Neetu Kumar Nagaich vs The State Of Rajasthan on 16 September, 2020


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Supreme Court of India

Neetu Kumar Nagaich vs The State Of Rajasthan on 16 September, 2020

Author: Navin Sinha

Bench: Rohinton Fali Nariman, Navin Sinha, Hon’Ble Ms. Banerjee

                                                                         REPORTABLE

                                 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                 CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

                             WRIT PETITION (CRL.) NO.141 OF 2020


         NEETU KUMAR NAGAICH                                    ...PETITIONER (S)
                                               VERSUS
         THE STATE OF RAJASTHAN
         AND OTHERS                                             ...RESPONDENT(S)



                                             JUDGMENT

NAVIN SINHA, J.

The deceased aged 21 years, a 3rd year student at the

National Law University Jodhpur, was the only son of the

petitioner. She seeks justice to unravel the mystery of her

son’s homicidal death, dissatisfied with the investigation

carried out by the State Police. The investigation has reached a

dead end without identification of the offenders. The prayer in

the writ petition is therefore for a mandamus to transfer the

investigation in FIR No.155 of 2018 dated 29.06.2018

registered under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code at the

Mandore Police Station, Jodhpur City, Rajasthan to the Central
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by R
Natarajan
Date: 2020.09.16
16:40:51 IST

Bureau of Investigation.

Reason:

1

2. Shri Sunil Fernandes, learned counsel for the petitioner,

submits that in the evening of 13.08.2017 the deceased had

gone out of the hostel to a restaurant situated around 300

meters from the University campus, along with his friends at

the University. His dead body was found at 09.00 A.M. the next

morning on the railway tracks behind the restaurant. Relying on

frivolous stories floated of the deceased having committed

suicide due to depression, the University authorities did not

register a first information report (hereinafter referred to as ‘the

FIR’). The FIR was registered nearly ten months later, on

29.06.2018, after much persuasion by the petitioner and her

husband. The casualness and callousness of the police is

reflected from the fact that neither was the crime scene sealed

nor necessary investigation done with promptitude by proper

examination of relevant witnesses including CCTV footage, and

digital footprints, mobile locations etc. and WhatsApp chats

during the relevant period of time on the day of occurrence. It

is difficult to accept that the service providers did not provide

mobile dump datas of towers in the location of the incident or

that they were conveniently found by the police to be “dark

zones”.

2

3. The railway authorities had confirmed, Annexure P-2, that

during the intervening night approximately five trains had

crossed the track and no engine driver had reported any

untoward incident till the body was suddenly found on the

railway track at 09.00 A.M. next morning. Prior to that a

witness who had gone to answer the call of nature at 06.30

A.M. had stated that he did not see any dead body on the

railway track. The nature and number of injuries found on the

body of the deceased make it evident that it was a homicidal

death and not accidental or suicidal in nature. The caretaker of

the warehouse near the place of occurrence has not been

examined on the frivolous pretext that he was deaf and

therefore unreliable. The excuse that the caretaker could not

be relied upon, because he was deaf, is preposterous.

4. The deceased was not alone but in company of his friends.

Strangely, yet there is no evidence how and under what

circumstances and by whom he was murderously assaulted.

The deceased is stated to have returned back to the hostel. The

entry register bore his initials signifying his return to the

campus, yet it has been wished away by a simplistic

explanation of one of his friends that he had made the entry by

3
mistake. Surely this was a matter for further investigation. If

the deceased subsequently left the hostel premises again alone

at 10:30 P.M. there had to be visuals in the CCTV footage at the

gate. No investigation of mobile locations available in the

vicinity at the time of occurrence has even been attempted by

the police.

5. The husband of the petitioner had moved the High Court

in S.B. Criminal Miscellaneous Petition No.1411 of 2019

dissatisfied with the manner in which the police was dragging

its feet in failing to make proper investigation, raising serious

doubts that efforts were being made to protect someone. The

High Court on 24.02.2020 disposed of the petition directing the

Investigating Officer to file the result of the investigation in the

court concerned, reserving liberty to the petitioner to challenge

the same. When nothing transpired again and there was no

progress in the investigation, the petitioner preferred the

instant writ petition on 20th May, 2020. This Court on

08.07.2020 directed that the investigation must be completed

within a period of two months and the final report be filed in

this Court. The investigating officer thereafter in hot haste has

filed a closure report which is thoroughly unsatisfactory and

4
raises more questions with regard to the nature of investigation

done by him, than it seeks to answer. Shri Fernandes sought to

persuade us not to allow the closure report, but to set it aside

and order fresh investigation for resolution of the crime and the

offender. Pursuant to the order of this Court, the petitioner

through her lawyer wrote to the Director General of Police

(Crime) on 10.07.2020 and 11.08.2020 inviting attention to

several deficiencies in the investigation which yet remained to

be inquired and has not been taken into consideration at all

before submitting the closure report.

