CBI’s investigation against IPS officer was illegal: HC

Quashes FIR, charge sheet, sanctions for investigation and prosecution against Hemant Nimbalkar

Published - March 20, 2021 07:47 am IST

In a setback to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the State government, the High Court of Karnataka on Friday declared as ‘illegal’ the investigation carried out against IPS officer Hemant Nimbalkar in the I-Monetary Advisory (IMA) Group scam.

Also, the court held that materials produced before it “do not prima facie disclose the ingredients of any of the offences” alleged against Mr. Nimbalkar warranting his prosecution under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988.

Justice John Michael Cunha delivered the verdict while allowing the petition filed by Mr. Nimbalkar questioning various actions initiated against him for his role linked to the IMA case when he was serving as Inspector General of Police in the Criminal Investigation Department.

The court held that the investigation conducted by the CBI was illegal as the investigation against him commenced much before obtaining sanction for investigation under Section 17A of the PC Act.

Hence, the court said that “the material collected during the search and the material collected in the course of investigation, either before registration of the FIR or subsequent thereto cannot be taken into consideration, either for making out charges against the petitioner or to proceed against him for the offences alleged in the charge sheet.”

Though a charge sheet was filed for an IPC offence by taking sanction for his prosecution, the materials collected prior to grant of sanction to conduct probe under PC Act amounted to illegal collection of materials against him, the court said while pointing out that CBI had searched his office and residence way back in November 2019.

On the letters written by Mr. Nimbalkar to various authorities stating that no investigation was required against IMA Group under the Karnataka Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishments Act, 2004, the court said that it was an “institution decision” of the CID, right from the officer of the rank of Superintendent to Director-General, based on the legal opinion obtained from the legal advisor as a unit, and not Mr. Nimbalkar’s individual decision.

The CBI, without arraying him as an accused in the first FIR, had filed a charge sheet for IPC offences, and later had filed a separate FIR under the PC Act against him and other officers. The CBI had alleged that Mr. Nimbalkar and a few other public servants did not take action as per law against IMA Group by taking illegal gratification in the form of gifts and monetary benefits from IMA proprietor Mohammed Mansoor Khan.

The High Court quashed the Government Order of September 2020 granting sanction for his prosecution for IPC offence; charge sheet filed by the CBI in October 2020 for IPC offence; the cognisance of offences under IPC taken by the Special Court for CBI cases in November 2020, the sanction granted in January 2020 for conducting investigation against him under the PC Act; and the FIR registered against him in February 2020.

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