SC: High Court Should Not Interfere In Cases Where Investigation Is Still Incomplete.

State of Tamil Nadu V. S Martin Etc. [ CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 423-424 OF 2018]

The Supreme Court on 28th March, 2018 directed the High Courts to prevent themselves from interfering in matters which are still under investigation and on prime facie investigation seem to be a case where legal wrongs seem to have been committed. This decision of the Supreme Court came in the case of State of Tamilnadu V. S Martin Etc.

The present case was based on a FIR which inter alia stated that the informant had received information that several crores of unaccounted money was stashed in the house of accused-1, Nagarajan pursuant to which a raid was conducted and cash amounting to Rs.7,20,05,000/- stored in three bags was found. The FIR further noted that said accused No.1 Nagarajan had admitted that he and his associates, namely, Accused No.2 Martin and Accused No.3 Murthy had illegally printed lottery tickets of the States of Sikkim, Kerala and Maharashtra and sold the same without obtaining any permission and in the process had amassed enormous profit and the cash in question represented the same. Rs 50 lakhs in cash were also seized from the house of Accused No. 3 Murthy. A-1 Nagaraj was immediately arrested and Crime No.304/2012 was registered under Sections 294(A), 420 and 120(b) IPC and the case was forwarded for investigation.

While the matter was still under investigation, Crl.O.P. Nos.13106/2013 and 14971/2013 were filed on 21.05.2013 and 11.06.2013 respectively, praying inter alia quashing of aforesaid Crime No. 304 of 2012. A common counter affidavit dt. 25.06.2013 refuting all material allegations was filed by Assistant Commissioner of Police on behalf of State of Tamil Nadu. It was submitted, inter alia that the unregistered agreement dated 02.03.2012 was on a stamp paper which was issued by the State Government to the stamp vendor on 09.03.2012 and the same was sold to one Vimla on 13.03.3012. It was further submitted that the lottery tickets recovered during investigation were sent to the respective State Governments to check whether they were genuine and the report was still awaited. The counter affidavit further submitted that the investigation was still incomplete.

The High Court by its judgment and order dated 15.10.2014 allowed said Crl. O.P. Nos. 13106/2013 and 14971/2013 and quashed Crime No.304 of 2012 in its entirety.

The State of Tamilnadu had appealed against decision of the High Court before the Supreme Court of India.

The apex court in its judgment said “In our view the assessment made by the High Court at a stage when the investigation was yet to be completed, is completely incorrect and uncalled for. Presence of two crucial facts was enough to let the investigation go on, namely, recovery of huge amount of cash of Rs.7.2 crores from the house of one of the accused and that such recovery was accepted by the accused. The explanation given by them about the alleged transaction of agreement of sale and receipt of cash in pursuance thereof does not prima facie appear to be correct. The agreement is stated to have been entered on 02.03.2012 while the stamp paper in question was issued by the relevant department on 09.03.2012 to the vendor which was later sold to lady named Vimla on 13.3.2012. Whether the possession of huge cash amounting to Rs. 7.2 crores can be explained by the accused and whether such explanation be accepted or not, are all matters which will be gone into at the relevant stage in the proceedings. The investigation in any case ought not to have been set at naught but it ought to have been permitted to be taken to its logical conclusion.”

The court did not express any opinion on merits or demerits of either the case of the prosecution or the defence of the accused but said that it was of the firm opinion that while the investigation was still incomplete, the High Court ought not to have interfered in the present case. Leaving all questions open to be agitated at appropriate stages in the proceeding, the court  set aside the view taken by the High Court and allowed these appeals.