Supreme Court’s ruling on CBI probe for Sushant Singh Rajput case – Here are the facts

As the Supreme Court passed an order directing CBI to investigate the unnatural death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput as well as potential financial irregularities surrounding his death, many lies, misrepresentations and myths are floating around. I lay some facts and legal explanations.

Mumbai Police action

After Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his home in Mumbai (Maharashtra), Mumbai Police launched an inquiry into the unnatural death under a provision of law Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

[Those interested in reading the bare provision may click here . Section 174 CrPC requires the police to conduct an enquiry and prepare a report on an apparent suicide]

It is crucial to note that Mumbai Police was only conducting a limited inquiry into Sushant’s unnatural death. Mumbai Police did not register a First Information Report (FIR). The limited scope of this inquiry is merely to ascertain whether a person has died under suspicious circumstances or an unnatural death and, if so, what is the apparent cause of the death.

Questions regarding how Sushant was assaulted or who assaulted him were not in the scope of such an inquiry.

To summarize, Mumbai Police had not registered any FIR (not only in regard to suspecting someone of murder, but even abetment of suicide), but was merely inquiring whether Sushant’s death was suicide or otherwise. Indeed, if it suspected otherwise, an FIR would follow.

Bihar Police action

Due to uncertainty about future happenings in regard to Mumbai Police’s actions in the matter, Sushant’s father filed a complaint with the Bihar Police. In addition to accusing Rhea Chakraborty (known to be Sushant’s girlfriend at the time of his death) and five others of abetment of suicide (he alleges that his attempts to talk to Sushant were thwarted by those he accuses), the complaint also alleged cheating, defalcation of money from Sushant’s account, criminal breach of trust etc. (i.e., financial irregularities). [Details are available here.]

Therefore, Bihar Police was not holding a parallel investigation. There was no investigation being done by Mumbai Police. It was merely conducting a limited inquiry under Section 174 CrPC. The Supreme Court judgment clarifies the same.

Jurisdiction issue

Rhea Chakraborty objected to Bihar Police investigating this complaint on the grounds that the incident happened in Mumbai.

Could Bihar Police have investigated a complaint which related to events occurring in another State, i.e., Maharashtra? In that regard, the Supreme Court ruled, based on several judgments in the past, that Bihar Police was required to register an FIR on the basis of complaint by Sushant’s father. This is because a major part of the complaint related to Sushant’s financial assets to which Sushant’s father was one of the legal heirs after Sushant’s death. Any financial irregularities regarding the same affected his entitlement as an heir.

The Supreme Court, citing previous judgments, ruled that even if a part of the cause of action had a connection with the jurisdiction in question, the police station in the jurisdiction had the power to register FIR. Sushant’s father, as we know, resides in Bihar.

Rhea for CBI or against CBI?

Ordinarily, the investigation of a criminal case is required to be conducted by the State agencies (since law and order is a State subject, not a Central one). However, investigation by the local police can be taken over by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) primarily under two circumstances: either, the State government gives its consent, or a court of law orders it.

In early August, the Bihar Government gave its consent for transferring to CBI the investigation of the FIR filed on the basis of Sushant’s father’s complaint.

It is worth repeating at this point that, in regard to Sushant’s death and financial irregularities, there was only one FIR filed by a police agency throughout India — and it was not the Mumbai Police.

Much has been made of Rhea’s apparent hypocrisy regarding whether or not she wanted CBI to probe Sushant’s death. Her tweet dated July 16 was a public request to ask for a CBI inquiry.

It is a fact that Rhea had no problem transferring to the CBI what Mumbai Police was inquiring into. It, however, is also a fact that she objected to Bihar Police investigating the complaint filed by Sushant’s father on the grounds of jurisdiction and, therefore, objected when Bihar Police transferred that investigation over to CBI.

Indeed, the nature of the inquiry being conducted by Mumbai Police was such that there was nothing that could be transferred to the CBI at that stage. As stated earlier, what Mumbai Police was doing wasn’t an investigation, only a limited inquiry.

Supreme Court’s decision — a summary

It is vital to state that Supreme Court did not suggest any wrongdoing by Mumbai Police based on records of the case produced so far. It noted that steps taken by Mumbai Police under Section 174 CrPC “cannot be faulted”.

At the same time, it is vital to state that the Court noted that Mumbai Police’s “obstruction” of Bihar Police team could have been avoided since it gave rise to suspicion on the genuineness of their inquiry.

It noted that the clash between police agencies of two States (Bihar and Maharashtra), apprehensions voiced by stakeholders in regard to what they perceived as an unfair investigation, to prohibit speculative public discourse, conjectures and theories which had the propensity to delay and misdirect the investigation were enough grounds to validate the legality of the ongoing investigation by CBI based on Bihar Government’s consent (thus making it vital to note that SC did not order any fresh CBI investigation).

Importantly, what it also ordered was that, if a new case is registered in Mumbai in regard to the same issues (note that no FIR has yet been filed by Mumbai Police), that case, too, should be investigated by CBI. It effectively prohibited Mumbai Police from simultaneously investigating the offences which the Bihar Police was investigating.

Hopefully, the truth will emerge soon and those grieving for Sushant will get finality.

(The article was first published in Medium is reproduced here with permission from author.)

About The Author: Kartikeya Tanna is a lawyer practising in India, England and New York. He is a well known Columnist and Commentator on legal matters.