[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Madras High Court has clarified that in a dispute involving two private parties only a competent court under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and not the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) will have the power to direct the registering of an FIR, set the timeline for the completion of an investigation and order the transfer of the case to another jurisdiction should the need arise.
These powers along with the power to alter the offence, direct further investigations and file an additional report on the crime would fall within the purview of a competent court under CrPC, the high court has ruled.
“…These powers can never be exercised by the Police Complaints Authority since by exercising such a power, it exceeds its authority and jurisdiction and starts acting like an alternate court of law. If this goes unchecked, there is a possibility where there can be a clash between a direction given by the court and a direction given by a Police Complainants Authority,” the court said in response to a petition that contended that the Director-General of Police, Puducherry had not complied with the orders of the PCA to investigate a matter as disclosed in an FIR filed by the petitioner.
The Police Complaints Authority is a redressal body to deal with complaints of the public against acts of serious misconduct by police personnel. PCAs across India were established pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh & Ors vs Union of India & Ors, to introduce checks-and-balances on such conduct of the police.
The powers and functions of the PCA, the petitioner contended, had been clearly specified by the Government of Puducherry in its memo dated December 9, 2016, and updated on January 6, 2017, that had authorised the PCA to enquire into the petitions filed before it and give appropriate directions to the police.
However, the public prosecutor argued that the PCA could only deal with allegations of serious misconduct by police personnel and recommend departmental action and/or criminal action against delinquent police officer but it could not give any directions for registering an FIR, conducting an investigation etc, in disputes involving two private parties, as such powers were vested only with a court under the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Taking note of the contentions of the Public Prosecutor, the Madras High Court dismissed the petition, while holding:
“the function performed by the Police Complainants Authority, cannot be taken to such a level, wherein, the authority starts functioning as an alternative to courts that is not the purpose for which Police Complainants Authority was constituted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has categorically said that the State-level Complainants Authority would take cognizance of only allegations of serious misconduct by the Police personnel and recommend for taking departmental action and/or criminal action against the delinquent Police Officer. This recommendation is binding on the authority concerned”.