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Assessing The Constitutional Validity Of CBI: An Analysis Of Navendra Kumar v/s The Union Of India

The method of establishing the CBI was found to be flawed and unconstitutional in a courageous ruling by the Guwahati High Court in the case of Navendra Kumar vs. Union of India. The Calcutta High Court, in a decision dated March 29, 2019, posed some grave questions about the CBI's legal existence for a larger panel to address.

Guwahati High Court, in Navendra Kumar v. Union of India, nullified the Central Bureau of Investigation's operations, jurisdiction, and composition in one stroke on November 6, 2013. The country's top investigating agency is unconstitutional, according to presiding-judge Justice A. Ansari's findings. The decision has far-reaching ramifications, as it is likely to instill optimism in individuals who fear an inquiry and conviction. The decision is significant because it limits the executive's ability to infringe on citizens' rights. It answers the fundamental question of whether an organization established solely by administrative fiat can infringe on citizens' right to life as enshrined in the Constitution.

This Article tries to decipher the reasoning behind this decision while expanding the scope of the Constitutional Status of the CBI by giving various reasonings by different Courts and Legal Arguments to support the aforementioned.

The Special Police Establishment (SPE), established by the Government of India in 1941, is the forerunner of the Central Bureau of Investigation. During World War II, the SPE's role was to examine accusations of bribery and corruption in dealings with the Indian War & Supply Department.

The necessity for a Central Government body to examine accusations of bribery and corruption by Central Government workers was realized even after the war ended. As a result, the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act was enacted in 1946. The SPE's supervision was shifted to the Home Department, and its powers were expanded to include all departments of the Indian government. The SPE's jurisdiction extended to all Union Territories and might be expanded to States with the permission of the respective State Government.

By decision in 1963, the Ministry of Home Affairs altered the name of the Special Police Establishment to the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI. Apart from economic offenses, the CBI began to be entrusted with the investigation of other crimes on special request in subsequent years.

In 1987, the CBI established two branches to help it work more efficiently and effectively. The Anti-Corruption Division was one branch, while the Special Crime Division was another. The CBI was also tasked with investigating high-profile fraud and criminal cases.

Constitutional Debacles leading to this Case

CBI has been around for many decades. It has used sophisticated scientific approaches to successfully examine high-profile cases involving politicians and criminals. In the case of Bajrang Lal Kedia v. Union of India, the topic of the CBI's legality was first questioned. The case was dismissed by the learned bench. The Significance of the current case can be gauged by its far-reaching ramifications and the impact it will have on the investigation agency.

While the decision has been stayed by the Supreme Court, it is vital to address the issues highlighted in the proceedings as they pertain to a variety of topics, including executive authority abuse, legislative split between states, and the much-vaunted ambit of Article 21. For the first time, the case calls into doubt the existence of the country's most valued investigation body.

The case has sparked a hornet's nest by invalidating the existence of the country's top investigation agency in one fell swoop. The scathing issue which was laid before the honorable Court was, Whether the CBI, like ordinary police, is a constitutionally valid police force to investigate offenses under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, is a critical subject that has been pending before the Supreme Court for almost eight years.

The Rationale of CBI being Unconstitutional

The fact that the CBI is the successor of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE) is undeniable. The sole issue of contention is whether CBI is an alias for the DSPE or a distinct institution entirely.

According To the Executive Order that formed the CBI on April 1, 1963, "The Government of India has taken under consideration the formation of a Central Bureau of Investigation for the investigation of offenses now handled by the Delhi Special Police Establishment."

This declaration makes it clear that the investigations formerly handled by the DSPE will be transferred to the newly constituted CBI. Unfortunately, it is unclear if the CBI was intended to replace the DSPE or whether the former was simply an alias for the latter.

Consequently, the Government's claim that the CBI gets its investigative powers from the DSPE Act is untrue. The "DSPE" is the only agency that can be constituted under the DSPE Act, according to Section 3. As a result, the CBI is virtual without legislative support.

The CBI cannot undertake investigations under the CrPC or serve as a police agency if there is no legislation to justify its legal existence. The clause related to police is included in Item 2 of the State List, which takes it beyond the jurisdiction of the Central Government's legislative competence. In this aspect, the Union's function is restricted to that of a consultant. This is in contrast to the CBI's role as a national police body with the authority to investigate certain types of crime across the country.

However, by looking into the constituent assembly discussion records, it debunks any claim that Entry 8 of the Union List provides for a central investigative body like the CBI. The members of the constituent assembly did not include Entry 8 of the Union List to form a central investigative agency with the ability to examine crimes and prosecute offenders, as is plainly stated. Rather, it was done to create an organization whose sole purpose would be to conduct investigations, with the material gathered being utilized by various state police departments to combat crime and do study into police procedures.

As a result, the CrPC's powers were supposed to be limited to police personnel and not to be extended to a body like the CBI.

To substantiate the argument, the DSPE was not permitted to prosecute offenders under its legislation. Section 2(2) of the Act, in particular, gives the DSPE the authority to solely investigate rather than prosecute. As a result, whether the CBI was an alias for the DSPE or not, the latter would not have the authority to prosecute offenders. Even the above ruling that established the CBI, gave it investigative and not prosecutorial authority.

The Gauhati High Court's division bench began investigating all parts of these legal concerns to the CBI in 2008, and subsequently, on November 6, 2013, declared that the government does not have the authority to form the CBI under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.

The CBI argued that it was established in 1946 under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. It is a division of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE). The High Court flatly refused to accept the argument that the CBI was not established by any "law" passed by Parliament. As a result, the directions for its formation contained in the proposal cannot be deemed a legal operation.

There was panic as soon as the order was announced on November 6, 2013, and the sword hung over the heads of thousands of cases. The Indian government rushed to the Supreme Court's front doors. The Supreme Court issued a brief order suspending the implementation of the Gauhati High Court's judgment during an emergency hearing held on November 9, 2013, at the Chief Justice's office.

According to the Supreme Court's well-established law in Shri Chamundi Mopeds v Church of South India, a stay order does not nullify the presence of the original order. Needless to say, the existence of the High Court's judgment is preserved. The only thing that has been postponed is its implementation. For the past two years, there has been no hearing in this case. Although the ruling of the Gauhati High Court was made on good legal grounds, the Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether it was correct or incorrect, this case involving a major constitutional issue such as personal liberty should be treated as a matter of top importance for resolution.

Without a doubt, this order in Navendra Kumar Case will be contested and, more than likely, upheld. For good reason as courts are prohibited from directing the enactment of legislation under the concept of separation of powers as this infringes on the legislative authority. The court can only offer recommendations, as it did in the case of prohibiting convicted criminals from running for office because many of the other orders of the High Court involve policy decisions, which the judiciary is legally prohibited from making.

Amid all of the myth-making in this decade, the faults previously recognized in Vineet Narain have begun to resurface. I believe the bubble broke in the Aarushi case when the CBI's ambiguous and inconsistent position drew a lot of negative attention. The fissures, which were already obvious, widened as a result of claims of political meddling in the agency's operations in several high-profile cases.

Even though the Gauhati High Court has, in my opinion, cogently reasoned its conclusion of no relationship between the CBI and the DSPE Act.

Ordinarily, this would have been the end of the matter, except that, given the circumstances and the gravity of the case, such a finding would almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court, which would then hear it alongside the pending appeal from the Gauhati High Court, likely adding at least another couple of years to the litigation. Therefore, India's top investigative body must have a clear mandate as well as enough statutory and constitutional.

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