S.P. VELUMANI VS ARAPPOR IYAKKAM AND ORS. CASE

S.P. VELUMANI VS ARAPPOR IYAKKAM AND ORS. CASE

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 867 of 2022
(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 9161 of 2021)
S.P. VELUMANI                              … APPELLANT
VERSUS
ARAPPOR IYAKKAM AND ORS.          … RESPONDENTS
J UDGM EN T
    N.V.    RAMANA    , CJI
1. Leave granted.
2. This   appeal   is   filed   against   the   impugned   order   dated
08.11.2021   passed   by   the   High   Court   of   Madras   in   Writ
Petition No. 34845 of 2018.  
3. The brief facts necessary for adjudication of this dispute are
as follows: the appellant was a Cabinet Minister in the State
of   Tamil   Nadu   from   2014.   On   11.09.2018,   one   Mr.   R.S.
Bharathi filed a complaint with the Directorate of Vigilance
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and Anti­Corruption.  He also filed a criminal petition before
the Madras High Court, being Crl.O.P. No. 23428 of 2018.
On   the   very   next   day,   respondent   No.1   filed   a   complaint
before Director, Directorate of Vigilance and Anti­Corruption
and SP, Anti­Corruption  Bureau, CBI.   As no  action  was
forthcoming  by  the   aforesaid  Authorities,   respondent   No.1
filed a writ petition registered as WP No. 34845 of 2018 before
the High Court seeking, inter alia, a mandamus directing the
Director,   Directorate   of   Vigilance   and   Anti­Corruption   to
register an FIR on the basis of the complaint lodged by him
and to constitute an SIT for the purpose of investigation. It
may be necessary to note that both, the writ petition and
Crl.O.P., were tagged and heard together.
4. Broadly, the allegation against the appellant is that while he
was serving as a Minister, he is alleged to have misused his
powers   to   influence   the   tender   process   and   ensured   that
tenders were awarded to his close aides. 
5. When the aforesaid writ petition was listed for the first time
before  the  High   Court,   the  High   Court   issued   notice   and
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directed   the   respondents   therein   to   file   their   counter
affidavits. On 18.10.2019, when the aforesaid writ petition
came up for hearing, the High Court passed following order: ­
“13.   In   the   light   of   the   apprehension
expressed   by   the   learned   counsel   for   the
petitioner that the 4th  respondent is one of
the senior Ministers in the Cabinet and the
investigation is being carried by an Officer
who   is   in   the   rank   of   the   Deputy
Superintendent of Police, this Court is of the
considered view that the preliminary enquiry
hereinafter shall be carried on by Ms. Ponni,
IPS, Superintendent of Police, Directorate of
Vigilance   and   Anti­Corruption   and   the
progress   being   made   in   the   preliminary
enquiry, shall be monitored by the Director
of Vigilance and Anti­Corruption.
14.   The   Director   of   Vigilance   and   AntiCorruption shall file the Status Report as to
the progress being made in the preliminary
enquiry,   with   supporting   documents   in
sealed cover for perusal of this Court.”
6. Accordingly, on 01.11.2019, a status report was produced
before the High Court.  On perusal of the aforesaid report, the
High Court granted time to complete the preliminary enquiry.
  
7. On 16.12.2019, the Investigating Officer appointed by the
High Court completed the preliminary enquiry and submitted
a final report to the Director of Vigilance and Anti­Corruption.
3
In   view   of   this,   the   High   Court   directed   the   Director   of
Vigilance   and   Anti­Corruption   to   produce   the   aforesaid
enquiry   report   in   a   sealed   cover   before   the   next   date   of
hearing.  
8. It is important to note that in the meanwhile on 17.02.2020,
the State Government filed an application being W.M.P. No.
4747 of 2020 in W.P. No. 34845 of 2018, before the High
Court indicating as under: ­
“9. It is submitted that these facts are being
brought on record and it is the submission of
the petitioner herein that after following all the
process contemplated by Law, the Government
of Tamil Nadu decided to accept the report on
the Preliminary Enquiry, which had come to
the   conclusion   that   the   commission   of
cognizable offence had not been made out.
xxx 
In the light of the above, it is prayed that this
Hon’ble   Court   may   be   pleased   to   take   the
above facts on record and dispose of the writ
petition   as   having   become   infructuous   and
pass such other order/orders as this Hon’ble
Court   may   deem   fit   and   proper   in   the
circumstances   of   the   case   and   thus   render
justice.”
