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MP HC Raps IO, SHO For Manipulating Case Diary And Delaying Probe After Rejection Of Closure Report

It is really most shocking to learn that none other than the Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur in a most forthright, firm, fair and final judgment titled Atul Mandlekar Vs The State of Madhya Pradesh and Others in WP No. 5058 of 2024 that was pronounced just recently on March 20, 2024 has strongly censured police officers of various ranks in Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh for sitting on a case investigation for a long period of over 4 years. This definitely cannot be ever taken lightly under any circumstances and the Madhya Pradesh High Court as anticipated took the most serious note of it. Quite intriguingly, we see that this inordinate delay has happened by the police despite the rejection of the closure report by the Chief Judicial Magistrate which makes the whole affair more murky! This alone explains why the Madhya Pradesh High Court has rapped the IO and so also the SHO for manipulating the case diary and so also for delaying the probe after the rejection of closure report. No denying it!

At the very outset, this learned, laudable, landmark, logical and latest judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Gurpal Singh Ahluwalia sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This petition under Article 226 of Constitution of India has been filed seeking following relief(s):-

“i. That this Hon’ble Court may kindly be pleased to issue writ of mandamus and directing respondent nos. 4 to 5 to conclude the investigation into the crime no/131/14, (Ann.P/1) P.S. Balaghat, District-Balaghat as early as possible and to take necessary steps as required under the law within time bound period i.e. 30 days.

MP HC Condemns Manipulation in Case Diary by IO, SHO

ii. That, this Hon’ble Court may kindly be pleased to issue writ of mandamus and directing respondent nos. 3-4 to while making investigation into the crime the earlier IO may not come into the way into the crime no/131/14, P.S. Balaghat, District-Balaghat & further the pending representation/ complaint (P/3-P/5) may be directed to decided.

iii. That, this Hon’ble Court may kindly be pleased to issue writ of mandamus and directing respondent nos. 3-4 make inquiry against the responsible officer who violated the decision of this court in Rajendra Singh Pawar vs State of M.P. and others, reported in I.L.R. [2021] M.P. 289 as they not obey the M.P. Police Regulations Act reads as under: – “634. The General Diary: -.”

Lamentably, the Bench laments in para 2 that, “This picture shows a sorry state of affairs of the Police Department working in the District of Balaghat. On an FIR lodged by the complainant, a closure report was filed in the year 2017 and closure report was rejected by the Magistrate in the year 2017 only. Thereafter Police did not take any action and accordingly, this petition has been filed.”

Briefly stated, the Bench then to put things in perspective observes in para 3 apart from what is stated in para 1 that, “This Court by order dated 12/03/2024 had passed the following order:-

In compliance of order dated 06.03.2024, the case diary has been produced in a sealed cover.

The necessary facts are that an FIR in Crime No.131/2014 was lodged by the petitioner at Police Station Kotwali, Balaghat for offences under sections 448, 452, 294, 427 and 506 of IPC. The police after concluding the evidence filed a closure report.

The petitioner also submitted his protest petition. The CJM, Balaghat by order dated 21.09.2017 rejected the closure report and directed for further investigation. It is the case of petitioner that after closure report was rejected, nothing has been done.

However, it is submitted by counsel for State that after the closure report was accepted, the Investigating Officer conducted the further investigation and recorded the statements of Devendra Soni and Smriti Nagpure on 22.07.2021 and 21.07.2021. The supplementary statement of Avinash Mandlekar was also recorded on 15.02.2021, who also informed that he is making the statement on the basis of the information given by his mother and wife.

Thus, although the aforesaid fact is mentioned in the summary sent by the SHO, Police Station Kotwali, Balaghat dated 10.03.2024, which is addressed to the Government Advocate, High Court of M.P. but the photocopy of the case diary, which has been sent in a sealed cover, does not contain the diary proceedings of further investigation done by the police. The diary, which has been sent in a sealed cover is incomplete.

Be that whatever it may be.

Accordingly, the counsel for State was directed to point out as to whether the police can sit over the matter or has to file the final report (Closure report or the chargesheet)?. It is submitted by counsel for State that the further proceedings shall be taken up.

Considered the submissions made by counsel for the parties.

By order dated 21.09.2017 the closure report filed by the respondent was rejected by CJM, Balaghat. As per the summary of further investigation done by the SHO, statements of Devendra Soni and Smriti Nagpure were recorded on 22.07.2021 and 21.07.2021. Thereafter nothing has been done.

 Thus, it is clear that initially the police took approximately 4 years to record the statements of two more witnesses after the closure report was rejected and thereafter more than 2-1/2 years have passed, nothing has been done by SHO, Police Station Kotwali, District Balaghat.

