Preliminary Enquiry by CBI not mandatory in every Corruption case: SC

In a major Setback to the Commissioner of Income Tax and her husband Adimulapu Suresh, who is presently a Minister in the Andhra Pradesh Government, the Supreme Court while reviving FIR held that the preliminary enquiry by CBI is not mandatory in every corruption case.

Facts of the case:-

The CBI alleged that TH Vijayalakshmi, the MLA’s wife who was a central government officer, was found to possess disproportionate assets to the tune of over Rs.1.1 crore which was 22.86% of the income earned during the check period between 1 April 2010 to 29 February 2016. The high court examined the FIR and the material and concluded that the allegations were not made out and set aside the FIR and proceedings under it on several grounds, one of which being no preliminary enquiry preceding lodging of FIR.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for CBI, argued that CBI Manual does not make it mandatory to conduct a preliminary enquiry before the registration of the FIR. She stated that a PE cannot be made mandatory for all cases of corruption and is only conducted when the information received is not sufficient to register a regular case. The court reserved its orders on September 22. The case against the legislator, A Suresh, who is the education minister in the YSR Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, was alleged to be that of being an abettor under Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). He argued that CBI registered the case against him without taking the Speaker’s sanction, alleging that the entire case was part of a conspiracy hatched by his political rivals.

Conclusion:-

“If CBI chooses not to hold a preliminary enquiry, the accused cannot demand it as a matter of right,” the bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and BV Nagarathna ruled, upholding the agency’s appeal against the high court judgment. “We hold that in case the information received by CBI, through a complaint or a “source information” discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, it can directly register a regular case instead of conducting a preliminary enquiry, where the officer is satisfied that the information discloses the commission of a cognizable offence,” the three-judge bench said.

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