Once cognizance has been taken, Magistrate cannot suo motu direct further investigation

Supreme Court: Interpreting Section 173 CrPC with reference to the power of the investigative agency, the Court said that the un-amended and the amended sub-Section (8) of Section 173 of the Code if read in juxtaposition, would overwhelmingly attest that by the latter, the investigating agency/officer alone has been authorized to conduct further investigation without limiting the stage of the proceedings relatable thereto. This power qua the investigating agency/officer is thus legislatively intended to be available at any stage of the proceedings.

The bench of Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, JJ said that though the Magistrate has the power to direct investigation under Section 156(3) CrPC at the pre-cognizance stage even after a charge-sheet or a closure report is submitted, once cognizance is taken and the accused person appears pursuant thereto, he would be bereft of any competence to direct further investigation either suo motu or acting on the request or prayer of the complainant/informant. The direction for investigation by the Magistrate under Section 202 CrPC, while dealing with a complaint, though is at a post-cognizance stage, it is in the nature of an inquiry to derive satisfaction as to whether the proceedings initiated ought to be furthered or not. Such a direction for investigation is not in the nature of further investigation, as contemplated under Section 173(8) CrPC. Had it been the intention of the legislature to invest such a power, Section 173(8) of the Cr.P.C would have been worded accordingly to accommodate and ordain the same having regard to the backdrop of the incorporation thereof. The Court said that the recommendation of the Law Commission in its 41st Report which manifesting heralded the amendment, significantly had limited its proposal to the empowerment of the investigating agency alone.

It was held that after a report is submitted by the police on completion of the investigation, the Magistrate, in both the contingencies, namely; when he takes cognizance of the offence or discharges the accused, would be committed to a course, whereafter though the investigating agency may for good reasons inform him and seek his permission to conduct further investigation, he suo motu cannot embark upon such a step or take that initiative on the request or prayer made by the complainant/informant. Not only such power to the Magistrate to direct further investigation suo motu or on the request or prayer of the complainant/informant after cognizance is taken and the accused person appears, pursuant to the process, issued or is discharged is incompatible with the statutory design and dispensation, it would even otherwise render the provisions of Sections 311 and 319 Cr.P.C., whereunder any witness can be summoned by a Court and a person can be issued notice to stand trial at any stage, in a way redundant. [Amrutbhai Shambhubhai Patel v. Sumanbhai Kantibhai Patel, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 86, decided on 02.02.2017]

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