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Magistrate Cannot Suo Motu Direct Further Investigation After Discharging An Accused: SC [Read Judgment]

The Supreme Court on April 16, 2019, in the case of Bikash Ranjan Rout v. State, has observed that after the Magistrate has taken cognizance of an offence and discharged an accused, he does not have the jurisdiction to suo moto direct further investigation.

A Bench comprising of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice M.R. Shah was hearing an appeal filed by Bikash Ranjan Rout against the judgment passed by the High Court in which it had confirmed the order passed by the learned Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.

The Magistrate while considering the chargesheet filed by the investigating officer against the Accused/appellant for the offences under Sections 420, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, had discharged the accused. However, in the same order, the Magistrate observed and directed that the case requires further investigation to reach a logical conclusion. The High Court confirmed this order passed by the Magistrate which made the accused to move the apex court.

The question posed for consideration by the court was whether once the learned Magistrate passes an order of discharge of the accused, whether thereafter is it permissible for the Magistrate to order further investigation and direct the investigating officer to submit the report?

The Bench considering the law laid down by this court in various judgments and even considering the relevant provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, namely Sections 167(2), 173, 227 and 228, said that when “the report is forwarded by the police to the Magistrate under Section 173(2)(i) of the CrPC, the learned Magistrate may either (1) accept the report and take cognizance of the offence and issue process, or (2) may disagree with the report and drop the proceedings, or (3) may direct further investigation under Section 156(3) and require the police to make a further report… it is required to be noted that all the aforesaid is required to be done at the pre­cognizance stage.”

The court said that the power to order further investigation which may be available to the Magistrate at the pre-cognizance stage may not be available to the Magistrate at the post-cognizance stage, more particularly, when the accused is discharged by him.

"If the Magistrate was not satisfied with the investigation carried out by the investigating officer and the report submitted by the investigating officer under Section 173(2) (i) of the CrPC, as observed by this Court in catena of decisions and as observed hereinabove, it was always open/permissible for the Magistrate to direct the investigating agency for further investigation and may postpone even the framing of the charge and/or taking any final decision on the report at that stage. However, once the learned Magistrate, on the basis of the report and the materials placed along with the report, discharges the accused, we are afraid that thereafter the Magistrate can suo moto order the further investigation by the investigating agency. Once the order of discharge is passed, thereafter the Magistrate has no jurisdiction to suo moto direct the investigating officer for further investigation and submit the report,” the court observed.

In this situation, the court added that, there are only two remedies available: (i) a revision application can be filed against the discharge or (ii) the Court has to wait till the stage of Section 319 of the CrPC. Moreover, it is always open for the investigating officer to apply for further investigation, even after forwarding the report under sub-section (2) of Section 173 and even after the discharge of the accused.

Setting aside the part of the order which directed police to further investigate the matter, the court said that "In the instant case, the investigating authority did not apply for further investigation and that the learned Magistrate suo moto passed an order for further investigation and directed the investigating officer to further investigate and submit the report, which is impermissible under the law. Such a course of action is beyond the jurisdictional competence of the Magistrate. Therefore, that part of the order passed by the learned Magistrate ordering further investigation after he discharges the accused, cannot be sustained and the same deserves to be quashed and set aside. "

[Read Judgment]


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