SC allows trial of West Bengal's suit over CBI probes

SC allows trial of West Bengal's suit over CBI probes

Supreme Court rules West Bengal's suit aginst Centre on CBI probes triable

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of West Bengal's lawsuit challenging the central government's decision to permit CBI investigations within the state. The bench, comprising Justices Bhushan R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta, dismissed objections raised by the Centre regarding the suit's maintainability. They have scheduled August 30 to frame the issues to be tried.

Court proceedings and arguments

The court concluded that West Bengal's suit raises valid legal concerns and sufficient cause of action against the central government. It emphasized the constitutional implications and federalism issues involved in the state's contention that the CBI's actions infringe on its sovereignty. The case, filed in August 2021 by the Mamata Banerjee government, seeks to annul 12 CBI cases and prevent further investigations without the state's consent.

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During the hearings, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented the Centre, arguing that the CBI operates independently and is not controlled directly by the Union government. He pointed out procedural lapses in West Bengal's case, including failure to include the CBI as a defendant, which he claimed was essential under Article 131 of the Constitution for disputes involving federal entities.

In response, senior counsels Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for West Bengal, cited the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which vests control of the CBI with the Centre. They argued that the central government's directives allowing CBI investigations without state consent violate constitutional provisions and principles of federalism.

Implications and next steps

The Supreme Court's decision to proceed with the suit indicates a pivotal legal battle over jurisdictional boundaries and state autonomy in law enforcement matters. The case has broader implications for the relationship between central investigative agencies and state governments, particularly in contexts where consent for CBI probes has been withdrawn.

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As the court prepares to frame triable issues, it underscores the significance of maintaining a balance between federal authority and state sovereignty in India's constitutional framework. The outcome of this case could set precedents for future disputes involving similar issues of jurisdiction and administrative control over investigative agencies like the CBI.

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