A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, while holding that itself and the High Courts have the power to order a CBI probe, without a State’s consent, into a cognisable offence allegedly committed within the State’s territory, emphasised the need for caution while ordering a CBI probe.

The Bench said: “Despite wide powers conferred by Articles 32 [on the Supreme Court] and 226 [on the High Courts], while passing any order, the courts must bear in mind certain self-imposed limitations on the exercise of these constitutional powers. The very plenitude of the power under the said Articles requires great caution in its exercise.”

The Bench said: “Although no inflexible guidelines can be laid down to decide whether or not such power should be exercised, but time and again it has been reiterated that such an order is not to be passed as a matter of routine, or merely because a party has levelled some allegations against the local police.

“This extraordinary power must be exercised sparingly, cautiously and in exceptional situations where it becomes necessary to provide credibility and instil confidence in investigations, or where the incident may have national and international ramifications, or where such an order may be necessary for doing complete justice and enforcing the fundamental rights.

“Otherwise the CBI would be flooded with a large number of cases and, with limited resources, may find it difficult to properly investigate even serious cases, and in the process lose its credibility and purpose with unsatisfactory investigations.”

The Bench said the CBI should be ordered to probe only when the courts, after considering the material on record, “comes to a conclusion that such material does disclose a prima facie case calling for an investigation by the CBI or any other similar agency.”

More In: National | News