Delhi High Court: In a case wherein a petition was filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (‘CrPC’) for setting aside the order of Additional Sessions Judge (‘ASJ’)/Special Judge (NDPS), Saket Court, whereby charges were framed against the petitioner under Sections 341, 323 and 506 of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) and order passed by Metropolitan Magistrate (‘MM’), Saket Court discharging the petitioner was set aside, a Single Judge Bench of Swarana Kanta Sharma, J.* rejected relief to the petitioner who was accused of assaulting an Advocate and opined that only because there was no CCTV footage of the alleged incident, it could not become a basis of discharge of the petitioner. The Court further opined that the lawyers were officers of the Court and should not be presumed to be only defending the party concerned as part of their duty. They were an essential and powerful pillar of the judicial adjudicatory process and therefore, their duty towards a client had to be respected by all concerned.
The present FIR was registered on the complaint of complainant ‘P’, a practicing advocate who had alleged that on 8-2-2017, she had appeared in Saket Court with her client who was accused in a case in which the petitioner-accused was the complainant. It was alleged that after the hearing in the said case, the petitioner-accused had started abusing and misbehaving with the complainant in the Court premises, and when the complainant was going towards her chamber along with her client, the petitioner-accused had stopped her and had beaten and threatened her. It was also alleged that the petitioner-accused, after having restrained the complainant, had misbehaved with her, and had bitten her hand badly. After completion of investigation, a charge sheet was filed against the petitioner herein for offences punishable under Sections 323, 341 and 506 of IPC.
The MM after perusing the statements of the complainant and a single witness (client of the complainant) and after noting that there was no other public witness and no CCTV footage of the place of incident as well as no medical examination of the complainant to support the case of prosecution, had discharged the petitioner-accused for the alleged offences. Thereafter, an appeal was filed and the ASJ had set aside the order passed by the MM and observed that there was sufficient material for the purpose of framing charges against the accused in view of categorical statements of the complainant and witness recorded under Section 161 of CrPC. Aggrieved by this order, the petitioner-accused had preferred the present petition, however, the proceedings before the Trial Court were not stayed by this Court. Accordingly, the MM, pursuant to the order of ASJ, proceeded to frame charges against the petitioner under Sections 323, 341 and 506 IPC. The petitioner submitted that since the present petition challenging the order of the ASJ was pending before this Court, the MM ought not to have proceeded to frame charges against her.
The petitioner-accused further submitted that she had been a victim of circumstance and she was being harassed by the complainant, who was a lawyer, representing one person against whom the petitioner-accused had lodged an FIR in 2014 under Sections 376 and 506 IPC. It was stated that there was no evidence to support the testimony of the complainant and there were several contradictions in her version and the trial would not conclude in conviction. Thus, it was prayed that the impugned order be set aside.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court relied on Manendra Prasad Tiwari v. Amit Kumar Tiwari, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1057, wherein the Supreme Court while deciding a petition seeking discharge or quashing of charge framed by the Trial Court, held that “at the stage of charge, the Court was to examine the materials only with a view to be satisfied that prima facie case of commission of offence alleged had been made out against the accused person. It was also well settled that when the petition was filed by the accused under Section 482 CrPC or a revision Petition under Section 397 read with Section 401 of CrPC seeking for the quashing of charge framed against him, the Court should not interfere with the order unless there were strong reasons to hold that in the interest of justice and to avoid abuse of the process of the Court, a charge framed against the accused, needs to be quashed. At the stage of framing of a charge, the Court was concerned not with the proof of the allegation rather it must focus on the material and form an opinion whether there was strong suspicion that the accused had committed an offence, which if put to trial, could prove his guilt. The framing of charge was not a stage, at which stage the final test of guilt was to he applied”.
The Court opined that only because there was no CCTV footage of the alleged incident, it could not become a basis of discharge of the petitioner-accused. The Court further opined that as far as the witnesses being known to the complainant in the present case were concerned, the police could cite only those witnesses who had witnessed the incident and could not implead false witnesses or evidence. Moreover, at the stage of framing of charge, the Courts below could not have gone into conducting an inquiry or a mini-trial to ascertain the veracity of statements of the witnesses which were recorded by the police.
The Court noted that the present FIR had been lodged by the complainant who was lawyer by profession and had been allegedly threatened, restrained, and assaulted by the petitioner-accused in 2017, whereas the FIR lodged by the petitioner herein against the client of the complainant, pertained to the year 2014 and was pending trial since then. Therefore, the Court opined that the contention that the present FIR was motivated; was bereft of any merit.
The Court opined that “one of the fundamental principles of legal representation by a lawyer was that lawyers did not allow personal biases or prejudices to influence or interfere with their professional obligations and their responsibility to provide representation and legal assistance to their client to uphold the principles of fairness and justice. They were supposed to act in the best interests of their clients and vigorously advocate for their positions, while still maintaining a sense of fairness and respect for the legal process. A lawyer representing her client was only carrying out her duties and she could not be presumed to have any personal enmity or grudge against the complainant in case she was representing an accused or against an accused if she was representing the complainant. The lawyers were officers of the Court and should not be presumed to be only defending the party concerned as part of their duty. They were an essential and powerful pillar of the judicial adjudicatory process and therefore, their duty towards a client had to be respected by all concerned”.
The Court further opined that to hold the present complaint was false only because it was lodged by a lawyer, who was representing a client against whom the petitioner-accused had lodged a complaint a few years back, would be unreasonable and absurd. In case such a finding was returned by this Court, Advocates would not be able to work or discharge their professional duties without fear. In such a scenario, even if a person injures or assaults an advocate or a lawyer, he would seek protection under a plea that the advocate had lodged complaint on behalf of her client.
The Court also opined that any complaint received by the police, or the Court, must be seen, appreciated, and adjudicated upon irrespective of the financial or professional nature or status of either the complainant or the accused. A person’s financial position or profession could not become a basis for holding that due to their profession or position, the complaint lodged was false even if in reality they had been assaulted and injured. Thus, the Court dismissed the present petition and held that it did not find any reason to interfere with the impugned order passed by the ASJ.
[Dhanpati v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2023 SCC OnLine Del 3236, decided on 29-5-2023]
*Judgment authored by: Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma
Advocates who appeared in this case:
For the Petitioner: Dr. R.D. Rana, Jagdish Singh, Advocates;
For the Respondents: Satish Kumar, APP; Vipul Chaudhary, Advocate.