6. Dr. Manish Singhvi, learned senior counsel appearing for

the respondent State, submitted that inquest proceedings

under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in

short, “the Code”) were commenced promptly. A large number

of witnesses have been examined by the Special Investigation

Team constituted pursuant to the order of the High Court.

There has been no deficiency in the investigation. All

possibilities have been investigated and the necessary

evidence collected and analysed. Despite the best efforts the

offenders could not be traced or found. There was no occasion

for this Court to either direct further or fresh investigation. The

5
closure report may be allowed to be filed before the court

concerned and the law may take its course.

7. We have considered the submissions on behalf of the

parties and have very carefully gone through the closure report

also dated 03.09.2020 filed pursuant to our order dated

08.07.2020. The closure report accepts it as a homicidal death

but concludes that there is no clue who the offenders were.

8. The deceased is stated to have left the University

premises along with several friends in the evening of

13.08.2017 at about 07.40 P.M. His dead body was seen the

next morning at about 9:00 A.M. on the railway track passing

behind Laxmi Guest House. The body was lying on the track

curved at a right angle. The deceased had nine very serious

injuries on his person which were found to be ante mortem in

nature. There was no blood at the place of occurrence, but

there was blood on his clothes. Only one slipper of the

deceased was found at the place of occurrence. The

respondents had contended before the High Court and also in

the counter affidavit filed before us on 03.07.2020 that the

death was accidental in nature. The conclusion in the closure

report dated 03.09.2020 then does a volte face to acknowledge

6
a homicidal death with no clue, ruling out an accidental death

by collision with a train. It does not leave much to the

imagination that the deceased was not assaulted at the railway

track but elsewhere. Since a closure report has been submitted

which we are being persuaded not to accept, we shall

purposefully refrain for a detailed analysis of the inherent

contradictions and the inconclusive nature of the investigation

as revealed in the closure report, except to the extent

necessary for purposes of the present order. We find substance

in the submissions made on behalf of the petitioner with regard

to the deficient nature and manner of investigation carried out

by the police leading to the closure report.

9. Normally when an investigation has been concluded and

police report submitted under Section 173(2) of the Code, it is

only further investigation that can be ordered under Section

173(8) of the Code. But where the constitutional court is

satisfied that the investigation has not been conducted in a

proper and objective manner, as observed in Kashmeri Devi

vs. Delhi Administration, (1988) Suppl. SCC 482, fresh

investigation with the help of an independent agency can be

considered to secure the ends of justice so that the truth is

7
revealed. The power may also be exercised if the court comes

to the conclusion that the investigation has been done in a

manner to help someone escape the clutches of the law. In

such exceptional circumstances the court may, in order to

prevent miscarriage of criminal justice direct de novo

investigation as observed in Babubhai vs. State of Gujarat,

(2010) 12 SCC 254. A fair investigation is as much a part of a

constitutional right guaranteed under Article 21 of the

Constitution as a fair trial, without which the trial will naturally

not be fair. The observations in this context in Babubhai

(supra) are considered relevant at paragraph 45 as follows:

“45. Not only fair trial but fair investigation is
also part of constitutional rights guaranteed
under Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution of
India. Therefore, investigation must be fair,
transparent and judicious as it is the minimum
requirement of rule of law. The investigating
agency cannot be permitted to conduct an
investigation in a tainted and biased manner.
Where non-interference of the court would
ultimately result in failure of justice, the court
must interfere. In such a situation, it may be in
the interest of justice that independent agency
chosen by the High Court makes a fresh
investigation.”

