A recent Calcutta High Court ruling on magisterial powers has created confusion in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as well as in the district police. The high court order had observed that magistrates of the different courts of the state had no authority to ask the investigating agencies to probe cases. The ruling also said that a magistrate could only direct the officers-in-charge (OCs) of the police stations to inquire into cases.
Justice Amit Talukdar, delivering judgment in a case filed by the state against an order of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate (SDJM), Barrackpore, asking the deputy inspector-general (CID) to conduct an inquiry into a theft case, also directed the registrar-general of Calcutta High Court to circulate a copy of his judgment so that no magistrate or SDJM could ask persons or agencies other than OCs to probe the cases.
According to a CID source, more than 1,000 cases are under probe on orders of various subordinate courts. “ In many cases, the inquiry orders have been passed by magistrates,” he said.
The source said the person engaged by the authorities to conduct the inquiries are now in a dilemma. “They want to know whether they will continue investigations or send the relevant files to the OCs of the police stations concerned,” the source added.
Public prosecutor Kazi Safiullah told Metro that the ruling of Justice Talukdar was based on a judgment of the Supreme Court. “Even in several petty cases, the magistrates were asking the CID to conduct inquiries. And the agency had become over-burdened,” he claimed.
“In some cases, the magistrates are asking the superintendents of police (SPs) of the districts to probe matters. The high court ruling will clip the powers of magistrates to direct the SPs to conduct the inquiries,” Safiullah added. According to a high court source, the verdict of Justice Talukdar will allow the police and the CID to hand over the probes being conducted to the OCs concerned.
Litigants’ Forum criticised the ruling and said that “its implementation will reduce the possibility of common petitioners getting relief”.