From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 21
Mains level : Paper 2- Consolidation of multiple FIRs
The Supreme Court’s (SC) refused to consolidate multiple FIRs filed in several states against former BJP spokesperson.
When are multiple FIRs clubbed?
- In 2001, the SC, in TT Antony vs. State of Kerala, made it clear that only the earliest information in regard to the commission of an offence could be investigated and tried.
- In Babubhai vs. State of Gujarat (2010), the Court explained that the test to determine the sameness of the offence is to identify whether “the subject matter of the FIRs is the same incident, same occurrence or are in regard to incidents which are two or more parts of the same transaction”.
- the SC extensively relied upon TT Antony while granting similar relief to two journalists.
Reasons given by the SCs for refusal to club the FIRs
- The bench said that party spokespersons and journalists cannot be treated identically.
- The Constitution creates no hierarchical difference between journalists and ordinary citizens when it comes to the enforcement of fundamental rights.
- The right to approach the SC under Article 32 is in itself a fundamental right.
- Nor did the SC craft any distinction on the basis of the status or affiliation of the accused in TT Antony.
- Second, the bench said that she has not unconditionally apologised for her remarks and her political clout is apparent from the fact that she has not been arrested despite an FIR being filed against her.
- This view is again misplaced. Whether or not the person has tendered an apology is not germane to the issue at hand.
- Seeking or tendering an apology may be a mitigating factor while deciding punishment but only after the guilt is proved.
Why the multiple FIRs should be consolidated
- Abuse of statutory power of investigation: Filing of successive FIRs amounts to an abuse of statutory power of investigation and is a fit case for the SC to exercise its writ powers under Article 32 because high courts cannot transfer cases from one state to another.
- Wastage of state resources and judicial time: Prudence demands that state resources and judicial time are not spent on a multiplicity of proceedings.
- The multiplicity of proceedings would result in violation of fundamental rights under Article 21 as parallel investigations would result in her being forced to join investigations in different police stations in different states.
- This serves no practical purpose because ultimately it is only one of the police reports that would be tried by a court of law.
In the absence of strict guidelines, some degree of caution is necessary on the part of judges to work within the confines of judicial propriety.