10. In Bharati Tamang vs. Union of India , (2013) 15 SCC

578, relief was sought in a writ petition to quash the charge

8
sheet and the supplementary charge sheet coupled with a

mandamus for a de novo investigation by a Special

Investigation Team of competent persons having impeccable

credentials to unravel the conspiracy. This Court relied on the

following extract from Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh vs. State

of Gujarat, (2004) 4 SCC 158, as follows:

“33. ….“Courts have to ensure that accused
persons are punished and that the might or
authority of the State are not used to shield
themselves or their men. It should be ensured
that they do not wield such powers which under
the Constitution has to be held only in trust for
the public and society at large. If deficiency in
investigation or prosecution is visible or can be
perceived by lifting the veil trying to hide the
realities or covering the obvious deficiencies,
courts have to deal with the same with an iron
hand appropriately within the framework of law. It
is as much the duty of the prosecutor as of the
court to ensure that full and material facts are
brought on record so that there might not be
miscarriage of justice.”
xxxxx
“37. In the decision of Babubhai v. State of
Gujarat
, in para 40, this Court held that the
scheme of investigation particularly Section
173(8)
CrPC provides for further investigation and
not of reinvestigation but held in para 42 as
under: (SCC p. 272)
“42. Thus, it is evident that in exceptional
circumstances, the court in order to
prevent the miscarriage of criminal justice,
if considers necessary, may direct for

9
investigation de novo wherein the case
presents exceptional circumstances .”

38. Therefore, at times of need where this Court
finds that an extraordinary or exceptional
circumstance arise and the necessity for
reinvestigation would be imperative in such
extraordinary cases even de novo investigation
can be ordered.

xxxxx
41.3. If deficiency in investigation or prosecution
is visible or can be perceived by lifting the veil
which try to hide the realities or covering the
obvious deficiency, Courts have to deal with the
same with an iron hand appropriately within the
framework of law.

xxxxx
41.5. In order to ensure that the criminal
prosecution is carried on without any deficiency,
in appropriate cases this Court can even
constitute Special Investigation Team and also
give appropriate directions to the Central and
State Governments and other authorities to give
all required assistance to such specially
constituted investigating team in order to book
the real culprits and for effective conduct of the
prosecution.

xxxxx
41.7. In appropriate cases even if the charge-
sheet is filed it is open for this Court or even for
the High Court to direct investigation of the case
to be handed over to CBI or to any other
independent agency in order to do complete
justice.

41.8. In exceptional circumstances the Court in
order to prevent miscarriage of criminal justice
and if considers necessary may direct for
investigation de novo.”

10

11. The power of the constitutional court may extend to

directing reinvestigation was again noticed in Pooja Pal vs.

Union of India, (2016) 3 SCC 135, as follows:

“87. Any criminal offence is one against the society
at large casting an onerous responsibility on the
State, as the guardian and purveyor of human rights
and protector of law to discharge its sacrosanct role
responsibly and committedly, always accountable to
the law-abiding citizenry for any lapse. The power of
the constitutional courts to direct further
investigation or reinvestigation is a dynamic
component of its jurisdiction to exercise judicial
review, a basic feature of the Constitution and
though has to be exercised with due care and
caution and informed with self-imposed restraint, the
plenitude and content thereof can neither be
enervated nor moderated by any legislation.

xxxxx

90. That the victim cannot be afforded to be treated
as an alien or total stranger to the criminal trial was
reiterated by this Court in Rattiram v. State of M.P.,
(2012) 4 SCC 516, It was postulated that the criminal
jurisprudence with the passage of time has laid
emphasis on victimology, which fundamentally is the
perception of a trial from the viewpoint of criminal as
well as the victim when judged in the social context.

xxxxx

96. The avowed purpose of a criminal investigation
and its efficacious prospects with the advent of
scientific and technical advancements have been
candidly synopsised in the prefatory chapter dealing
with the history of criminal investigation in the
treatise on Criminal Investigation — Basic
Perspectives by Paul B. Weston and Renneth M.
Wells:

11

“Criminal investigation is a lawful search for
people and things useful in reconstructing the
circumstances of an illegal act or omission and
the mental state accompanying it. It is probing
from the known to the unknown, backward in
time, and its goal is to determine truth as far as it
can be discovered in any post-factum inquiry .
Successful investigations are based on fidelity,
accuracy and sincerity in lawfully searching for
the true facts of an event under investigation and
on an equal faithfulness, exactness, and probity in
reporting the results of an investigation . Modern
investigators are persons who stick to the truth
and are absolutely clear about the time and place
of an event and the measurable aspects of
evidence. They work throughout their
investigation fully recognising that even a minor
contradiction or error may destroy confidence in
their investigation.

