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In a ruling having long-term ramifications for criminal investigations, the Supreme Court has held a court cannot direct an investigative agency to conduct an investigation in a particular manner.

A bench comprising Justices R V Raveenran and B Sudershan Reddy, while setting aside the judgment of the Madras High Court, noted, ‘It is, therefore, clear that if the High Court, in exercise of its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, cannot direct the investigative agency to investigate the case in accordance with its views as that would amount to unwarranted interference, equally no such directions could be issued in exercise of inherent jurisdiction under section 482 of the Indian Penal Code.’ Justice Reddy, writing the 27-page judgment for the bench, also reprimanded the police who arrested the appellant, D Venkatasubramaniam and Abinesh Babu and others, and showed them on TV channel that they were let off only after they paid Rs 10 lakh in cash in the police station itself and issued a cheque for of Rs 2.18 crore .

The apex court noted with surprise, ‘It is not known as to how and under what authority the police could intervene and settle any dispute between the party. It is needless to observe that the police have no such authority or duty of settling disputes.’ The appellant had signed an MoU with M K Mohan Krishnamachari for the purchase of 600 acres of land at the rate of Rs 28 lakh per acres in Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu.

The respondent could arrange transfer of only 64 aces of land in favour of IVR Prime Urban Developers Ltd, firm owned by the appellant.

The IVR terminated the MoU on November 30, 2006. The respondent lodged an FIR and within a week, filed a petition in the High Court.

The High Court directed the police that it is obligatory on their part to record statements of witnesses, arrest and seizure of property and filing of a chargesheet.

The order was passed without a hearing the appellant. Allowing the appeal, the apex court said the direction issued by the High Court resulted in harassment of the petitioner while inherent powers under section 482 are meant for preventing undue harassment and persecution of the innocent.

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