SC Directs De-Novo Investigation in Mysterious Death of Law Student

The Supreme Court reaffirmed that the constitutional Courts could direct de novo Investigation, where the Court finds that the investigation has not been done properly.

The matter relates to the mysterious death of a law student of National Law University Jodhpur, who was founded dead on the railway tracks behind the restaurant, where he went along with his batch mates on the fateful night of 13/08/2017.

The University authorities did not register a first information report, and frivolous stories were floated that the he has committed suicide due to depression. After much persuasion of the family of the deceased, the FIR was registered nearly after ten months on 29/06/2018. It was alleged that the police has acted in a very casual and callous manner, due to which the investigation could not yield into finding out the real reason behind the death of the deceased.

Feeling aggrieved with the manner in which the police was conducting the investigation, the father of the deceased student moved a Petition before the High Court. The High Court on 24th February 2020 disposed off the Petition directing the I.O to file the report of the investigation in the Court concerned, with the liberty to the Petitioner to challenge the same.

When the police authorities did nothing, the mother of the deceased student was constrained to approach the SC by filing a Writ Petition No. 141 of 2020, seeking an investigation in the matter by Central Bureau of Investigation. The Supreme Court, by means of its order dated 08/07/2020, directed that the investigation should be concluded within a period of two months and a report be filed in the Supreme Court.

After the order of the Supreme Court, the investigating officer in a very haste manner filed a closer report which was thoroughly unsatisfactory and raised serious questions regarding the nature of investigation done by the police.

Yesterday, a Bench of Justice R.F. Nariman, Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Indira Banerjee, delivered their verdict on the Petition of the mother of the deceased.

As per the Judgment, the counsel appearing for the State Government submitted that the inquest proceedings under section 174 of Cr.P.C were undertaken promptly. There has been no deficiency in the investigation. Despite the best efforts the police could not trace or find the offenders; therefore, there is no occasion for the Court to direct a fresh investigation.

The Court carefully gone through the closure report and observed that there is a substance in the submission of the Petitioner that the police has not investigated in a very efficient manner, which led to the filing of the closure report.

It was further observed that under normal circumstances when an investigation is concluded and the police report is submitted under the provisions of section 173 (2) of the code, only further investigation can be directed under section 173 (8) of the Court. But where the constitutional Court is satisfied that the investigation has not been conducted properly and objectively, a fresh investigation with the help of an independent agency can be ordered to secure the end is of justice so that the truth is revealed.

Reference has been given to the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Kashmiri Devi versus Delhi Administration (1988) Suppl. SCC 482, Babubhai vs state of Gujarat (2010) 12 SCC254. The Court added that fair investigation is a part of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The closure report filed by the police was found to be filed in a very hasty manner, and it lacks bona fide. The Court observed that in the interest of justice de novo investigation in the matter is required to sustain the confidence of the society in the rule of law, irrespective of who the actors may be.

Considering above, the Court set-aside the closure report and directed a Dean over the investigation by a new team of investigators to be headed by a senior police officer of the State Government consisting of efficient personal well conversant with the use of modern investigation technology also. It has further been provided that no officer who was part of the earlier investigation team, which has filed the closure report, shall be part of the team conducting de novo investigation. Since much time has already passed and there is urgency in the matter, therefore the Court directed that the fresh investigation must be concluded within a maximum period of 2 months from the date of Judgment and the police report filed before the concerned Court in accordance with law

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