The CBI had taken over the investigation of the FIR registered by the Patna police, on a complaint by Sushant’s father K.K. Rajput
The Supreme Court’s decision to hand over the entire investigation into the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput in Mumbai on June 14, and the circumstances surrounding it, to the CBI might seem, at first sight, to be justified given the ongoing political wrangling between the Bihar and Maharashtra governments over competing claims to jurisdiction by the Patna and Mumbai police forces, but it also sets a whole new precedent, one that may prove troubling in future.
The single-judge bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy, taking recourse to the court’s plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, that enable it to pass any order to do “complete justice” in any case, said there was “no impediment” to endorsing the ongoing CBI investigation, and that due to “acrimonious allegations” at the political level, the “legitimacy of the investigation (by the Mumbai police) had come under a cloud”.
The CBI had taken over the investigation of the FIR registered by the Patna police, on a complaint by Sushant’s father K.K. Rajput, after the state government’s referral.
The Mumbai police, which was probing the actor’s death under Section 174 CrPC, has been directed to hand it over to the CBI.
The real mistake by the Mumbai police may have been its failure to file an FIR, as much was made of the fact that the only FIR in the case was registered in Patna.
The court said it was handing the case to the CBI as “the trust, faith and confidence of the common man in the judicial process will resonate”, but sadly, public faith in the CBI’s ability to effectively investigate even high-profile cases is quite low.
It has been probing the death of actress Jiah Khan for almost seven years, with little progress. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said Wednesday, after the Supreme Court order, that he hoped the CBI’s Rajput probe won’t be like the one into rationalist Narendra Dabholkar’s 2013 murder, which remains unresolved.
And memories are still fresh of the slipshod way in which it probed the 2008 murder of Aarushi Talwar, with matters hitting a dead end.
That shocking crime remains an unresolved mystery.
The Supreme Court noted that the “steps taken” by the Mumbai police while probing Sushant’s death “cannot be faulted”, yet it directed the CBI to take over.
More important, by endorsing the “Zero FIR” registered by the Patna police, which the Bihar government later transferred to the CBI, a new principle has been established. In India’s federal system, law and order (and thus investigation of crime) is a state subject.
A “Zero FIR” is meant as an enabler: to let people file FIRs near their homes or workplaces, which would then be shifted to the jurisdiction where the incident occurred. If everyone impacted by an event filed FIRs in the places they came from, and have it investigated there, it would mean chaos.
If Rhea Chakraborty’s family, for instance, were to file an FIR in West Bengal to protect her interests, would the Kolkata police investigate the Sushant case? And, hypothetically, if a crime had multiple victims from different states, could they or their families file separate FIRs in their home states? Would all these cases then be probed by the CBI?
That said, one only hopes the CBI now investigates Sushant’s death effectively and ensures that he and his family get justice swiftly.