Criminal proceedings cannot be permitted to degenerate into weapon of harassment; HCs must quash frivolous FIRs: Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, JJ has held that merely because on the same set of facts with the same allegations and averments earlier the complaint is filed, there is no bar to lodge the FIR with the police station with the same allegations and averments. However, when the impugned FIR is nothing but an abuse of process of law and to harass the accused, the High Courts must quash the FIR by exercising the powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and 482 Cr.P.C., to secure the ends of justice.

As per Section 210 Cr.P.C., when in a case instituted otherwise than on a police report, i.e., in a complaint case, during the course of the inquiry or trial held by the Magistrate, it appears to the Magistrate that an investigation by the police is in progress in relation to the offence which is the subject matter of the inquiry or trial held by him, the Magistrate shall stay the proceedings of such inquiry or trial and call for a report on the matter from the police officer conducting the investigation.

It also provides that if a report is made by the investigating police officer under Section 173 Cr.P.C. and on such report cognizance of any offence is taken by the Magistrate against any person who is an accused in the complaint case, the Magistrate shall inquire into or try together the complaint case and the case arising out of the police report as if both the cases were instituted on a police report.

It also further provides that if the police report does not relate to any accused in the complaint case or if the Magistrate does not take cognizance of any offence on the police report, he shall proceed with the inquiry or trial, which was stayed by him, in accordance with the provisions of Cr.P.C.

Hence, the Code of Criminal Procedure permits such an eventuality of a complaint case and enquiry or trial by the Magistrate in a complaint case and an investigation by the police pursuant to the FIR. However, at the same time, if it is found that the subsequent FIR is an abuse of process of law and/or the same has been lodged only to harass the accused, the same can be quashed in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution or in exercise of powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. In that case, the complaint case will proceed further in accordance with the provisions of the Cr.P.C.

“As observed and held by this Court in catena of decisions, inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution is designed to achieve salutary purpose that criminal proceedings ought not to be permitted to degenerate into weapon of harassment.”

The statute saves the inherent power of the High Court, as a superior court, to make such orders as are necessary

(i) to prevent an abuse of the process of any Court; or

(ii) otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

Same are the powers with the High Court, when it exercises the powers under Article 226 of the Constitution. When the Court is satisfied that criminal proceedings amount to an abuse of process of law or that it amounts to bringing pressure upon accused, in exercise of inherent powers, such proceedings can be quashed.

[Kapil Agarwal v. Sanjay Sharma, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 154, decided on 01.03.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah

Appearances before the Court by:

For appellants: Senior Advocate K.V. Vishwanathan

For Respondent: Advocate M.C. Dhingra

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