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Bailing Zubair out was expected, but what was the need to disband the SIT?

Author: Abhishek Kumar Singh
Publication: Tfipost.com
Date: July 21, 2022
URL:      https://tfipost.com/2022/07/bailing-zubair-out-was-expected-but-what-was-the-need-to-disband-the-sit/

A Bench led by Justice D Y Chandrachud clubbed every FIR filed on Zubair in one.

Honourable Court also disbanded the SIT formed to conduct a free and fair investigation into all those FIRs

The disbanding of SIT and handing it over to Delhi Police may result in the final outcome of the investigation getting affected

Judiciary has the knack of throwing out unexpected consequences for the public to understand and deal with. Ironically, this is on expected lines since Judges are not bound by public sentiments and use their knowledge to reach a conclusion. But that does not mean that their pronunciations remain unexplained. Disbanding the SIT formed to investigate Muhammad Zubair is one such issue.

Zubair gets bail

Finally, Muhammad Zubair’s tryst with law-enforcement agencies has come to a brief standstill. A Bench led by future Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud effectively told law enforcement agencies that they should be more cautious in exercising their power of arrest. Honourable Court stated that there is “no justification” for keeping him in continued custody. Earlier Justice Chandrachud had orally observed (something which is not part of the order and is believed to be based on Judges’ own observations) that Muhammad Zubair is mired by the vicious cycle of bail and arrest.

SIT disbanded and cases transferred to Delhi Police

Additionally, the Court seems to have taken some extra precautions in trying to ensure that Zubair is not subject to a “vicious cycle”. Supreme Court disbanded the Special Investigating Team (SIT) formed by Uttar Pradesh Police for a fair and transparent investigation of the cases lodged against Zubair. The two-member SIT was led by Inspector General Preetinder Singh, with Deputy Inspector General of Police Amit Verma being the other member.

The Apex Court which had refused to club Nupur Sharma’s multiple FIRs took a liberal approach in the case of Muhammad Zubair and allowed all FIRs to be clubbed in one. After disbanding of SIT, all these cases originally registered in Uttar Pradesh will now be investigated by a Special Cell of Delhi Police. Court’s emphasis on protecting Zubair from the “vicious cycle” can be observed in its decision to transfer any future FIRs (if any) to the Delhi Police.

The order stated, “FIR which may be registered against petitioner hereafter on the subject matter, in which event, the investigation of the FIR shall stand transferred to Delhi Police & he will be entitled to bail.” To ensure that Zubair does not have to spend more time in custody due to delays in publishing of transcription (his Constitutional Right), Justice D Y Chandrachud led Bench also decided to release an operative order.

Police operated differently in different states

The Apex Court is the country’s ultimate authority and walks the talk on the principle that “Jail is an exception and the Bail is ruled”. However, disbanding of SIT has come off as a surprise for many. In India, only 3 institutions are allowed to form SITs, one of them being the Supreme Court itself. The other two are Central governments and state governments. Supreme Court orders to form it when it is not satisfied with ongoing investigations. On the other hand, the Centre forms it if the matter is of extraordinary concern and same is the case with State governments.

In our Constitution, Police is a state subject and that is why despite being bound by the same Constitution, different Police Forces operate on a different level. Law and Order situation is not the same in every state and the same is the case with political interference in the free and fair functioning of Police Forces. Interestingly, in a way, both are interconnected. This is where a need for SIT arises. Muhammad Zubair’s case is a classic case of anomaly pointed out above.

Complexity with transferring cases to Delhi Police

Zubair is wanted in six districts of Uttar Pradesh namely, Ghaziabad, Chandauli, Muzaffarnagar, Lakhimpur, Sitapur, and Hathras. Police in all these places are perceived differently by different organs of Democracy, including the public. However, the accused in these FIRs is the same individual. This may be one of the reasons why an SIT of a two-member team was tasked with the job to investigate the matter.

However, with the transfer of cases to Delhi Police, it is tough to say whether the investigation will be carried out as effectively as it was being done by UP SIT. The biggest hurdle is geography and the second biggest hurdle is coordination with the local police.

It is entirely possible that key pieces of evidence in the investigation may get lost out due to resources not being available first-hand. Hope honourable Judges would have provided enough safeguards against these issues in the final Judgement. If not, preliminary evidence does not provide much credence to disbanding of the SIT.

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