Must Be Granted Only In Rarest Of Rare Cases While Exercising Power U/s. 482 CrPC – SC
A Supreme Court Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice BV Nagarathna heard appeals against an interim order passed by the High Court of Gujarat. Setting aside the impugned order, the Supreme Court held that "The High Court has not properly appreciated the principles and the law laid down by this Court in the case of M/s. Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra). What is emphasized by this Court in the case of M/s. Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra) is that grant of any stay of investigation and/or any interim relief while exercising powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. would be only in the rarest of rare cases."
Counsel Harshit Tolia appeared on behalf of the Appellant. ASG K.M. Natraj appeared on behalf of the State of Gujarat. Senior Advocates P.S. Patwalia and Maninder Singh appeared on behalf of the Accused.
In this case, aggrieved by an interim order passed by the High Court, the Original Complainant approached the Supreme Court. By way of the impugned order, the High Court - while admitting the special criminal applications filed under Article 226 of the Constitution read with Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. – granted interim relief and stayed the further proceedings of respective criminal inquiry cases against the Accused.
The Accused had approached the High Court to quash criminal proceedings that were initiated by the Complainant. Before any further investigation could be carried out by the investigating officer, the Single Judge of the High Court passed an ex-parte ad-interim order on 10.10.2019, which directed that there shall not be any coercive steps against the Accused. Two months later, the Court stayed the interim order, and passed a further order observing that it shall be open for the Accused to seek anticipatory bail in accordance with law, which may be considered expeditiously.
Special Leave Petitions were filed before the Supreme Court against the order dated 10.10.2019, and those were converted into Criminal Appeals. The Supreme Court quashed and set aside the interim orders dated 10.10.2019 by a detailed judgment and order, and after considering the decision in the case of M/s. Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. Vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors.
Despite this, while admitting the criminal applications, the Single Judge of the High Court again granted the interim reliefs staying criminal proceedings and resultantly staying further investigation. Aggrieved by this order, the Complainant preferred appeals before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court opined that it appeared from the impugned order that the Single Judge had not properly appreciated and/or considered the Court's earlier judgment and order passed in M/s. Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. Vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors, and had also not properly understood the ratio of the decision of the Court. The Court emphasised that that grant of any stay of investigation and/or any interim relief while exercising powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. would be only in the rarest of rare cases. The Court also emphasized the right of the Investigating Officer to investigate the criminal proceedings.
In that context, the Court said that "Despite the earlier judgment and order passed by this Court in the very criminal proceedings quashing and setting aside the earlier interim orders passed by the High Court, which came to be set aside by this Court, again, the learned Single Judge has granted the very same interim relief, which as observed hereinabove, can be said to be in teeth of and contrary to our earlier judgment and order in the case of M/s. Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra)."
To that end, the Supreme Court ordered that the impugned order be set aside. The Court also directed that the Investigation Officer must complete the investigation at the earliest, and the High Court must consider the special criminal applications in accordance with law and on its own merits.
Therefore, appeals were allowed.
Cause Title - Siddharth Mukesh Bhandari v. The State of Gujarat & Anr.
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