Under these circumstances, the Superintendent of Police, Balaghat is directed to file his response to the following issues :-

1. Once an FIR is lodged, whether the Police is obliged to file a final report (closure report or the chargesheet) or not?

2. Whether the police can sit over its investigation without filing the final report in the Court or not?

3. In the present case, the order was passed by CJM, Balaghat; thereby rejecting the closure report on 29.01.2017. Thereafter, the police took almost 4 years to record the statements of Devendra Soni and Smriti Nagpureand i.e. on 22.07.2021 and 21.07.2021. Thereafter, more than 2-1/2 years have passed but the police have not taken any action. Accordingly, the Superintendent of Police, Balaghat is directed to explain as to whether such an act of SHO, Balaghat is in accordance with law or not?

4. The Superintendent of Police, Balaghat is also directed to point out as to whether in the crime control meeting held on monthly basis, the concerning SHO had ever informed him about the pendency of this investigation or not and if yes, then what instructions were issued by the Superintendent of Police, Balaghat in that regard and if no information was given, then whether such an act of the SHO, Police Station Kotwali, Balaghat is in accordance with law or not? If the information was given during the crime control meeting, then why no action was taken by the Superintendent of Police, Balaghat to conclude the investigation at the earliest, which is also the mandate of section 173(1) of CrPC.

5. The Superintendent of Police shall also file the minutes of every crime control monthly meeting headed by him after his joining as Superintendent of Police, Balaghat.

 Let the reply be filed latest by 18th of March, 2024.

List this case on 19.03.2024.

The case diary, which was produced by the State counsel is returned back to the State counsel for keeping it in the safe custody in a sealed cover.”

 As it turned out, the Bench points out in para 4 that, “It appears that Superintendent of Police, Balaghat instead of taking up the matter on his own, delegated his Authority to Additional Superintendent of Police, Balaghat to look into the matter, and according to Shri Swapnil Ganguly, Additional Superintendent of Police, Balaghat could not conclude the enquiry even after expiry of four years.”

 As we see, the Bench then discloses in para 6 that, “On 19/03/2024, Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat was present on his own because this Court had not directed for personal appearance of any Officer. It was submitted that present T.I. Police Station, Kotwali has been placed under suspension. Since CSP, Balaghat had not brought the Jarayam Register, therefore case was adjourned for today.”

 Simply put, the Bench mentions in para 7 that, “It was submitted by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that in the Jarayam Register, the summary of the proceedings conducted by the Investigating Officer are also mentioned and the fact of filing closure report on 29/09/2017 is also mentioned indirectly.”

 To be sure, the Bench then stipulates in para 8 that, “Accordingly, he was directed to point out from the last entry as to whether filing of the closure report is mentioned therein or not?”

 As things stands, the Bench points out in para 9 that, “By referring to the entry dated 29/09/2017, it is submitted that although the filing of the closure report has not been mentioned specifically but gist of the entry indicates that closure report was filed because it also contains the case number i.e.96/14.”

 Do note, the Bench then notes in para 10 that, “It is submitted by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that as per the Rojnamcha Sanha dated 29/09/2017, closure report was filed but it was returned by the concerning Magistrate with a direction to conduct further investigation.”

 Do also note, the Bench notes in para 12 that, “Thus, it is clear that the Magistrate had rejected the closure report which was filed on 29/09/2017 with specific direction to conduct further investigation but Investigating Officer instead of following the orders passed by the concerning Court sat over the matter.”

 Quite damningly, the Bench while taking potshots propounds in para 14 that, “After going through the Police case diary, it was fairly conceded by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that no further investigation was done by Investigating Officer after rejection of the closure report and the diary was opened for the first time on 22/07/2021. Therefore, it is clear that the Investigating Officer was out and out to flout the orders of the Court for the reasons best known to him which requires a thorough investigation.”

 Further, the Bench mentions in para 15 that, “It is further submitted that in the Jarayam Register, it is mentioned that one closure report was filed on 01/11/2014 containing MJCR No.013718/2014.”

 Truth be told, the Bench observes in para 16 that, “Since the endorsement which is in red colour also contains the case number as MJCR/013718/2014, therefore it appears that first closure report was filed sometime in the year 2014 which was not accepted by the Magistrate.”

 Needless to say, the Bench then states in para 18 that, “One thing is clear that after the closure report dated 29/09/2017 was rejected with a clear direction to conduct further investigation, nothing was done by the Investigating Officer.”

