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State of Kerala Vs. P.B.Sourabhan & Ors. on 4th March, 2016 -Supreme Court of India Judgement



(Arising out of S.L.P.(Crl.) No.9088 of 2012)

State of Kerala      …Appellant(s)


P.B. Sourabhan & Ors.    …Respondent (s)


Criminal Appeal No. 193 of 2016

(Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No.9388 of 2012)



Leave granted.

The short question that arises  for  decision  in  the  present  appeals  is
whether the State Police Chief/Director General of Police  is  empowered  to
appoint a superior police officer to investigate  a  crime  case  registered
outside the territorial jurisdiction of such officer.
The High Court answered the aforesaid question in the  negative giving  rise
to the present appeals by the State as well as by the complainant in one  of
the cases (who is also the accused in the other case) at whose instance  the
appointment was made and authorisation issued by the State Police Chief.

Over certain matrimonial disputes between  the  parties,  two  police  cases
i.e. Crime No. 621 of 2011 and Crime No. 637 of 2011 were registered in  the
Pettah Police Station. The complainant in Crime No. 637 of 2011, who is  the
accused in Crime No. 621 of 2011, had  filed  a  representation  before  the
State Police  Chief  for  further  investigation  by  a  competent/  neutral
officer. On the said representation, the State  Police  Chief  by  an  order
dated 24.01.2012 directed the District Police  Chief  of  Thiruvananthapuram
City   that   the   Assistant   Commissioner   of    Police,     Cantonment,
Thiruvananthapuram City may  be  entrusted  with  further  investigation  of
Crime Nos.621 of 2011 and 637 of 2011 of Pettah Police Station. Pursuant  to
the above direction of the State Police Chief,  one  M.G.Haridas,  Assistant
Commissioner of Police, Cantonment, Thiruvananthapuram City  was  authorised
to conduct further investigation of the two cases and send  weekly  reports.
This was by order dated 12.03.2012 of the Deputy Commissioner of  Police  (L
& O) Thiruvananthapuram City.  Thereafter  it  appears  that  the  specially
authorised and entrusted officer filed an  application  before  the  learned
trial court for further investigation of the two cases which was allowed  by
the said court on 20.03.2012. The aforesaid order appointing  M.G.  Haridas,
Assistant  Commissioner   of   Police,   Cantonment   to   conduct   further
investigation of the two cases and the order  of  the  learned  trial  court
dated.  20.03.2012  granting  permission  for  further  investigation  under
Section 173(8) Cr.P.C were assailed before the  High  Court.  The  challenge
before the High Court was primarily on the ground that the said  orders  are
in excess of the powers vested by Section  36  of  the  Cr.  P.C.  and  that
Section 18  of  the  Kerala  Police  Act  which  vests  the  administration,
supervision, direction and control of the police  throughout  the  State  in
the State Police Chief cannot override the  provisions  of  Section  36  Cr.
We have heard the  learned  counsel  for  the  parties  and  considered  the
Section 36 of the Cr.P.C. and Section 18(1) of the Police  Act  are  in  the
following terms :
“36. Powers of superior officers of police :-
Police officers superior in rank to  an  officer  in  charge  of  a  police
station may exercise the same powers, throughout the  local  area  to  which
they are appointed, as may be exercised by such officer  within  the  limits
of his station.”

“18. State Police Chief :-
The administration,  supervision,  direction  and  control  of  the  Police
throughout the State shall, subject to the control  of  the  Government,  be
vested in an officer designated as the State Police Chief.”

Section 36 empowers police officers  superior  in  rank  to  an  officer  in
charge of a Police Station to  exercise  the  same  powers  as  that  of  an
officer in charge of a police station insofar as the territorial/local  area
within the jurisdiction of  such  superior  police  officers  is  concerned.
Section 18(1) of the  State  Police  Act,  on  the  other  hand,  vests  the
administration, supervision, direction and control of the police  throughout
the State in the State Police Chief. The power under Section 36, on a  plain
reading thereof, is to be exercised by the District  Police  Chief  who,  by
virtue of the said section, is empowered to appoint  an  officer  above  the
rank of an officer in charge of  a  police  station  to  exercise  the  same
powers as may be exercised by an officer in charge of  the  police  station.
This is, however, subject to the condition that such superior officer  would
be competent to exercise powers within the territorial/local limits  of  his
jurisdiction. We do not see how Section 36 Cr.P.C, in  any  way,  can  debar
the exercise of powers by the State Police Chief  to  appoint  any  superior
officer who, in his opinion, would be competent and  fit  to  investigate  a
particular case keeping  in  view  the  circumstances  thereof.  Section  36
Cr.P.C does not fetter the jurisdiction of the State Police  Chief  to  pass
such an order based on his satisfaction.  It  is  the  satisfaction  of  the
State Police Chief, in the light of the facts of a given  case,  that  would
be determinative of the appointment  to  be  made  in  which  situation  the
limits of jurisdiction will not  act  as  fetter  or  come  in  the  way  of
exercise of such jurisdiction by the superior officer  so  appointed.   Such
an appointment would not be hedged by the limitations imposed by Section  36
Cr.P.C.  Section 18 of the State Police Act, on the  other  hand,  does  not
confer any such power and merely recognises the State Police  Chief  as  the
head of the police force in the State.

In the instant case the High Court, in our considered view,  was  not  right
in reading the constraints imposed by Section  36  of  the  Cr.P.C.  on  the
powers of the State  Police  Chief  to  appoint  a  suitable  and  competent
officer  to  investigate  a  case  irrespective  of  the  limits  of   local
jurisdiction of such officer,  if such a course of action is required.  This
is not to say that the  power  of  the  State  Police  Chief  would  not  be
amenable to the judicial process; it can always be  subjected  to  challenge
on grounds of malafide or as  being  without  justification  and  reasonable
cause. This, however, is not the ground(s) on  which  the  impugned  actions
were challenged before  the  High  Court.  Furthermore,  a  perusal  of  the
representation on the basis of which the appointment of the special  officer
was made by the State Police Chief goes to show that  what  was  sought  for
was the appointment of a neutral and impartial  police  officer  to  conduct
further investigation in a fair and  unbiased  manner  without  specifically
naming of any particular officer in the said application.

For the aforesaid reasons, we cannot agree with the view taken by  the  High
Court and the conclusions reached. Consequently, the order dated  01.08.2012
passed by the High Court is set aside and both appeals are allowed.

…….……………………………J. [RANJAN GOGOI]

…………………………….……J. [PRAFULLA C. PANT]


MARCH 04, 2016.



See Also: Case Brief – State of Kerala Vs. P.B.Sourabhan & Ors.