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Relief For Bengal Govt As SC Holds Valid Suit Against CBI Probe Of Cases Despite Withdrawing Consent

The West Bengal government 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Constitution, alleging that the CBI has been filing FIRs and proceeding with investigations despite the state having withdrawn the general consent to the federal agency to probe cases within its territorial jurisdiction

PTI/File
SC holds as maintainable West Bengal's suit alleging that CBI is probing cases despite withdrawal of general consent by state. Photo: PTI/File
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday held as maintainable West Bengal's suit alleging that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing cases despite the withdrawal of general consent by state.

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Constitution, alleging that the CBI has been filing FIRs and proceeding with investigations despite the state having withdrawn the general consent to the federal agency to probe cases within its territorial jurisdiction, according to a news agency PTI report. Article 131 deals with the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction in a dispute between the Centre and one or more states.

The Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta, said that to determine the maintainability, only the averments in the plaint can be looked at. "It is the case of the State that after the withdrawal of general consent for the CBI in 2018, the agency could not have continued to register FIRs in respect of the offences within the State," Live Law quoted the bench as saying.

The Supreme Court said that West Bengal government's suit on CBI probing cases despite withdrawal of consent by state shall proceed in accordance with law on its own merits.

The top court posted West Bengal government's suit on CBI probe in state on August 13 for framing of issues.

"The West Bengal government in its suit had also contended that the CBI is functioning under the "superintendence of the central government." The bench held that for the purpose of determining whether the suit is maintainable and it disclosed any cause of action, the averments in the plaint have to be taken at the face value, according to Live Law.

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. 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.

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.

Sandeshkhali Probe

The Supreme Court had asked on Monday as to why should the state be interested in protecting someone, while dismissing the West Bengal government's plea challenging the high court's order and directing a CBI probe into the allegations of crimes against women and land grabbing in Sandeshkhali.

"It is all related to Sandeshkhali. You (state) didn't do anything for months," a bench of Justices B R Gavai and K V Viswanathan told senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, who was appearing for the West Bengal government.

The bench dismissed the plea filed by the state government and clarified that any observations made in the high court's order shall not influence the CBI in conducting the investigation.

The top court was hearing the state government's plea challenging the Calcutta High Court's April 10 order.

While hearing the plea on April 29, the apex court asked the West Bengal government why the state should come in as a petitioner for "protecting the interest" of some private individuals.

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