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9. Accordingly,   on   19.02.2020,   the   High   Court   passed   the
following order in the captioned application filed by the State
Government: ­
“3. In the light of the said development, the
petitioner/2nd  respondent in the writ petition
prays for appropriate orders for disposing of
the   writ   petition   as   having   become
infructuous.
4. Dr. V. Suresh learned counsel appearing for
the   1st  respondent/writ   petitioner   prays   for
time to file the counter affidavit.
5.   The   decision   taken   by   the   Vigilance
Commission accepted by the Government shall
be   submitted   before   this   court   in   a   sealed
cover.”
10. As the matter stood thus, there was a change in the political
dispensation   of   the   State   Government.     Interestingly,   the
State,   while   relying   upon   a   CAG   report,   subsequently
recanted   from   its   earlier   stand.   The   High   Court,   without
applying its mind, passed the following order on 19.07.2021:
­
“3. It is submitted on behalf of the State that
the   performance   of   the   contractors   and   the
contracts in general engaged the attention of
the   Comptroller   and   Auditor   General   and
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adverse comments have been made.  The State
says that it will investigate into the matter to
ensure that those involved are taken to task.
For the purpose of conducting investigation,
the State seeks some time.
4. Let the matter appear in the second week of
October,   2021.     The   State   should   spare   no
effort in getting to the bottom of the matter
and   proceed   against   those   found   to   be
responsible for the irregularities.
5.   Counter­affidavit   may   be   filed   by   the
respondents in the meantime.”
11. Relying on the aforesaid observations, the State registered an
FIR,   being   FIR   No.16/2021   dated   09.08.2021,   against   17
accused   persons,   including   the   appellant   herein   under
Section   120B   r/w   Sections   420   and   409   of   the   IPC   and
Section   13(2)   r/w   Sections   13(1)(c)   and   13(1)(d)   of   the
Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 r/w Section 109 of the
IPC.  
12. The appellant herein filed an application being W.M.P. No.
24569 of 2021 in the writ petition pending before the High
Court,   seeking   a   copy   of   the   preliminary   Enquiry   Report
dated 18.12.2019 and associated documents submitted by
Ms.   R.   Ponni,   Superintendent   of   Police,   Directorate   of
6
Vigilance and Anti­Corruption as well as the decision taken
by the Vigilance Commission. 
13. The High Court vide impugned order dated 08.11.2021, while
dismissing the appellant’s application, disposed of the entire
case and observed as under: ­
“6. It may do well to decline the request made
by the fourth respondent in W.P. No.34845 of
2018 to make over a copy of the preliminary
report to the fourth respondent immediately.
The   law   has   to   be   allowed   to   take   its   own
course.  Upon completion of the investigation,
a report will no doubt be filed and such report
should be filed within the next ten weeks, be it
in   the  form  of  a  charge­sheet  or  as  a  final
report.  In course of the material being made
over to the fourth respondent under Section
207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, if
the preliminary report forms the basis for any
of the charges sought to be framed, a copy of
such preliminary report may be made over to
the fourth respondent and it will also be open
to   the   relevant   criminal   court   to   consider
whether the petitioner may also obtain a copy
thereof.
7. It is made clear that the observations in
course of the orders should not count against
the   fourth   respondent   if,   ultimately   any
charge­sheet were to be filed against him or
any charges framed.   In view of the fact that
the investigation has almost come to an end
and since the charge­sheet or final report is to
be filed within the next ten weeks, no useful
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purpose   would   be   served   in   keeping   these
petitions alive.
8.   Accordingly,   W.P.   No.34845   of   2018   and
Crl.O.P.   No.23428   of   2018   are   closed.
Consequently, W.M.P. Nos.4747 of 2020 and
24569 of 2021 are closed.”
