SC orders further probe against ex-Maha Minister for allegedly beating up civil engineer

New Delhi:- The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra Police to carry out further investigation against NCP leader and then Cabinet Minister, Jitendra Awhad, on the complaint of civil engineer who was allegedly “ruthlessly and mercilessly” beaten at his residence in April 2020, for criticising him in a Facebook post for ridiculing the Prime Minister.

A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and C.T. Ravikumar observed that there has to be a fair investigation and a fair trial and the fair trial may be quite difficult unless there is a fair investigation.

It added that the power to order fresh, de novo or reinvestigation being vested with the constitutional courts, the commencement of a trial and examination of some witnesses cannot be an absolute impediment for exercising the said constitutional power which is meant to ensure a fair and just investigation.

The top court allowed in part an appeal filed by the victim, Anant Thanur Karmuse challenging the order passed by Bombay High Court in April 26 last year.

The bench pointed at the absence of proper investigation into the matter and the state agency, which opposed the petition before the high court, admitted after government change in Maharashtra that further investigation is still required on certain aspects.

The bench said: “The High Court has committed a very serious error in not ordering and/or permitting the state police agency to further investigate into the FIR… The High Court has not considered the relevant aspects narrated hereinabove and therefore interference of this Court is warranted.”

However, the apex court declined to entertain a plea by appellant for transferring the case to the CBI.

The bench said: “The judgment and order passed by the High Court refusing to order further investigation/re-investigation is hereby quashed and set aside and we direct/ permit the State investigating agency to further investigate into the FIR… and on what aspects the further investigation shall be carried out is left to the wisdom of the State investigating agency.”

The top court said the investigation should be completed as early as possible, preferably within three months.

The bench observed that in the second supplementary charge sheet in the month of March, 2022, the former minister was named as accused, and not prior to that when the first charge sheet, the supplementary charge sheet were filed and even when the charges against the other accused were framed.

“Mere filing of the charge sheet and framing of the charges cannot be an impediment in ordering further investigation/re-investigation/de novo investigation, if the facts so warrant.”

The appellant claimed that at around 11.50 p.m. on April 5, 2020, four policemen, two dressed in civilian dress and other two in uniform, forcibly took him to the bungalow of the minister at Thane. The then Minister allegedly instructed his men to beat him and threatened him to delete the post immediately.