The joining of science with traditional criminal
investigation techniques offers new horizons of
efficiency in criminal investigation. New
perspectives in investigation bypass reliance upon
informers and custodial interrogation and
concentrate upon a skilled scanning of the crime
scene for physical evidence and a search for as
many witnesses as possible. Mute evidence tells
its own story in court, either by its own
demonstrativeness or through the testimony of an
expert witness involved in its scientific testing .
Such evidence may serve in lieu of, or as
corroboration of, testimonial evidence of
witnesses found and interviewed by police in an
extension of their responsibility to seek out the
truth of all the circumstances of crime happening.
An increasing certainty in solving crimes is
possible and will contribute to the major deterrent
of crime—the certainty that a criminal will be
discovered, arrested and convicted.”

12

12. In Dharam Pal vs. State of Haryana, (2016) 4 SCC 160,

it was noticed that the power of the constitutional court to

order fresh or de novo investigation could also be exercised

after commencement of the trial and the examination of some

witnesses could not be an impediment, observing as follows:

“25. ….The power to order fresh, de novo or
reinvestigation being vested with the
constitutional courts, the commencement of a
trial and examination of some witnesses cannot
be an absolute impediment for exercising the said
constitutional power which is meant to ensure a
fair and just investigation. …… It is the bounden
duty of a court of law to uphold the truth and
truth means absence of deceit, absence of fraud
and in a criminal investigation a real and fair
investigation, not an investigation that reveals
itself as a sham one. It is not acceptable. It has to
be kept uppermost in mind that impartial and
truthful investigation is imperative. ….”

13. Reverting to the facts of the present case, we find that the

occurrence took place in the intervening night of 13.08.2017

and 14.08.2017. The inquest proceedings under Section 174

Cr.P.C. were registered on 14.08.2017 but remained

inconclusive, and now in view of the closure report deserves to

be consigned. The death of the deceased was initially sought

to be passed off as accidental by collision with a train or

suicidal due to depression. The F.I.R. under Section 302, IPC

13
was registered very much belatedly on 29.06.2018, albeit

reluctantly, only at the persistence of the petitioner and her

husband after they repeatedly approached the higher

authorities. Even thereafter the investigation remained at a

standstill till the filing of the counter affidavit before this Court

as recent as 03.07.2020 with the respondents insisting that the

death was accidental and that the nature of injuries could not

attribute a homicidal death. Earlier the husband of the

petitioner had also petitioned the High Court where till

20.07.2019 the respondents insisted that the death was

accidental in nature. Unfortunately, the High Court despite

noticing the long pendency of the investigation took a

misguided approach that the petitioner had not expressed

suspicion against any one and neither had he alleged biased

against the Investigating Officer, to pass an open ended order

to investigate the case and file a report. In this manner, the

investigation remained inconclusive for nearly three long years

with the investigating agency sanguine of passing it off as an

accidental death without coming to a firm conclusion avoiding

to complete the investigation. It is only when we ordered on

08.07.2020 that the investigation be concluded within a period

14
of two months and the final report be placed before us, that

suddenly a very lengthy investigation closure report has been

filed before us taking a stand that though the death was

homicidal there was no clue. The closure report is therefore, to

our mind, a clear hasty action leaving much to be desired

regarding the nature of investigation, because if a detailed

investigation had already been done as is sought to be now

suggested, there is no reason why a final report could not have

been filed by the investigating agency in the normal course of

events and needed an order to do so from this Court. The

entire investigation and the closure report therefore lack

bonafide. The interest of justice therefore requires a de novo

investigation to be done, to sustain the confidence of the

society in the rule of law irrespective of who the actors may be.

14. We, therefore, set aside the closure report and direct a de

novo investigation by a fresh team of investigators to be

headed by a senior police officer of the State consisting of

efficient personnel well conversant with use of modern

investigation technology also. No officer who was part of the

investigating team leading to the closure report shall be part of

the team conducting de novo investigation. Much time has

15
passed and there is undoubtedly an urgency in the matter now.

We therefore direct that such fresh investigation must be

concluded within a maximum period of two months from today

and the police report be filed before the court concerned

whereafter the matter shall proceed in accordance with law.

15. The writ petition is allowed.

………………………….J.

[R.F. NARIMAN]

………………………….J.

[NAVIN SINHA]

………………………….J.

[INDIRA BANERJEE]
NEW DELHI
SEPTEMBER 16, 2020.

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