Del HC | Is it necessary for trial and inquiry for an offence to take place only where the occurrence would have taken place? Law in regard to ‘Jurisdiction’ explained

Delhi High Court: Suresh Kumar Kait, J., addressed a matter involving the determination of jurisdiction with regard to the occurrence of a crime.

The instant petition was filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 in regard to quashing an FIR for the offences under Sections 420/406 of Penal Code, 1860.

Facts of the instant case:

Since 2009, the petitioner through his sole partnership had been undertaking the business of fresh/dehydrated onions and garlic and other perishable items export to various countries like Europe, Gulf and rest of Asia.

In January 2018, the Complainant’s office, Tiger Logistics, approached the Petitioner and one Makbul Sheikh- salesman of Tiger Logistics. Makbul Sheikh represented to the petitioner that respondent 2 is a commission agent and can provide cost-efficient and reliable services.

Petitioner, based on the transit time of 21 days promised by Tiger Logistics, entered into a sales contract with his customer Sadro SRL, an importer based in Italy. Upon such commitment, the Petitioner provided 13 bookings to Respondent 1 for 26 containers.

The Petitioner only as a goodwill gesture as a sincere exporter and upon the insistence of the representatives of Tiger Logistics paid an amount of Rs.10,76,100 through cheque.

Over the month of January 2018, petitioner had sent 26 shipments of fresh onions through but the shipment did not reach the Port f Naples within 21 days.

Petitioner issued an email to the representatives of Tiger Logistics based out of Gujarat expressing his concerns with regards to the delay of 14 days in the delivery of the shipment of fresh onions.

Due to the Petitioner’s growing concern over the delay in delivery of shipments and risk of loss with every passing day, the Petitioner on 16-04-2018 issued another email to the representatives of Tiger Logistics based out of Gujarat expressing his concern over the delay.

The above-stated delay was acknowledged and accepted and in light of the same representatives of the Tiger Logistics apologized for the delay in the delivery.

However, to the dismay of the petitioner, there was complete failure on the art of the logistics service as promised.

Petitioners were subjected to a huge loss due to the delay in shipments. Respondent 2 started demanding approximately Rs 37 lakhs from the petitioner. Since there was an utter failure of shipping services provided by Tiger Logistics which cannot claim any part of the payment from the petitioner.

Since the petitioner did not pay the above-stated amount, present FIR was registered against the petitioner.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench referred to the Supreme Court decision in V.V. Jose v. State of Gujarat, (2009) 3 SCC 78  wherein it was held that even in a case where allegation were made in regard to the failure on the part of the accused to keep his promise, in absence of a culpable intention at the time of making initial promise being absent, no offence under Section 420 IPC could have been said to be made out.

Further, it was held in the above that, a matter which essentially involves dispute of a civil nature should not be allowed to be the subject matter of a criminal offence, the latter being not a shortcut of executing a decree which is non-existent.

Court in regard to the instant matter made an observation that:

“It is trite that an inquiry and trial with respect of an offence shall be conducted by the Court within whose local jurisdiction occurrence in question is said to have taken place and thereby cause of action has arisen. Section 178 and Section 179 of CrPC. are merely exceptions to this principle enumerated in Section 177, and their scope should not be enlarged on analogous consideration.”

Bench added that for determination of offences alleged to have been committed under Section 406 of the Penal Code 1860, Section 181 of CrPC lays down the jurisdiction of such court where “the offence was committed or any part of the property which is the subject of the offence was received or retained.”

 Jurisdiction and Breach of Trust

In view of the above-stated, Court held that,

Since the transaction between the parties in relation to the transaction of goods took place in Gujarat, the representations and meeting took place in Gujarat, the goods were shipped from Pipavav Port Gujarat, bill of ladings were released from Ahmedabad Gujarat, the invoices were raised by the entity based out of Gujarat and the jurisdiction of such invoices were subject to the court of Gujarat, therefore, applying the direct principles of Section 181, only the court situated in Gujarat can exercise jurisdiction over the alleged criminal breach of trust, if any.

 In case of Jai Prakash v. Dinesh Dayal: (1989) 39 DLT 376, this Court held that where the accused is carrying on business in a city, agreement to supply to complainant’s branch office at that city is entered within the local jurisdiction of that city, institution of complaint at New Delhi on the ground that the complainant’s head office situated there, is without jurisdiction.

In view of the above-discussed law and the facts and circumstances of the case, the registration of FIR in question in Delhi is an abuse of the process of law.

“Investigating Agency and Court should not be made an instrument of compelling a party to come to a place far away from his own place, to submit to the jurisdiction of a Court which actually has none.”

Hence, in the instant case, FIR was without jurisdiction and therefore the complainant attempted to seek unlawful recovery of money which was purely commercial matter.[Ramesh Boghabhai Bhut v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1475, decided on 23-11-2020]

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