A division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rakesh Tiwari and Justice Harish Tandon directed the central investigating agency to submit its reasons for being unwilling to hand over the probe to a state government agency in the form of an affidavit within a week.
Hearing a PIL seeking an order from the court to transfer the probe into the theft of the medal from a museum of Visva Bharati University at Santiniketan in 2004, the bench directed the petitioner to file an affidavit in reply within another week after the CBI's submission.
The matter will come up for hearing two weeks later. The bench asked the CBI counsel as to why it was opposed to an investigation by a state authority when it had failed to achieve any breakthrough in the case and had closed the probe twice.
CBI counsel Ashraf Ali submitted that the state government had given consent to a CBI investigation and once granted, the permission cannot be withdrawn.
The court said the Nobel Prize medal was a national treasure and an investigation for recovering the medal was always welcome.
Stating that the central agency considers the matter to be of huge importance, Mr Ali submitted that since the state government claimed to have more clues in the case, it should share the same with the CBI and if found to be of consequence, then the case might be reopened.
Appearing for the state, Advocate General Kishore Dutta submitted that though the CBI had closed investigation into the matter, it was refusing to hand over the probe to a state agency.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had last year said the state government was willing to take up the investigation for recovering the stolen medal which was awarded to Rabindranath Tagore in 1913.
The CBI which was entrusted with the investigation after the theft had closed the case in 2007 after failing to make much headway.
The agency reopened the case in 2008 after criticism from different quarters, but closed it again in 2009.