NIA Act Scheduled Offences: State Police Can Continue Investigation Till NIA Takes Over – Supreme Court
A three-judge Bench of Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud, Justice Vikram Nath, and Justice BV Nagarathna has held that as per Section 6(7) of the National Investigation Act, it is the duty of the officer-in-charge of the police station to continue with the investigation and file chargesheet upon its conclusion, till NIA takes over the case.
Further, the Court observed, "Therefore, the continuation of the investigation, and the filing of the charge-sheet upon its conclusion, by the ATS Nanded was in terms of the statutory mandate under Section 6(7) of the NIA Act."
Appeals were preferred by the two accused against the judgment of the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court which had dismissed the Writ Petition of one of the Appellant challenging the rejection of his application under Section 167(2) of the CrPC and held that the Additional Sessions Judge had jurisdiction under the CrPC to try the offences under the UAPA, even though they were scheduled offences under the NIA Act, until the investigation was entrusted to and taken over by the NIA
In this case, the accused together with other co-accused were arrested and FIR was registered with the Anti-Terrorism Squad, Mumbai under Sections 120-B and 471 of IPC read with Sections 13, 16, 18, 18-B, 20, 38, and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 and Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Explosive Substances Act 1908.
It was alleged that the Appellant was in contact with the members of the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations banned by the UN and the Indian Government. The Appellant was also involved in assisting a member of ISIS in making bombs/IEDs to cause a blast.
CJM, Nanded was notified as the Court of remand and the Court of Additional Sessions Judge, Nanded as a Special Court to try cases filed by the ATS Nanded by the Government of Maharashtra. The CJM, Nanded took cognizance of the case and committed the case to ASJ, Nanded.
Later, the National Investigation Agency was directed to take over the further investigation of the case under Section 6(4) of the NIA Act. ATS, Nanded handed over the case papers to NIA Mumbai for further investigation of the matter.
One of the Appellant, in between, had filed an application before the ASJ, Nanded under Section 167(2) of CrPC contending that the offences under UAPA were scheduled offences under the NIA Act, and hence CJM, Nanded had no jurisdiction to pass an order for remand, to take cognizance or to pass an order of committal of the proceedings to ASJ, Nanded since it was not a 'Court' under Sections 11 and 22 of the NIA Act.
However, his application was rejected on the ground that since the investigation NIA Mumbai had not taken over the investigation from ATS, Nanded, and hence, ATS, Nanded had to continue with the investigation under Section 6(7) of the NIA Act and that the ASJ had jurisdiction to pass the orders it passed.
The High Court upheld this order and allowed NIA's application for transfer of the case to NIA Special Court, Mumbai.
The Apex Court after observing the contentions of the parties at length gave the following observations –
ATS, Nanded had the jurisdiction to continue with the investigation
The Court after observing the contention of the Appellant that ATS, Nanded did not have the jurisdiction to continue with the investigation once the Government directed NIA Mumbai to take over the case, observed, "on a conjoint reading of sub-Sections (4), (5), (6) and (7) of Section 6, what emerges is that the ATS Nanded had a duty to continue with the investigation till the NIA Mumbai actually PART D 23 took over the investigation from it."
The Apex Court while analyzing Section 6 of the NIA Act, held, "The investigation conducted by the ATS Nanded prior to this was within the mandate of sub-Section (7) of Section 6 of the NIA Act."
"The mere renumbering of the case filed by the NIA Mumbai did not take away the power of the ATS Nanded to continue the investigation," the Bench held.
"The said provision is clarificatory in nature so as to remove any doubt about the duty of the officer in-charge of the police station to continue the investigation till the 'Agency', i.e., the NIA Mumbai in the instant case, took up the investigation on receipt of the case papers. Therefore, the continuation of the investigation, and the filing of the charge-sheet upon its conclusion, by the ATS Nanded was in terms of the statutory mandate under Section 6(7) of the NIA Act," the Court observed.
CJM, Nanded had jurisdiction for remand and committal to trial
It was argued that the CJM, Nanded did not have the jurisdiction for remand and committal to trial.
To this, the Court relied upon the case of Bikramjit Singh v. State of Punjab and observed –
"The principle enunciated by this Court in Bikramjit Singh (supra) would not apply to the present case since there existed no Special Courts in the State of Maharashtra designated under Section 22 of the NIA Act (since the investigation was being conducted by the ATS Nanded, which had the jurisdiction over the case)."
The Court upheld the judgment of the Bombay High Court holding that the CJM, Nanded could have committed the case to trial before the ASJ, Nanded upon the filing of charge-sheet by the ATS, Nanded since they were the designated Courts for the ATS, Nanded and no Special Court had been designated by the Government of Maharashtra under Section 22 of the NIA Act. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeals.