RESERVING ITS ORDER on a plea from the Central Bureau of Investigation in the INX Media case, the Delhi High Court told the agency on Friday that it could not continue to investigate the cheating and bribery case at leisure while abstaining from the accused – Congress leader P Chidambaram, his son Karti Chidambaram and others – documents that could help them prove their innocence.
The court was hearing the motion filed by the CBI against an order from the trial court requiring it to produce and provide to the defendants any documents gathered or statements recorded by it during the investigation. The trial court, in its order of March 5, had also authorized the accused to carry out inspections of the file located in the “malkhana” (warehouse) of the CBI. On May 18, the High Court suspended the trial in this case.
The CBI told the High Court on Friday that the accused could not be granted access to the documents. “In a related case, the Supreme Court observed that secrecy is very important during the investigation and if we disclose all the documents to them, there is a chance that they will be tampered with and that is what will happen even now,” CBI argued lawyer Anupam S Sharma.
Judge Mukta Gupta observed that the trial can then remain suspended until the investigation is completed. “You say ‘I’m going to continue the trial, I’m going to continue the investigation and I won’t give the documents that may be exculpatory, which they may want to use but you always face the music,'” he said. -he adds.
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Sharma argued that with respect to the offenses mentioned in the indictment, the required documents have already been provided. The court then observed, “What is the other offense you are investigating? Murder?”
The court told the CBI that he may have filed a charge sheet relating to one transaction, but could not continue to investigate the other transactions at his own pace and keep the documents with him. “I think the law just went crazy. We forget what basic criminal law is and proceed the way we want the law to proceed, which is not allowed,” he observed.
Referring to a Supreme Court judgment in which it was held that a list of such documents, which are seized but not relied upon by the prosecution, should also be provided to the defendants so that they can seek the appropriate orders for their production, Justice Gupta said, “Paragraph 11 of the Supreme Court judgment only came for agencies like you who create hurdles in every case”.
Observing that the inspection issue was settled by the Supreme Court and was bound by the Supreme Court’s judgment, the court said it could retrieve a thousand documents and then selectively rely on 500.
“Now the rest of the documents may be the chain showing that there is another transaction or another matter involved or their exoneration…because the defendant does not have them in his presence. he is forbidden to trust them, he cannot use them for their defense… because you don’t trust him, he cannot trust them. At least he can ask, the court can then check if it is material and then make an order,” he added.
CBI, in the application to the High Court, argued that there is no provision in the CrPC which “requires the investigative body to hand over to the court documents on which it does not rely”. nor any provision empowering the magistrate to allow the accused to inspect documents which are neither filed in court nor relied upon by the Crown.
The central agency also argued that the defendant cannot claim an “imprescriptible right” to claim every document in the police file or even the parts that may be excluded from the documents appended to the indictment. The court cannot assist the accused in finding a plausible defense, the CBI further argued. “It is the basic principle of criminal law that, although it is the duty of the prosecution to prove its case, the accused is nevertheless expected either to give the true version before the Court or to remain silent. A defendant cannot construct a false or imaginary defense, after reviewing the documents,” the petition reads.