Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Madhumati Mitra, J., allowed a criminal revision application filed against the order of the Magistrate whereby he had rejected the petitioner’s prayer under Section 156(3) CrPC to send the petition of complaint to the officer-in-charge of the police station for treating the same as first information report.

The petitioner had alleged commission of various offences against her in-laws including rape and forceful abortion of her pregnancy. The petitioner claimed that she had written a complaint before the police authorities and also reported the incident to Superintendent of Police but no action was taken by them. As such, she was compelled to file an application under Section 156(3) CrPC for treating the same as an FIR and directing the officer-in-charge of Habra Police Station to cause an investigation into the allegations. The Magistrate directed the officer-in-charge to verify the allegations. The officer-in-charge in the report stated that the petitioner was physically and mentally tortured by her husband and in-laws on several times but there was no evidence of rape and termination of pregnancy of the petitioner by force except her own statement. On the basis of this report, the Magistrate rejected the petitioner’s application. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the instant revision application.

The High Court gave due consideration to the submissions made by Angshuman Chakroborty, Advocate appearing for the petitioner, and Sayanti Santra, Advocate representing the State.

Not satisfied with the approach adopted by the Magistrate, the Court observed: “The learned Magistrate has committed an error without taking cognizance of the alleged offences under Section 190(1)(a) CrPC at the time of rejecting the prayer of the petitioner under Section 156(3) CrPC.”

It was further explained: “The appropriate course of action of a Magistrate while rejecting a prayer under Section 156(3) CrPC, to take cognizance of the alleged offences under Section 200 CrPC and to examine the complainant and her witnesses to determine as to whether the process should not be issued. Again under Section 202(1) CrPC the Magistrate, instead of issuing process, may direct an investigation to be made by a police officer. An investigation under Section 202(1) CrPC may hold the Magistrate to ascertain whether or not there is substantial ground to proceed further.”

The High Court was of the opinion that the Magistrate committed an error by rejecting the entire petition of the complaint and, therefore, held the impugned order was not sustainable in law. The Magistrate was directed to consider the petitioner’s prayer under Section 156(3) afresh. [Pranati v. State of W.B., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 132, decided on 21-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Om Prakash-VII, J. allowed the application filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 seeking quashing of a summoning order passed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Agra in a case filed under Sections 463, 464, 466, 467, 468, 471, 474 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Taking cognizance on the basis of protest petition was set aside as the Magistrate took extraneous material into consideration.

An application was filed to quash the summoning order and criminal case proceedings initiated by Chief Judicial Magistrate, Agra, against the appellant.

Counsels for the Applicant, Vimlendu Tripathi, M.C. Chaturvedi and S.C. Dwivedi submitted that the concerned Magistrate took cognizance in the matter against the applicant by taking into consideration extraneous facts and evidence annexed with the protest petition rejecting the final report which was illegal. It was further contended that the prosecution against the applicant was barred by Section 197 CrPC as the alleged act came under the purview of discharge of official duty.

Rishabh Agarwal, appearing on the behalf of the respondent, submitted that mere exoneration in the departmental enquiry would not be sufficient to quash the criminal prosecution, and since the case was made out from the evidence available in the case diary itself, therefore, there was no illegality in the impugned order.

The Court relied on Ram Chandra Sharma v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine All 3375 where it was held that exoneration in departmental proceedings does not render the criminal proceedings arising out of the same, liable to be quashed. But in peculiar circumstances, a criminal proceeding can be quashed.

It was noted by the Court that in the present case evidence which was not part of the case diary was taken into consideration by the concerned magistrate while passing the impugned order whereby cognizance was without following the procedure prescribed under Chapter XV of CrPC. Since in the present matter neither enquiry has been conducted under Chapter XV of the CrPC by the Magistrate nor the documents, facts and evidence relied upon by the concerned Magistrate were part of the case diary, therefore on the basis of the same, the order against the applicant was held to be against the law and not sustainable.

In such view of the matter, the High Court allowed the application and the impugned order was set aside. The matter was sent back to the Magistrate to pass a new order in accordance with law. [N.K. Janoo v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Application No. 31673 of 2016, decided on 22-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Vibha Kankanwadi, J., dismissed a writ petition filed against the order of the Sessions Judge whereby he had reversed the decision of the Magistrate who had directed the respondent herein to deposit 10% of the cheque amount.

The petitioner had filed a complaint against the respondent alleging the commission of the offence punishable under Section 138 (dishonour of cheque) of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. Subsequently, the petitioner filed an application before the Magistrate praying to direct the respondent to deposit 20% of the cheque amount in view of the provisions under Section 143-A of NI Act. The Magistrate partly allowed the said application and directed the respondent to deposit 10% of the cheque amount.

