Karnataka High Court: Suraj Govindraj J., dismissed the writ petition on grounds of maintainability.

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner is a not for profit company registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013 with the object of working in the areas of governance and in transparency. The Respondents 2 and 3 being directors of various companies were carrying on non-banking financial business without registration and hence had committed offences under Section 45 IA of the RBI Act. A private complaint was filed by the petitioner seeking direction to the RBI to initiate proceedings against respondents for offences under Section 45 IA r/w 58B (4A) of the RBI Act. The Magistrate dismissed the complaint stating that the prayer sought in the complaint is only a direction to the RBI to take cognizance and investigate and the representation submitted earlier was still pending with the Governor of the RBI for consideration whose status is unknown and hence no direction can be issued to the Governor of the RBI. Aggrieved by the said dismissal present petition was filed for setting aside the impugned order and restore the private complaint.

Counsel for the petitioners submitted that the proceedings filed before the Delhi High Court are different from the one filed before the Magistrate and the prayer sought for is also different. It was further submitted that there is no order which can operate as res judicata as the present writ petition is not one under Article 226 but is more under Article 227 of the Constitution of India seeking for supervisory jurisdiction as also one under Section 482 of CrPC to exercise inherent power to set aside the order passed by the Magistrate.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that the relief sought for in the complaint is identical to that sought for in the writ petition and as complaint itself was not maintainable therefore the present petition will not be maintainable as well. It was further submitted that PIL was filed and later withdrawn and hence once the proceeding has been filed making allegations and the same is withdrawn, the filing of the present writ petition is barred. It was also submitted that the claim of the petitioner is hit by res judicata and hence the petitioner cannot reagitate the same.

The Court relied on judgment Sarguja Transport Service v. State Transport Appellate Tribunal (1987) 1 SCC 5 and observed that the allegations made and prayer sought in private complaint or PIL is as regards the alleged violation by respondents of Section 45 IA punishable under Section 58 B (4C) of the RBI Act. Thus it cannot be disputed that the relief sought is one and the same though by legal and linguistic gymnastics they have been worded differently. It was further observed that “clever drafting and or subterfuge resorted to in such drafting would not take away the fact that the allegations made in all three proceedings are one and the same.”

 The Court held that in the present case the grievance of the petitioner being the same in all the proceedings, the actions sought also being the same i.e. for the RBI to take necessary action against the respondents hence the present writ petition is not maintainable in view of the various orders passed by the High Court and also the withdrawal made by the petitioner of the PIL.

In view of the above, the writ petition was dismissed.[India Awake for Transparency v. Azim Hasham Premji, 2021 SCC OnLine Kar 200, decided on 18-01-2020]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.

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