14. Aggrieved by the aforesaid order, the appellant has filed the
present appeal by way of Special Leave.  It may not be out of
place   to   note   that   the   appellant   has   also   filed
Crl.M.P.No.56512/2022 before this Court seeking quashing
of the aforesaid FIR.  
15. The   learned   Senior   Counsel   appearing   for   the   appellant
contended orally and through written submissions as under:
­
(i) That there is no reason for not making over the documents
to   the   appellant   as   the   State   has   not   claimed   that   the
documents are privileged.
(ii) The reliance on two reports by the Comptroller and Auditor
General of India (hereinafter “CAG”) by the State of Tamil
Nadu is misplaced as there is no criminality disclosed in the
aforesaid report.
8
(iii) That FIRs cannot be lodged solely on basis of the CAG
report.
(iv) The appellant should have been given an opportunity to
counter   the   allegations,   and   the   State   could   not   have
registered   the   FIR   in   a   haste,   based   on   certain   general
observations by the High Court.
(v) This case is a clear case of regime revenge wherein change
in political dispensation has resulted in the State recanting
its   initial   position   to   abuse   the   process   against   the
appellant herein.
16. On the contrary, the learned Senior Counsel appearing on
behalf of the State of Tamil Nadu has contended that: ­
(i) There is no provision of law which mandates disclosure of
preliminary Enquiry Report before the stage contemplated
under Section 207 of the Cr.P.C.  However, the accused will
be given the relied upon documents at the time of framing
charges, wherein he can take appropriate legal recourse.   
(ii) The FIR was filed based on a fresh enquiry conducted in the
light   of   the   CAG   report   and   not   solely   based   on   the
9
preliminary   Enquiry   Report   filed   in   the   aforesaid   writ
petition.
17. At the outset, it may be noted that an application was filed
before us seeking quashing of the subsequent FIR. However,
the   learned   Senior   Counsel   appearing   on   behalf   of   the
appellant has not pressed the same before us. He has limited
his submissions only to the aspect concerning non­disclosure
of   the   preliminary   enquiry   report   of   Ms.   Ponni,   IPS,
Superintendent of Police, Directorate of Vigilance and AntiCorruption and the ancillary documents.   Accordingly, we
intend to deal with this aspect alone.
18. Having heard learned counsel for the parties and on perusing
the documents available on record, we may note that the
facts of this case are clear. Initially, a private complaint was
filed by respondent No.1 and thereafter, a writ petition was
filed by him seeking investigation into the allegations made in
the complaint.  When the matter was taken up by the High
Court, it directed an enquiry by a responsible officer, Ms.
Ponni,   Superintendent  of  Police,  Director  of  Vigilance  and
Anti­Corruption.     Accordingly,   the   Court   appointed   officer
10
submitted her preliminary enquiry report to the Director of
Vigilance and Anti­Corruption, who in turn submitted a final
report   before   the   High   Court   in   a   sealed   cover.     In   the
meanwhile, the Government took a decision to close the case
based   on   the   aforesaid   report   submitted   by   the   Court
appointed officer.  Rather than deciding this issue, the High
Court adjourned the matter by a month. 
19. However, it appears that due to various reasons, the matter
could not be listed until 19.07.21. In the meanwhile, the
State Government had changed.   In a turn of events, the
State Government went back on their earlier stand to close
the criminal case.  Instead, the State Government submitted
before the High Court that they intended to conduct further
investigation in the aforesaid matter.  
20. In our considered opinion, the High Court has committed a
patent error in not taking the matter to its logical conclusion.
Without considering the material before it, and by merely
relying on the submissions made by the learned counsel for
the State, the High Court has made sweeping observations
11
which are prejudicial to the appellant. It was the High Court
which had ordered that a preliminary enquiry be conducted
and a report be submitted by the special investigating officer.
However, once the enquiry was completed, the High Court
failed to even peruse the said report. Rather, the High Court
left   the   decision   completely   in   the   hands   of   the   State
Government.   Such an approach, as adopted by the High
Court in the present matter, cannot be countenanced in law. 