The respondent challenged the said order of the Magistrate before the Sessions Judge, who reversed the order of the Magistrate. Aggrieved, the petitioner filed the instant writ petition. He contended that the order passed by the Magistrate was purely an interlocutory order as the trial was still pending, and therefore, the revision itself was barred under Section 397(2) CrPC.

At the outset, the High Court noted that the instant complaint was filed by the petitioner before Section 143-A came into force. Relying on G.J. Raja v. Tejraj Surana, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 989, reiterated that the operation of the said section is only prospective, i.e., it does not apply to the complaints filed before the section came into force. Thus, the High Court held that the provision under which the petitioner was seeking relief (i.e., under Section 143-A) was in fact not available to him, as the complaint was filed in the year 2017, however, Section 143-A was inserted in the statute book with effect from 1-9-2018.

The High Court then considered the submissions regarding the order passed by the Magistrate being interlocutory in nature and therefore not being amenable to revision by Sessions Judge. The Court relied on the decisions in Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra, (1977) 4 SCC 551 and V.C. Shukla v. State, 1980 Supp SCC 92, and restated that in order that an order would be “interlocutory order”, it will have to be seen as to whether the rights of a person are affected.

In the instant case, the High Court held that, “Magistrate applied that provision of law which was not all applicable to the case in hand before him, therefore, definitely it had affected the right of the accused. Consequently, it cannot be said that, the order which was passed by the learned Magistrate was purely “interlocutory order” as contemplated under Section 397(2) CrPC.” Therefore, the Sessions Judge was justified in setting aside the said order by exercising his power under Section 397(1) of CrPC.

Resultantly, the instant writ petition was dismissed. [Hitendra v. Shankar, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5644, decided on 11-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Rajbir Sehrawat, J., addressed the petition filed under Sections 482 and 483 of CrPC for quashing of FIR registered under Sections 406, 420 & 120-B Penal Code, 1860 and the orders whereby the warrants of arrest were issued against the petitioner.

Contentions

Petitioner’s counsel submitted that the petitioner has instructed him to restrict the petition only qua challenge to the warrants issued by the Magistrate against the petitioner in the said FIR. Adding to his contentions, counsel for the petitioner stated that the Magistrate had issued warrants in a mechanical manner.

Magistrate had no reason to exercise his discretion to decide whether the petitioner was evading his arrest or not. The exercise of discretion by the Magistrate stands vitiated, being in the negation of law as is laid down by the Supreme Court in State v. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, (2000) 10 SCC 438.

He further stated that since, the police had not disclosed any reason even in their application, therefore, the arrest of the petitioner would be in violation of the provisions of Section 41(1)(b)(ii) of CrPC. If the Magistrate could not have authorized police custody, due to absence of valid reasons then the Magistrate could not have been issued warrant authorizing arrest of the petitioner.

Respondent’s counsel stated that the petitioner is involved in a heinous crime of huge fraud. Since the police was unable to arrest the petitioner despite repeated attempts and the raids at the known addresses of the petitioner, therefore, the investigating officer had rightly applied for the arrest warrant against the petitioner.

Further, he stated that, Magistrate is not required to record any reasons for issuing warrants of arrest against an accused. Hence, the Magistrate has not committed any illegality.

Court’s Analysis & Decision

On a bare perusal of the provisions of CrPC, the Court stated that the police officer has almost omnipresent power to arrest. He can arrest a person even on having a suspicion that such person has committed a cognizable offence.

Adding to the above point, the Court stated that, in certain circumstances, the police officer is required to record reasons for arresting a person or is required to have a satisfaction qua the necessity of arrest, however, all these requirements are intrinsic to the arresting officer.

Thus for the purpose of arresting police officer has all-pervasive powers without any assistance from the Court or Magistrate.

Limiting factors for the above said the power of arrest without warrant is the existence of some reasons for the exercise of such power.

Chapter XII of CrPC which deals with Investigation of Crime also does not contemplate any assistance of a Magistrate or a court; to the police officer, qua investigation of a crime.

Section 167 CrPC requires that after arrest if investigation is not conducted within 24 hours then the person shall be produced before the Magistrate. Even the Magistrate is prohibited from permitting police custody for more than 15 days in all.

Section 73 of CrPC confers a power upon the Chief Judicial Magistrate and a Magistrate of First Class to issue warrants against any person who is ‘evading arrest’.