 Quite glaringly, the Bench states in para 19 that, “Furthermore, it was also not mentioned in the Jarayam Register that the investigation is closed. Accordingly, it is clear that even according to the records of the Police Department, investigation was pending but still Officers inspecting the Police Station conveniently ignored the said aspect.”

 To put it simply, the Bench mentions in para 21 that, “It is submitted by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that after conducting further investigation now the closure report has been filed which is still pending consideration before the Court of CJM, Balaghat.”

 Frankly speaking, the Bench then lays bare in para 22 that, “Since the closure report is pending consideration, therefore this Court would not like to make any comment on the merits of the case but would certainly like to consider whether the negligence on the part of the Investigating Officer as well as supervising Officers amounts to negligence or they were out and out to act in a particular manner with an intention to give undue advantage to any other person.”

 Interestingly enough, the Bench reveals in para 24 that, “It was submitted by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that he has recently joined. Accordingly, he was directed to disclose the date of his joining. Then he submitted that he had joined on 22/04/2022.”

 Quite astoundingly, the Bench notes in para 25 that, “It is really surprising that even after spending one year & 11 months, CSP Balaghat is of the view that he has recently joined.”

 Of course, the Bench rightly observes in para 27 that, “It is for the Director General of Police, State of M.P. as well as for the State Government to look into the conduct of their Officers.”

 Be it noted, the Bench notes in para 29 that, “After going through Police case diary, it is submitted by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that as per the statements which are the part of Police case diary, statement of Smt. Jyoti, one of the accused was recorded on 25/01/2021, statement of one Shekhar was recorded on 15/02/2021, statement of one Smrati Kumar Nagpure was recorded on 21/07/2021 and statement of Shri Devendra was recorded on 22/07/2021.”

 Resultantly, the Bench questions in para 30 stating that, “Accordingly, Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat was directed to point out from the case diary as to whether any case diary proceedings were written on 25/01/2021, 15/02/2021 and 21/07/2021 pointing out that the statements of Smt. Jyoti, Shekhar and Smrati Kumar Nagpure were recorded on the said dates or not?”

 Most astoundingly, the Bench then points out in para 31 that, “It is fairly conceded by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that Police case diary does not contain the case diary proceedings of the said dates. It was further submitted by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that ideally the Investigating Officer must record the proceedings in the case diary on the date when the investigation was done but in the present case it has not been done.”

 It is worth noting that the Bench notes in para 33 that, “By referring to paragraph 642 of Police Regulations, it was fairly conceded by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that daily action taken by Investigating Officer has to be recorded in the case diary. However, it is fairly conceded that the Investigating Officer did not record the Police diary proceedings on 25/01/2021, 15/02/2021 and 21/07/2021.”

 Most damningly, the Bench minces just no words to hold in para 34 that, “Daily case diary proceedings are generally recorded to crosscheck the action taken by the Investigating Officer. Once there is no document to cross-check as to whether Investigating Officer had really recorded the statements of Smt. Jyoti on 25/01/2021, Shekhar on 15/02/2021, Smrati Kumar Nagpure on 21/07/2021, then there is every possibility that the Investigating Officer must have concocted and created false statements of abovementioned witnesses as well as accused.”

 Quite forthrightly, the Bench points out in para 37 that, “In the case diary proceedings, there is no mention that the statements of Smt. Jyoti, Shri Shekhar, Shri Smrati Kumar Nagpure were recorded on 25/01/2021, 15/02/2021 and 21/07/2021 but it is projected from the case diary proceedings dated 22/07/2021 that the statements of the witnesses were recorded on the said date i.e. 22/07/2021. Thus, it is clear that the Investigating Officer was manipulating the records and it was not noticed by the officers having supervisory power.”

 Frankly enough, the Bench concedes in para 38 that, “Furthermore, it is fairly conceded by Shri Anjul Ayank Mishra, CSP Balaghat that no Rojnamcha Sanha of 25/01/2021, 15/02/2021 and 21/07/2021 are in existence to corroborate the recording of statements of Smt. Jyoti, Shri Shekhar and Shri Smrati Kumar Nagpure on the aforesaid dates.”

 No wonder, the Bench notes in para 39 that, “Thus, in all probabilities the Investigating Officer has created and concocted the statements by projecting them to be the statements of witnesses and the accused.”

