Charansingh Vs. State of Maharashtra [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.363 OF 2021] - Synopsis
Team SoOLEGAL 8 Apr 2021

Statements given during ‘open enquiry’ at pre-FIR period will not be considered as confession or statement under section 160 of code of Criminal Procedure: Supreme Court 

Recently the Supreme Court in the case of Charansingh Vs. State of Maharashtra [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.363 OF 2021] held that statement made during ‘open enquiry’ at any Pre-FIR stage can neither be called as statement nor can be used against the accused during the trial under Sec 160 CrPC. The bench comprising of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah stated that enquiry at Pre-FIR is only to ensure if the offence has been committed. 

This particular case is related to corruption complaints against public servants. A complaint was made against the appellant in the Anti-Corruption Bureau in Maharashtra. To verify the complaint, the appellant was asked to submit some documents related to assets and finances. Getting aggrieved by the notice served by the Police Inspector, the appellant filed a writ petition in the High Court of Maharashtra. The High Court ruled in favour of the state and stated that such preliminary enquiry is valid and it will not be considered as a statement under Sec 160 of CrPC. The appellant was not satisfied by the order delivered by the High Court and thus filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. 

The High Court declined to quash the notice, relying primarily on this court's decision in Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh [(2014) 2 SCC 1]. The court also referred to the Supreme Court's decision in P Sirajuddin v. State of Madras [(1970) 1 SCC 595] in 1970, in which the Supreme Court stated the need for a preliminary inquiry before prosecuting against public servants accused of corruption or misconduct. It stated that “when such an enquiry is to be held for the purpose of finding out whether criminal proceedings are to be initiated and the scope thereof must be limited to the examination of persons who have knowledge of the affairs of the person against whom the allegations are made and documents bearing on the same to find out whether there is a prima facie evidence of guilt of the officer, thereafter, the ordinary law of the land must take its course and further enquiry be proceeded with in terms of the Code of Criminal Procedure by lodging a first information report”. 

The issue, in this case, was whether preliminary enquiry at the Pre-FIR stage was permissible or not and if it is then to which extent. The Apex Court taking reference to the above-mentioned case, observed that “an enquiry at the pre-FIR stage is held to be permissible and not only permissible but desirable, more particularly in cases where the allegations are of misconduct of corrupt practice acquiring the assets/properties disproportionate to his known sources of income.”  The court while dismissing the appeal upheld the High Court’s order and also gave a few instructions which should be maintained during the ‘open enquiry’.


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