‘In Sushant Singh Case, Allow CBI To Function Freely’: RK Vij

‘Since the case is now with India’s top investigating agency, it must be allowed to function freely’: Top Cop RK Vij

Updated
Opinion
5 min read
Image of Sushant Singh Rajput used for representational purposes.
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Despite thousands of deaths due to COVID-19 in India, the only unfortunate incident occupying much space in the media is the recent unnatural death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput. He was found hanging in his Bandra residence on 14 June. His family members, co-stars, fans and public at large are anxious to know the truth. Though the CBI has now taken over the investigation, it is important to know the manner in which the case unfolded and caused speculation – and even suspicion at times.

While an inquiry by the Mumbai Police was underway, the Bihar Police registered an FIR based on an application given by Sushant’s father to the Rajiv Nagar Police Station in Patna on 25 July, alleging that Rhea Chakraborty, Sushant’s last known girlfriend, was responsible for his son’s death.

Since the deceased Bollywood actor’s father had already given a statement to the Mumbai Police which did not disclose any cognisable offence, this move by the Bihar Police took many by surprise.

Besides abetment to suicide, allegations of criminal breach of trust, cheating and defalcation of money were also included in the complaint. This evidently raised questions of territorial jurisdiction, as the ‘cause of death’ was already under inquiry by the Mumbai Police.

How The Sushant Singh Case Landed Up With The CBI

Consequent to this new development, Rhea approached the Supreme Court (SC) on 31 July for the transfer of the Bihar case to the Mumbai Police. The territorial jurisdiction of the Bihar Police was also challenged. However, the established legal proposition is that when a cognisable offence is under investigation, the Court will not normally intervene until it is completed. The matter of rightful territorial jurisdiction is to be decided only when the case reaches the Court for trial. The law also says that when allegations relate to breach of trust, cheating and defalcation of money, and consequences are projected to be within the jurisdiction of another police station, jurisdiction can be exercised by any of the police stations.

Meanwhile, the Mumbai Police, after inquiring into the ‘cause of death’ for more than five weeks and recording statements of 56 witnesses, briefed the media that it was looking into each aspect of the death, and inquiry was still underway. The cases of abetment to suicide are generally preceded by a satisfactory inquiry.

Since no cognisable offence had been registered by the Mumbai Police till then, a section of society was unhappy with the outcome of the case.

It was alleged that the Mumbai Police was ‘shielding the real culprits’, which was stoutly denied by the State of Maharashtra.

However, when one IPS officer of Bihar reached Mumbai for investigation, he was quarantined and denied access to any documents privy to the Mumbai Police.

While the Mumbai Police claimed that it was ‘exploring the legal options with regard to the jurisdiction, and that the matter was still pending in the SC, the Patna case was transferred to the CBI for further investigation.

The SC, therefore, to avoid uncertainty and confusion, invoked its extraordinary powers conferred by Article 142 of the Constitution, and transferred both the cases to the CBI so that complete justice could be done in the matter.

Snapshot
  • Many questions remain unanswered: Knowing well that the Mumbai Police had made substantial progress in the case, why was not the additional information, if any, given by Sushant’s father, forwarded to the Mumbai Police?
  • Similarly, if an FIR was registered by the Bihar Police, why was it in such a hurry to transfer the case to another agency instead of investigating it?
  • It is unfortunate that certain chats related to the case, and personal documents of the victim, were leaked in the media.
  • It may have an adverse impact on the trial of the case.
  • The media needs to restrain its almost daily trial of the case.

Bihar Police’s Role In Sushant Case – And Unanswered Questions

While the dust of controversy was yet to settle, the Bihar DGP’s statement to the media about the ‘Aukaat of Rhea Chakraborty’ added fuel to the fire. His statement, attributing motives to the suspect at an early stage of investigation, was not appreciated by civil society, at least beyond Bihar. After all, the Bihar Police had ‘won’ only on technical grounds. Many questions remain unanswered:

  • Knowing well that the Mumbai Police had made substantial progress in the case, why was not the additional information, if any, given by Sushant Singh’s father, forwarded to the Mumbai Police?
  • Similarly, if an FIR was registered by the Bihar Police, why was it in such a hurry to transfer the case to another agency instead of investigating it?

All eyes are now fixed on the CBI. Though everyone wants the truth to come out quickly, an important aspect which cannot be overlooked is the fact that Sushant Singh Rajput did not leave behind any suicide note. In such cases, the police need to look into each aspect connected with the victim, which could have possibly led to his death.

Sushant Singh’s Suicide: What ‘Abetment’ Really Means

Had the post-mortem revealed homicidal death, the Mumbai Police would have immediately registered a case of murder. If no definite opinion is given by the medical officer, the general practice is to preserve viscera to detect any poisonous material. If nothing suspicious is found in the viscera, the police have to investigate into each element of abetment to suicide.

Abetment may be by instigation, conspiracy or intentional aid as provided in Section 107 of the IPC. Offence of abetment by instigation depends upon the mens rea of the person who abets, and not upon the act which is done by the person who has been abetted. It requires an active or direct act which leads the deceased to die by suicide having been left with no other option.

In the case of M Mohan vs State (2011), the Apex Court held that there should be some live link, or a proximate link between the act of the accused and the act of suicide.

The word ‘instigate’ literally means to goad, urge, forwards, provoke, incite or encourage to do an act. Thus, the police must dig deeper to reach a point where it could prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt, particularly knowing the fact that the conviction rate of such cases has been about 14 percent and 16 percent in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Sushant Drama: Media Must Restrain Its Almost Daily ‘Trial’

It is unfortunate that certain chats related to the case and personal documents of the victim were leaked in the media. It may have an adverse impact on the trial of the case. The media needs to restrain its almost daily trial of the case. The SC in MP Lohia vs State of West Bengal (2005) strongly deprecated the media for interfering with the administration of justice by publishing one-sided articles touching on merits of case pending in the courts.

The Court also cautioned that “others concerned in journalism would take note of this displeasure expressed by us for interfering with the administration of justice”. It seems that the media has not taken the SC’s sermon seriously.

Since the case is now with India’s top investigating agency, that is, the CBI, it must be allowed to function freely and collect all relevant evidence.

The controversy over the territorial jurisdiction might come into play once again when the final report is put up in an appropriate court. However, till then, let all the conspiracy theories moving around be investigated into, and the truth about Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death be brought out.

(The author is a senior IPS officer in Chhattisgarh. He tweets @ipsvijrk. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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