 What’s more, the Bench notes in para 40 that, “It is also not known as to whether the Investigating Officer had visited their houses or the witnesses as well as the accused were summoned in Police Station. Even from the case diary proceedings dated 22/07/2021, it is not clear that the Investigating Officer had ever visited the house of Devendra or Devendra was called in the Police Station. The Police case diary also does not contain any notice issued to any of the witness to indicate that they were ever called by the Investigating Officer in the Police Station. Thus, even the Police case diary proceedings dated 22/07/2021 are under the cloud of suspicion and it appears that nothing was done except creating the false documents and that is why all these proceedings do not find place in the Jarayam Register. Thereafter, the misdeeds of the Investigating Officer did not come to an end and then he again conveniently sat on the matter.”

 Still more, the Bench observes in para 41 that, “The Superintendent of Police, Balaghat in his affidavit has stated that during the monthly crime control meeting, this case was not shown pending and therefore, it was not within his knowledge that this investigation is pending.”

 It cannot be glossed over that the Bench notes in para 42 that, “It is really surprising that in the Jarayam Register it has not been disclosed that this investigation is over, still it was being projected by the Investigating Officer as well as the concerning SHO, Police Station Kotwali Balaghat as closed investigation. Why the SHO, Police Station Kotwali Balaghat was showing such keen interest by showing this investigation as closed, is also a matter of investigation. However, the darker side of the picture is yet to come.”

 Strangely enough, the Bench notes in para 43 that, “This Court by order dated 12/03/2024 had directed the Superintendent of Police, Balaghat to file his affidavit but instead of taking up the matter in his own hand and looking at the documents and making an attempt to file a proper affidavit, it appears that he also dealt with the case in most casual manner.”

Most alarmingly, the Bench was at pains to note in para 50 that, “This Court has already come to a conclusion that the Investigating Officer as well as the then SHO, Police Station Kotwali, District Balaghat were out and out to give undue advantage to the accused persons because first of all they took four years to file the closure report (this finding is not final because the Jarayam Register also contains a date that on 01.11.2014 one more closure report was filed and the outcome of the said closure report is not known). Thereafter, without making any corresponding entry as required under the different provisions of Police Regulations, the documents were created by falsely showing that the investigation has been done and again the matter went in hibernation and the Investigating Officer was all the time sleeping over the matter and neither the then SHO, Police Station Kotwali, District Balaghat took any pains to verify about the status of pending investigation nor the CSP, Balaghat also did take any pains.”

No doubt, the Bench is right to note in para 51 that, “Accordingly, this Court is of considered opinion that the Investigating Officer and the then SHO, Police Station Kotwali, Balaghat have prima facie committed an offence under Section 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act (since all these things happened prior to the amendment in the Prevention of Corruption Act in the year 2018, therefore, this Court has referred to the pre-amended section of Prevention of Corruption Act).”

Quite naturally, the Bench directs in para 52 that, “Accordingly, the Director General of Police, State of Madhya Pradesh is directed to register an offence punishable under Section 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act against the then Investigating Officer and the then SHO, Police Station Kotwali, District Balaghat.”

In addition, it is further directed in para 53 that, “The Director General of Police is also directed to verify as to whether any other person has any role to give undue advantage or not? If it is found that some more persons had given undue advantage and committed the offence punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, then they can also be implicated in the said offence.”

Also, the Bench directs in para 54 that, “Let the report be submitted within a period of one month from today.”

We must also note that the Bench further directs in para 55 that, “List this case on 22/04/2024.”

For sake of clarity, the Bench clarifies in para 56 that, “It is made clear that the investigation/enquiry shall be conducted by the Director General of Police, State of Madhya Pradesh only and he would not delegate or assign this duty to any officer.”

It is also directed in para 57 by the Bench that, “The report must be filed with the affidavit of Director General of Police, State of Madhya Pradesh.”

Most significantly and most forthrightly, the Bench mandates in para 62 that, “Shockingly, the Superintendent of Police, Balaghat did not take the order seriously and in his turn handed over the enquiry to the Additional Superintendent of Police, Balaghat. If the Police Officers are not ready to take the orders of the Court with seriousness and if they are not ready to realize the mistakes which are being committed by their own Department, then this Court is left with no other option but to direct the Director General of Police to conduct the enquiry by himself so that he can realize the malafide actions which are being done by his subordinate Police Officers, thereby jeopardizing the rights of the citizens of the country.”

Finally and as a corollary, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 63 that, “Accordingly, the prayer for assigning the enquiry to some other officer except the Director General of Police, State of Madhya Pradesh is hereby rejected.”

In a nutshell, the Madhya Pradesh High Court very rightly seeing the gravity of the situation refuses to assign the enquiry to any other officer other than the DGP of State of MP. The Court has also very rightly rapped the IO and SHO for manipulating the case diary and so also for delaying the probe after rejection of closure report. No denying!

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