Court News Updates

West Bengal suit against Centre on CBI probe maintainable, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today in its verdict held as maintainable the suit of the West Bengal government alleging that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is pressing ahead with the probe into the post-poll violence cases in the state without securing its prior nod according to the law and dismissed the preliminary objections of the Centre.

A bench comprising Justice B R Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta, which had reserved its verdict after hearing detailed arguments from the West Bengal and Centre, pronounced the verdict.

Justice B R Gavai stated that considering the arguments in the case, they have considered the scheme of the DSPE (Delhi Special Police Establishment) Act and also the SC Rules. He added that the bench rejected the preliminary objections of the Centre on the maintainability of the suit filed by the West Bengal government.

He further clarified that the judgement that the West Bengal government's suit on CBI probing cases despite withdrawal of consent by state shall proceed in accordance with law on its own merits.

Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre had earlier told the apex court that a state government cannot claim a right to issue omnibus, sweeping, and overarching directions to withdraw consent for a CBI probe into any matter. He added that the state government can exercise the power to grant or refuse consent only on a case-to-case basis only.

Notably, the CBI has lodged multiple FIRs in cases of post-poll violence in West Bengal, which had vehemently objected to it. SG Mehta also raised a preliminary objection on the lawsuit filed by the West Bengal government and said that the state's original suit was not maintainable.

He added that the CBI is not under the Centre, and is an independent body and not the one coming under the Central government. Hence, the Central government cannot be sued in the matter. He also accused the West Bengal government of trying to litigate the same issue in two different cases before the apex court.

Contradicting the arguments of Mehta, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the West Bengal government, told the top court that the CBI could not probe cases concerning West Bengal without the State government's general consent.

Questioning how the CBI can probe cases within its territory without the State government's prior sanctions, Kapil Sibal said that they are dealing with a statute (Delhi Special Police Establishment Act) that impacts the federal structure of this country. General Consent is necessary before you get entry in the State, he continued.

The senior counsel also pointed out that once the court gave a foothold to the CBI in a State, soon after the ED also entered for investigating the predicate offence.  He noted that it has huge ramifications on the polity of this country, and all of this has enormous implications for the Indian polity.