21. It is a settled principle that the State cannot blow hot and
cold at the same time. When the State Government changed
its stand, the High Court neither provided the appellant an
opportunity   to   defend   himself,   nor   sought   a   reasoned
justification from the State for having turned turtle. Although
the   High   Court   directed   the   appellant   to   file   a   counter
affidavit   in   the   writ   proceedings,   the   State   hastened   to
register the aforesaid FIR on 09.08.2021. 
22. It is noteworthy that the initial affidavit filed by the State was
categorical that they did not intend to pursue action against
the   appellant   herein.   However,   the   subsequent   change   of
12
stand by the State clearly contradicts the expectation brought
about by the initial affidavit. The principles of natural justice
demanded that the appellant be afforded an opportunity to
defend his case based on the material that had exonerated
him initially, which was originally accepted by the State. 
23. Therefore,   the   only   issue   which   requires   this   Court’s
consideration is whether the appellant herein is entitled to
the   preliminary   report   in   the   present   facts   and
circumstances. 
24. Learned counsel for the State has contended that the accused
would   be   entitled   to   access   the   report   only   after   the
Magistrate takes cognizance in terms of Section 207 of the
CrPC.  He has relied on In Re: Criminal Trials Guidelines
Regarding   Inadequacies   and   Deficiencies   v.   State   of
Andhra Pradesh & Others, (2021) 10 SCC 598 to contend
that the accused is entitled to seek documents only in terms
of   Section   207   of   the   CrPC   and   any   production   of   the
documents   beyond   the   ambit   of   aforesaid   section,   is
untenable in law. 
13
25. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the appellant has
distinguished   the   present   case   on   the   fact   that   the
subsequent FIR was filed due to direct judicial interference. 
26. We   may   note   that   the   contention   of   the   State   may   be
appropriate   under   normal   circumstances   wherein   the
accused is entitled to all the documents relied upon by the
prosecution after the Magistrate takes cognizance in terms of
Section   207   of   CrPC.   However,   this   case   is   easily
distinguishable   on   its   facts.   Initiation   of   the   FIR   in   the
present case stems from the writ proceedings before the High
Court, wherein the State has opted to re­examine the issue in
contradiction of their own affidavit and the preliminary report
submitted   earlier   before   the   High   Court   stating   that
commission of cognizable offence had not been made out.  It
is in this background we hold that the mandate of Section
207 of CrPC cannot be read as a provision etched in stone to
cause serious violation of the rights of the appellant­accused
as well as to the principles of natural justice. 
14
27. Viewed from a different angle, it must be emphasized that
prosecution by the State ought to be carried out in a manner
consistent with the right to fair trial, as enshrined under
Article 21 of the Constitution. 
28. When the State has not pleaded any specific privilege which
bars disclosure of material utilized in the earlier preliminary
investigation, there is no good reason for the High Court to
have permitted the report to have remained shrouded in a
sealed cover. 
29. In   view   of   the   aforesaid   discussion,   and   taking   into
consideration   the   peculiar   facts   of   the   instant   case,
particularly   the   fact   that   the   High   Court   had   ordered   an
enquiry   and   obtained   a   report   without   furnishing   a   copy
thereof to the appellant and unceremoniously closed the writ
petition,   we   deem   it   appropriate   to   issue   the   following
directions: ­
a. The High Court is directed to supply a copy of the report
submitted   by   Ms.   R.   Ponni,   Superintendent   of   Police
along with the other documents to the appellant herein. 
15
b. Writ Petition No. 34845 of 2018 and Crl.O.P. No. 23428
of 2018 are restored on the file of the High Court of
Madras.
c. The High Court is directed to dispose of the cases on
their own merit, uninfluenced by any observation made
herein. 
d. Although  the  prayer  for  quashing  of the FIR  was not
orally pressed before this Court, however, the appellant is
granted   liberty   to   seek   appropriate   remedy   before   the
High Court.
30. Accordingly, the appeal is disposed of on the above terms.
Pending application, if any, stands disposed of. 
...........................CJI.
(N.V. RAMANA)
        ...........................J.
(KRISHNA MURARI)
...........................J.
(HIMA KOHLI)
NEW DELHI;
MAY 20, 2022.
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