Law and order a State subject, says SC


The Supreme Court reaffirmed that law and order falls under the jurisdiction of the State, responding to West Bengal’s complaint about the CBI’s unilateral right to investigate Central employees’ offenses within State boundaries.

GS-02 (Polity)

Key Highlights:

  • Justice B.R. Gavai emphasized the State’s authority over law and order, questioning whether the CBI should exclusively investigate crimes committed by Central employees, even in cases like dacoity.
  • Justice Sandeep Mehta highlighted the common practice of local police handling cases involving Army personnel, emphasizing cooperation between different law enforcement agencies.
  • Senior advocate Kapil Sibal raised concerns about potential misuse of investigative agencies like the CBI and the ED by the Central government, leading to broader implications for federalism.
  • West Bengal filed an original suit under Article 131 of the Constitution against the Union government, alleging unauthorized CBI investigations within its jurisdiction without prior consent, despite the State’s withdrawal of consent in 2018.
  • Kapil Sibal argued against the unilateral right of the CBI to investigate cases within State boundaries, emphasizing the need for adherence to legal procedures and cooperation between Central and State agencies.
  • Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta countered West Bengal’s suit, asserting that disputes under Article 131 exclusively involve the Union and the States, and the CBI cannot be treated as a defendant in the case, as it is not a ‘state’ under the Constitution.

Article 131:

  • The article grants the Supreme Court exclusive and original jurisdiction over legal disputes originating between states or between states and the union.
  • Original jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority to hear and decide on a dispute in its initial stage.
  • Article 131 delineates the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as follows:
    • The Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, possess original jurisdiction in any dispute:
      • Between the Government of India and one or more States; or
      • Between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
      • Between two or more States, provided that the dispute involves a question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right hinges.
  • The scope of Article 131 is circumscribed by the provisions of the Constitution and is confined to disputes concerning legal rights, as explicitly stated in the Article itself.
  • Consequently, disputes of a political nature are not encompassed within its purview unless legal rights are at stake.
  • The Supreme Court clarified that under Article 131, the term ‘State’ does not encompass any private individual, company, or government department, even if they have filed a complaint alongside any State Governments.

Restrictions applying to the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court:

  • Disputes arising from treaties, agreements, covenants, engagements, sanads, or similar instruments that existed before the commencement of the Constitution are not covered.
  • Parliament has the authority to exclude the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in disputes pertaining to the utilization, distribution, or control of water from any interstate river.
  • Suits brought by private individuals against the Government of India are not within the purview of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction.

Organisation of CBI:

CBI has following divisions

  • Anti-Corruption Division
  • Economic Offences Division
  • Special Crimes Division
  • Policy and International Police Cooperation Division
  • Administration Division
  • Directorate of Prosecution
  • Central Forensic Science Laboratory

Composition of CBI:

  • The CBI is headed by a Director and he is assisted by a special director or an additional director.
  • It has joint directors, deputy inspector generals, superintendents of police

Organization and structure:

  • The Central Government shall appoint the Director of CBI on the recommendation of a three-member committee consisting of-
    • The Prime Minister as Chairperson
    • The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and
    • The Chief Justice of India or Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him.

Functions of CBI:

  • Investigating cases of corruption, bribery and misconduct of Central government employees.
  • Investigating cases relating to infringement of fiscal and economic laws, that is, breach of laws.
  • Investigating serious crimes, having national and international ramifications, committed by organised gangs of professional criminals.
  • Coordinating the activities of the anti-corruption agencies and the various state police forces
  • Taking up, on the request of a state government, any case of public importance for investigation.
  • Maintaining crime statistics and disseminating criminal information.
  • The CBI acts as the “National Central Bureau” of Interpol in India.
  • The CBI is required to obtain the prior approval of the Central Government before conducting any inquiry or investigation