Court News Updates

CBI vs State: Supreme Court to deliver verdict on maintainability of West Bengal plea

The Supreme Court will deliver it's verdict on the maintainability of a suit filed by the State of West Bengal against the Central government over the latter's alleged misuse of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday.

The matter will be taken up by the Bench of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta today.

Earlier on May 9, the Bench of Justice B R Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta had reserved its verdict on the maintainability of the suit filed by the state government.

The Apex Court had said that it would not allow either the Centre or the West Bengal government to raise any political issue during the arguments on the state's lawsuit.

The Bench said it was only deciding a legal issue and the court will not permit either of the parties to make political arguments.

Appearing for the State, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, argued that once the state had withdrawn its consent on November 16, 2018, the Centre can't allow the probe agency to enter the state for investigation.

Representing the Central Government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contended that the Union government or its departments did not exercise any supervisory control over CBI investigations.

Mehta said that while advancing his submissions in the matter on May 2, he never went into the political part of it, adding that this was a suit and arguments can't go beyond the pleadings. He also submitted that ED would only go to count the cash recovered during a probe.

Mehta said in his rejoinder that there was no cause of action against the Centre in this matter.

He said the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) cannot directly register an FIR. Nor can any other department of the Central government supervise the investigation.

He added that it was devastating to say that the CBI was a police force of the Union.

Mehta said the Union does not have the power to direct the CBI to register an FIR for a particular offence.

During the arguments on May 2, Sibal referred to the provisions of the Delhi Police Special Establishment (DPSE) Act, 1946, and said the State had informed the Apex Court about the cause of action.

He argued that when the CBI was allowed to enter a State for investigation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) generally followed suit. This had huge implications for Indian polity.

He said the consent of the state government must be obtained for the exercise of power by the CBI, adding that granting consent was a privilege and the power to allow that privilege was vested in the state.

The West Bengal government has filed an original suit in the apex court against the Centre under Article 131 of the Constitution, alleging that the CBI has been filing FIRs and proceeding with investigation despite the state having withdrawn the general consent to the federal agency to probe cases within its territorial jurisdiction.

Article 131 deals with the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction in a dispute between the Centre and one or more states.

On November 16, 2018, the West Bengal government withdrew the "general consent" accorded to the CBI to conduct a probe or carry out raids in the state.