P&H HC | After complaint is dismissed in default, Court becomes “functus officio” and Judicial Magistrate has no jurisdiction to recall his order and restore complaint; HC decides

Punjab and Haryana High Court

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Arun Kumar Tyagi, J., addressed a petition challenging the impugned order of Judicial Magistrate Ist Class of dismissing the complaint due to non-appearance of the appellant under Section 256 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The appellant had filed a complaint under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 on the grounds that the accused issued a Cheque No.031411 dated 17-04-2013 for Rs 6,50,000 drawn on HDFC Bank, in discharge of subsisting liability under the friendly loan taken by him but the said cheque was dishonoured with remarks ‘Funds Insufficient’ and ‘Account Closed’. While the case was fixed for arguments on the above said application, the appellant absented himself on which the complaint was dismissed for non-prosecution.

The appellant argued that he had been regularly appearing in his complaint case and absented just on one date due to noting down of wrong date of hearing. Hence, dismissal of his complaint and acquittal of the accused was not proper and justified.

The Court observed that prosecution of a private complaint about an offence under section 138 of the N.I. Act differs from the prosecution of private complaint in respect of other offences under other enactments as in case of complaint for an offence under Section 138 of the N.I. Act there is no remedy available to the complainant to file a second complaint when the first complaint is dismissed in default in view of the limitations prescribed and the only remedy available to the complainant is to file a revision or appeal. The Court relied on Steel Strips Ltd. Chandigarh v. Jyoti Mechanical Movements, 2001 SCC OnLine P&H 202, whereby it had been held that “It is imperative upon Magistrate to form his opinion by taking care of the matter as to whether it is appropriate to dismiss the complaint. The real test in such like matters is always good faith.” It was held that for absence of complainant on one occasion, the complaint should not be dismissed unless, the Court is of the opinion that the complainant had been trying to protract the matter to harass the accused deliberately or with ulterior motive and the like.

Noticing that the case was fixed for arguments on application filed by the accused for examination of hand-writing on the cheque, the Court stated that presence of the complainant was not absolute essential for hearing of the arguments and passing of appropriate order on the above-said application. The Court, while setting aside the impugned order held that the order suffered from material illegality since the Magistrate had mechanically passed the order without recording any opinion as to whether personal attendance of the complainant was necessary or could be dispensed with and whether in his absence the case could be further proceeded with. [Vikram Singh v. Naveen Siwatch, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 5702, decided on 03-12-2019]

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