WB's suit against Centre on CBI probe despite withdrawal of general consent maintainable: SC

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held as maintainable a suit filed by the West Bengal government which alleged that the CBI was continuing its investigations into various cases despite withdrawal of general consent by the state on November 16, 2018.

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta rejected the preliminary objections raised by the Centre regarding the maintainability of the suit.

"The suit shall proceed in accordance with law on its own merits," Justice Gavai said while pronouncing the operative part of the order.

"We clarify that the aforesaid findings are for the purpose of deciding the preliminary objections raised by the defendant (Union of India). However, the same will have no bearing when the suit is decided on its own merits," the apex court said.

It fixed the matter for framing of issues on August 13.

The top court had on May 8 reserved its order on the maintainability of the suit.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for West Bengal, had argued that once the state had withdrawn its consent on November 16, 2018, the Centre could not allow the probe agency to enter the state for investigation.

During the arguments, Sibal had referred to the provisions of the Delhi Police Special Establishment (DPSE) Act, 1946 and said, "We (state) have informed your lordships of the cause of action. You (CBI) can't enter my state without my consent and you can't do it suo motu (on your own)".

He had said consent of the state government must be obtained for the exercise of power by the CBI.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had said that the Union government or its departments do not exercise any supervisory control over Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probes.

Mehta had said there was no cause of action against the Centre in this matter.

"The DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training) never registers a case," he had said, adding, "The DoPT can't direct registration of an FIR. Nor can any other department of the Central government supervise the investigation".

The Centre had told the apex court that the CBI was not under the "control" of the Union and the government can't supervise either the registration of an offence by the agency or its investigation.

The Centre had raised preliminary objections about the maintainability of the lawsuit filed by the West Bengal government, contending that there was no cause of action against the Union of India.

The West Bengal government has filed an original suit in the apex court against the Centre under Article 131 of the Constitution, alleging that the CBI has been filing FIRs and proceeding with investigations despite the state having withdrawn the general consent to the federal agency to probe cases within its territorial jurisdiction.

Article 131 deals with the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction in a dispute between the Centre and one or more states.

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