West Bengal Suit, Alleging Centre's Misuse of CBI, Is Maintainable: Supreme Court
Debayan Roy (Bar  and  Bench) 10 July 2024
The Supreme Court on Wednesday held as maintainable the West Bengal government's suit alleging misuse of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the Central government (State of West Bengal v. Union of India).
 
A Bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said the State's plaint disclosed a cause of action and rejected the Union government's contention that was a material suppression of facts.
 
"The contention of the Union is rejected. The suit by West Bengal shall proceed in accordance with law. We observe that these findings will have no bearing when the suit is decided on its own merits," the Court said. 
 
It cannot be said that the West Bengal government has not made out any case against the defendants (including the Central government and the CBI), the Court observed further.
 
It added that West Bengal's suit raised a legal issue as to whether after general consent is revoked by a State, the CBI could register and investigate cases in violation of Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act.
 
The Court will hear the suit on August 13 for framing of issues.
 
The original suit filed by the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-led West Bengal government against the Central government alleges that the CBI is being misused to target State governments.
 
The TMC government contended that since the State had withdrawn general consent for the CBI to investigate cases in the State, the central agency could no longer proceed with probes in West Bengal. 
 
If the CBI is allowed to enter a State for investigation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) generally follows suit and the same has huge implications for Indian polity, the West Bengal government argued. 
 
The Central government had countered that the West Bengal government could not sue the Centre over cases being probed by the CBI as the central agency was independent.
 
The Central government asserted that the suit by the West Bengal government was liable to be dismissed as not maintainable since there was no cause of action disclosed in the plaint against the Central government.
 
The Centre added that the CBI cannot be made a party to such suits as per Article 131 of the Constitution (original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court with respect to Centre-State disputes).
 
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for the West Bengal government, and Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta represented the Union government.
 
The Court had reserved its verdict on the maintainability of the suit in May this year. 
 
The case has its origins in the results of the State Legislative Assembly elections held in West Bengal in May 2021.
 
After the elections, many persons who had to flee their houses due to the violence approached the Calcutta High Court claiming that they were not being allowed to return home by the workers of the ruling TMC.
 
On May 31, the Calcutta High Court ordered the formation of a three-member committee to ensure that persons displaced by post-poll violence in the State are able to return to their houses.
 
Thereafter, the High Court proceeded to call for intervention by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Subsequently, the then NHRC Chairperson Justice Arun Mishra constituted a seven-member committee to inquire into complaints regarding post-poll violence.
 
The committee submitted a report accusing the TMC of turning affairs in the State into the "law of ruler", instead of a "rule of law", and called for a CBI probe in the matter.
 
The State government strongly contested the NHRC report, questioning the impartiality of the human rights body. It proceeded to file an original suit against the Central government in the matter, wherein it also questioned the High Court's decision to order a CBI probe.
 
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