Legal Correspondent

New Delhi: Not only the Supreme Court but also the High Courts can order a CBI probe or monitor the investigation by State agencies if it they are convinced that the investigation is not being proceeded with or is being influenced by interested persons, the Supreme Court has ruled.

“The courts, and in particular the High Courts and the Supreme Court, are the sentinels of justice and have been vested with extraordinary powers of judicial review and supervision to ensure that the rights of the citizens are duly protected,” said a Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph.

“There is little doubt that normally investigation of offences is the function of the investigating agencies and the courts do not ordinarily interfere with the same. But, at the same time the High Court is vested with such powers, though the same are invoked only in cases where extraordinary facts are involved, necessitating such monitoring by the courts.”

‘Constant vigil’

Writing the judgment, Justice Kabir said: “The courts have to maintain a constant vigil against the inaction of the authorities in discharging their duties and obligations in the interest of the citizens for whom they exist. This court as also the High Courts have had to issue appropriate writs and directions from time to time to ensure that the authorities performed at least such duties as they were required to perform under the various statutes and orders passed by the administration.”

Pointing out that the Supreme Court had an additional responsibility to ensure complete justice, the Bench said: “In exercise of its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court could also issue directions for enforcement of fundamental rights and to ensure that complete justice was done to the parties.”

In the instant case, Babubhai Jamnadas Patel filed appeals against the judgment and certain interim orders of the Gujarat High Court directing an investigating agency to furnish probe details and status reports of a case now and then.

Unconstitutional move

He contended that the High Court had unconstitutionally taken over the investigation of the case.

Dismissing the appeals, the Bench said, “The High Court had to repeatedly intervene and pass orders to ensure that the investigation was being conducted diligently.

“Periodical status reports were required in that regard. It is because of the tardy progress of the investigation that the High Court had to step in.”

The Bench said: “There is, therefore, no doubt that in appropriate cases, the courts may monitor investigation into an offence when it is satisfied that either the investigation is not being proceeded with or is being influenced by interested persons.”