The Supreme Court in a recent judgment has clarified that a Magistrate has power under Section 156(3) of Code of Criminal Procedure to give directions for further investigation in a criminal case even after it has taken cognizance and issued a summons in the matter based on the police charge sheet.

The legal issue which was framed under the case was – Whether, after a charge-sheet is filed by the police, the Magistrate has the power to order further investigation, and if so, up to what stage of a criminal proceeding?

The Court stated that there is no legal explanation given to the point of ceasing the power of the Magistrate upon taking the cognizance but on the other hand, the police have the authority to further investigate the case till the trial commences.

The Court observed that various precedents have already established that “criminal trial does not begin after cognizance is taken, but only after charges are framed.”

Therefore, in view of these precedents, the Court opined that for the commencement of the fair trial it is necessary that the Magistrate should have the power to issue orders to further investigate the matter even after the cognizance of the matter is taken on record. This is also important as per Article 21 of the Constitution of India. As per Article 21, the Magistrate should be given wide powers so that any decision taken by the judicial authority is in the interest of justice. Section 156(3) of CrPC grants these wide powers to the Magistrate.

Upon the reading of these two below mentioned sections, we can say that the Magistrate does have the right to five the orders of further investigation.

Section 156(3) confers on Magistrates the power to order further investigation into cognizable offenses after the registration of the First Information Report (FIR). Section 173(8) allows the police to conduct a further investigation even after it has forwarded a final report to the Magistrate.

The present matter deals with the agricultural dispute in Surat. In the matter, the accused filed an application for further investigation in the trial Court. But the Court rejected the same. However, the Session Court allowed the application on an appeal. But, thereafter the High Court reversed the decision of the Session Court. Therefore, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court.

The SC while clarifying the point stated that whether further investigation is to be conducted or not is the discretion of the Magistrate. Moreover, such powers should be exercised suo motu by the Magistrate himself, depending on the facts of each case.

In view of these observations, the Court set aside the Gujarat High Court judgment in so far as its interpretation of the powers of the Magistrate under Section 156(3), CrPC was concerned.

On the facts of the case, the Bench noted that there was no scope for interfering with the High Court verdict, although it directed the registration of an FIR against some of the parties based on certain material submitted containing serious allegations against them.

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