Supreme Court: In a case where ISKCON, Kolkata has filed criminal cases against the President and Vice President of ISKCON over theft of a deluxe bus, the bench of Ajay Rastogi and Bela M. Trivedi, JJ has quashed the cases after observing that the complaint filed after an inordinate unexplained delay of eight years was nothing but sheer misuse and abuse of the process of law to settle the personal scores with the accused. It observed that allowing such prosecution to continue would be an empty formality and a gross wastage of court’s precious time.
In the case at hand, The complainant-respondent claimed that a complaint was made in 2002 and 2006 regarding an alleged theft of a bus in 2001, but no action was taken by the police. The complaint was lodged in the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate in 2009, seeking investigation under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. The court found the delay of eight years in filing the complaint sufficient grounds to quash proceedings and that there was no material or document produced by the complainant to substantiate the allegations against the appellants. The court also found that there was no evidence collected by the investigating officer to prima facie satisfy the ingredients constituting the alleged offenses under Sections 468, 471, 406 and 120-B of IPC.
The Calcutta High Court dismissed two Criminal Revision Applications seeking to quash charges filed against the appellants, Madhu Pandit Das and Chanchalpati Das, for offenses under Sections 468, 471, 406 and 120-B of IPC. The appellants are the President and Vice President of ISKCON, Bengaluru, respectively, and claim to be global spiritual leaders and humanitarians.
The Court held thatthe complaint filed by the respondent-complainant after an inordinate unexplained delay of eight years was nothing but sheer misuse and abuse of the process of law to settle the personal scores with the appellants, and that continuation of such malicious prosecution would also be further abuse and misuse of process of law, more particularly when neither the allegations made in the complaint nor in the chargesheet, disclose any prima facie case against the appellants. The Court went on to observe that,
“The allegations made against the appellants are so absurd and improbable that no prudent person can ever reach to a conclusion that there is a sufficient ground for proceeding against the appellants-accused.”
Addressing the menace of frivolous litigation, the Court observed that
“Just as bad coins drive out good coins from circulation, bad cases drive out good cases from being heard on time. Because of the proliferation of frivolous cases in the courts, the real and genuine cases have to take a backseat and are not being heard for years together. The party who initiates and continues a frivolous, irresponsible and senseless litigation or who abuses the process of the court must be saddled with exemplary cost, so that others may deter to follow such course.”
Talking about the case at hand, the Court said that the matter should be viewed more seriously when people who claim themselves and project themselves to be the global spiritual leaders, engage themselves into such kind of frivolous litigations and use the court proceedings as a platform to settle their personal scores or to nurture their personal ego.
The Court, hence, imposed the cost of Rs. 1,00,000/- on the officials of ISKCON Kolkata.
[Chanchalpati Das v. State of West Bengal, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 650, decided on 18.05.2023]
Judgment authored by Justice Bela M. Trivedi