Supreme Court rules preliminary enquiry by CBI not mandatory in all cases which involve allegations of corruption

  • Aishwarya Iyer
  • 10:18 AM, 12 Oct 2021

While relying on its precedents and the provisions of the CBI Manual, the Supreme Court has ruled that a Preliminary Enquiry is not mandatory in all cases which involve allegations of corruption.

The top court relied on the decision of the Constitution Bench in Lalita Kumari v. State of U.P wherein it was held that if the information received discloses the commission of a cognizable offence at the outset, no Preliminary Enquiry would be required. Moreover, the constitution bench had further clarified that the scope of a Preliminary Enquiry is not to check the veracity of the information received, but only to scrutinize whether it discloses the commission of a cognizable offence.

A bench of Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and B V Nagarathna also relied on para 9.1 of the CBI Manual which notes that a Preliminary Enquiry is required only if the information (whether verified or unverified) does not disclose the commission of a cognizable offence.

"Even when a Preliminary Enquiry is initiated, it has to stop as soon as the officer ascertains that enough material has been collected which discloses the commission of a cognizable offence", the three-judge bench noted.

The bench went on to say, "..we hold that since the institution of a Preliminary Enquiry in cases of corruption is not made mandatory before the registration of an FIR under the CrPC, PC Act or even the CBI Manual, for this Court to issue a direction to that affect will be tantamount to stepping into the legislative domain."

Accordingly, the court was of the view that in case the information received by the 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.

In addition to this, the court has held that an FIR will not stand vitiated because a Preliminary Enquiry has not been conducted.

The CBI had filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging an order passed by the Telangana High Court wherein it had observed that the CBI should have conducted a Preliminary Enquiry under the Central Bureau of Investigation (Crime) Manual 2005 before registration of the FIR against the Commissioner of Income Tax and his wife who is a Member of the Legislative Assembly and a Minister in the State government of Andhra Pradesh on allegations of possession of Disproportionate Assets to the tune of Rs. 1,10,81,692.

The High Court had quashed the FIR and set aside all proceedings initiated pursuant to it.

While disagreeing with the view taken by the High Court, the bench set aside the impugned judgment of the Single Judge of quashing the FIR and any proceedings pursuant to it.

"The appellant can continue with its investigation based upon the FIR", the Court ordered.

Cause Title: Central Bureau of Investigation (CB) and Anr. v/ Thommandru Hannah Vijayalakshmi @ T. H. Vijayalakshmi and Anr

Click here to access a copy of the Judgment.