The first information report registered by the short-lived Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi against the Centre, Union Ministers and others in connection with the hike in gas prices is invalid in law but it cannot be withdrawn by the Lieutenant Governor. Giving his opinion to the Union Law Ministry at the instance of the Petroleum Ministry, Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran said the February 11 FIR was liable to be quashed by the higher judiciary.
Mr. Parasaran gave the Centre three options: filing a suit in the Supreme Court against the Delhi government under Article 31 of the Constitution; approaching the apex court for quashing the FIR, contending that the fundamental rights of those cited as accused had been infringed upon; and seeking remedy in the Delhi High Court under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code for quashing the FIR.
“In my view, the conduct of the Delhi government in giving a direction to the police to entertain and register this FIR on a policy decision by the Union government is not going to set a healthy precedent and poses a fundamental threat to the federal structure of the Constitution, baffling even a common man conversant with basic principles of law as to how the Central government can be subjected to the police powers of a State government. Also, the State government does not have any policing powers over the Central government or its functionaries or the Union Cabinet,” the SG said.
The FIR was lodged against the present and former Petroleum Ministers, M. Veerappa Moily and Murli Deora; the former Director-General of Hydrocarbons, V.K. Sibal; and Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, among others.
The then Chief Minister had on February 10 received a complaint under the caption ‘Complaint of corruption for investigation: collusion between Ministers of Central government and RIL’ from the former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramanian and others. They alleged corruption in the increase in gas price in 2007 to $4.2 per mmbtu in favour of Reliance.
Mr. Parasaran said the FIR in the first place could not have been registered without a preliminary inquiry. But now “the only course of action I can suggest is to challenge the action of the Delhi government, including the registration of the FIR.” The appropriate agency that could register an FIR in this case was only the Central Bureau of Investigation “as it involves the Centre and its officers.”
“In my view, only the courts can declare the FIR illegal or non-est or void or set it aside and it would not be open to the Central government to advise the Lt. Governor to treat the FIR itself as non-est.” Doing so would lead to far more complications “because the powers of the Lt. Governor in interfering in a matter like this and taking a decision mandating the police to treat an FIR as non-est could again be the subject matter of another PIL [petition],” Mr. Parasaran said.