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Centre’s Involvement in Tejpal Case: Legal Opinion

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Centre’s Involvement in Tejpal Case: Legal Opinion
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The disgraced founder and chief editor of TehelkaTarun Tejpal who has voluntarily stepped down in the wake of his sexual assault against his own female staffer in Goa is still the headlines, after about 5 days since it erupted.

It is a matter of public knowledge that Tarun Tejpal is close to the Congress party bigwigs. This is further underscored by the fact that prominent Congress leaders and ministers have stepped in and taken interest in the sordid affair, the latest being Manish Tewari. Had this scandal occurred in say a big corporate house, would the Congress Government still involve itself in this manner?

Tarun Tejpal’s shameful conduct occurred in Goa, and the Goa Government has taken suo moto cognizance of the case and charged Tarun Tejpal. However, on 22 November 2013, Minister of State for Home RPN Singh instructed officials in his ministry to step in and look into the case. He also tweeted to the effect:

RPN tweet

Following IndiaFacts’ credo of bringing back decency and transparency in public discourse, we present the legal opinion as to the extent of the Central Government’s involvement in a case that falls in the domain of the State Government.

Legal Opinion

First, the case: Tarun Tejpal has been charged by the Goa police under Sections 354(A) and 376 (2) (K) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The case has been registered by the Goa Police as the alleged offence was committed by Tarun Tejpal during the Tehelka Think Fest held in Goa.

The question: Can the Central Government take over the investigation of a case registered by the State Police? If yes, what is the procedure?

In case the Central Government deems it fit to assign the investigation of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), it can only do so by obtaining the approval of the State Government of Goa.

Under the Constitution of India, law and order is the subject of the State Government. Therefore, the primary investigative and prosecution body is the State Police. All offences that are covered under the IPC are primarily investigated by the State Police.

In certain cases, the CBI, which is the premier investigation agency under the Central Government, can investigate into offences. The Central Government by publishing a notification under Section 3 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 can enlist the offences that the CBI can investigate.

Investigating officers of the CBI are authorized to conduct investigations into the offences notified by Central Government under Section 3 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. While investigation of the said offences may be taken up in the Union Territories by the CBI without any prior consent, a notification from the Central Government is required to be issued under Section 5 of the DSPE Act, 1946 along with the consent of the concerned State Government under Section 6 of the Act to enable investigation to be conducted in the jurisdiction of a State. Consent once given in any particular case cannot be withdrawn as has been held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in K. Chandrasekhar etc. v. State of Kerala [JT 1998 (3) SC 612].

Further, the concerned State Government can make a request to the Central Government to refer a particular case to the CBI for investigation.  The Central Government generally seeks the opinion of the CBI before deciding on such requests.

In addition, the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts may also direct an investigation or inquiry by the CBI under powers vested with them by Constitution of India. In such cases the consent or notification, of the Central/State Government concerned, is not required.

In case the State Government refers a particular case to the Centre asking it to refer to the CBI, and it is felt by the public that it may result in miscarriage of justice, they can approach the concerned High Court or the Supreme Court seeking necessary relief.

Therefore, although the Union Home Ministry can seek details of the case from the Goa Government–in this case, the case of Tarun Tejpal–it cannot take over the investigation itself without getting prior permission from the Goa Government.

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Tejasvi Surya

An alumnus of IndiaFacts, Tejasvi Surya is an Advocate practicing at the High Court of Karnataka, at Bangalore. He is also the co-founder of Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence, an organization running projects in the spheres of education, employment and entrepreneurship. Tejasvi is currently the State Secretary for Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Karnataka.