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Written by: Shruti Srivastava (Intern)

Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)

The Supreme Court recently held that State Police must continue investigation of scheduled offences under the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act until the NIA starts investigating. The three-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and BV Nagarathna observed that there should be no lacuna between the issuance of direction by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to the NIA to take up the investigation of a case and, the actual taking up of the investigation by the agency. The court held that this should be followed to make sure that there is no compromise in national security. Apart from that, the court also held that mere renumbering of a case filed by the NIA did not take away the authority of the State Police Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) to continue the investigation.

Background:

The Anti-Terrorism Squad, Nanded arrested Naser Bin Abu Bakr Yafai and three others after it received information that they were in contact with terrorist organisations banned by the Indian Government. Later, the Home Ministry directed the NIA to take over with the investigation. However, the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) took cognizance of the offence after the issuance of this direction. Even later, the case papers were handed over to NIA, Mumbai by ATS, Nanded.

Abu Bakr, after the CJM took cognizance, filed an application before the ASJ stating since he was accused of scheduled offences under the NIA Act, the CJM, Nanded did not have any jurisdiction to take cognizance and pass orders for committal of proceedings to the ASJ because it was not the designated โ€˜Courtโ€™ under Sections 11 and 12 of the NIA Act. This application was rejected by the ASJ, stating that since NIA, Mumbai had not taken over, ATS; Nanded had to continue as per Section 6(7) of the NIA Act.

Contention before the Apex Court:

The issue of the ATS continuing the investigation after the Home Ministryโ€™s direction to the NIA to take up the case was raised before the Supreme Court. To answer this, the court scrutinized Section 6 of the NIA Act as it stood before being amended in 2019. The various sub-sections within this section are:

  • Sub-section 4: Where the Central government is of the opinion that the offence is a Scheduled offence and it is a fit case to be investigated by the Agency, it shall direct the Agency to investigate the said offence.
  • Sub-section 5: Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, if the Central Government is of the opinion that a Scheduled Offence has been committed which is required to be investigated under this Act, it may, suo moto, direct the agency to investigate the said offence.
  • Sub-section 6: When any direction has been given under sub-section (4) or sub-section (5), the State Government or any police officer under the State Government investigating the offence shall not proceed with the investigation and shall forthwith transmit the relevant documents and records to the Agency.
  • Sub-section 7: For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that till the Agency takes up the investigation of the case, it shall be the duty of the officer-in-charge of the police station to continue the investigation.

Upon perusal of the above sections, the court held that the ATS, Nanded had the duty to continue with the investigation. It highlighted that the conjoint reading of all the above sections make the law unequivocal, allowing the State Anti-Terrorism Squad to carry on with its investigation before the NIA takes over.

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