Under the above-said Section, the Magistrate can issue warrants of arrest against a person:-

(a) Who is an escaped convict
(b) Proclaimed offender
(c) Person accused of ‘non-bailable’ offence and is ‘evading arrest’.

Decision

High Court noting the above observations along with the contentions of both the counsels for the parties found the case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273, to be befitting in the facts of the present case, in the cited case following was held by the Supreme Court,

“…before arresting the accused, alleged to have committed a cognizable and non-bailable offence punishable with imprisonment up to seven years, the police officer has to record reasons qua his satisfaction that the arrest of the said person is necessary for the purpose mentioned in the Section.”

“…even at the time of authorizing detention of a person, who has already been arrested by the police, Magistrate would not go by ipse dixit of the language, which might be reproduced in the record of the police. He has to apply his independent mind as to whether the reasons are sufficient to sustain the satisfaction qua requirements of getting such person arrested. Only if the reasons are found sufficient, the person arrested by the police can be authorized to be put in further custody of the arresting officer.”

High Court also observed and stated that, before the Magistrate had taken cognizance of any offence, power of issuance of arrest warrants under any provision of CrPC, on an application of a police officer, cannot be invoked by the Magistrate as a routine manner.

It is clear from the above-said analysis that,

 “only for arresting a person; the police do not require any warrant as such. Hence, it would not lie in the mouth of the police to allege before the Magistrate, without there being any specific reasons or any barrier in their way, that the accused is evading arrest.”

Thus, the application moved by the police officer is silent qua any reason, which requires assistance from the court for arresting the petitioner.

No reason, whatsoever, has been spelt out in the application, even qua the requirements of arrest as mentioned in Section 41 CrPC, to justify the arrest of the petitioner, except to say that the petitioner is evading arrest. It is upon this application that the impugned warrants of arrest have been issued against the petitioner.

Hence, nothing has been noted either in the order passed by the Magistrate, from which it can be discernible that the Magistrate has some reasons or material to justify the discretion exercised by him.

Court found the impugned warrant issued by the magistrate not sustainable. Hence the present petition is found to be partly allowed by quashing the warrants of arrest and consequent order impugned in the petition. [Gurjeet Singh Johar v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 2606, decided on 08-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Rajasekhar Mantha, J., has referred to three important questions, which in the Court’s opinion are required to be settled by an appropriate larger bench.

In the instant case, the Investigating Officer (“IO”) had prayed for a voice sample of the petitioner to enable FSL experts to compare the same with certain evidence that was already in custody of the IO. The Magistrate has allowed the IO’s prayer and directed the petitioner to provide a voice sample before the FSL expert. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the instant revision.

Notably, the petitioner was not named as accused in the FIR and the investigation was still on.

The petitioner argued that as the law presently stands, a witness cannot be compelled to give a voice sample. Per contra, the State relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Ritesh Sinha v. State of U.P., (2019) 8 SCC 1, to contend that if an accused can be compelled to give voice sample, as held in the said case, then a witness who is not an accused, at an investigation, can be definitely asked to give voice sample.

Considering the submissions of the parties, the High Court was of the view that the following questions require to be settled by an appropriate larger Bench:

“(a) Whether Section 311-A read with Section 53 and 53-A CrPC along with Section 5 of the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, empowers a Magistrate to compel a witness in course of investigation into an FIR, to give voice sample in the aid of such investigation?”

(b)Can the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in the Ritesh Sinha v. State of U.P. be applied also to witnesses in course of investigation?

(c)Whether a witness even in course of an investigation can be compelled to give evidence, that could subsequently emerge as a ground for including him as an accused in the final investigation report?”

The High Court directed the matter to be placed before the Chief Justice for reference to an appropriate Bench.

In the meantime, however, the petitioner was ordered to give voice samples to the IO in the presence of the FSL expert. It was directed that the said sample shall be kept sealed and unopened, and the parties shall abide by the result of the reference proposed. [Mukul Roy v. State of W.B., 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 4341, decided on 12-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Sikkim High Court: Bhaskar Raj Pradhan, J., while exercising inherent powers under Section 482 CrPC quashed the criminal complaint filed against the petitioners for the offences punishable under Sections 405, 420 and 441 read with Section 120-B IPC. Warrants issued against the petitioners by the Magistrate in the same case were also quashed.

The parties were involved in a landlord-tenant dispute, pursuant to which the said complaint was filed by the landlord. Magistrate took cognizance and issued process against the petitioners. Aggrieved, they filed the instant petition. It was an admitted fact that the petitioners resided beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the Magistrate concerned.

Dismissing Chapter 15 of CrPC which deals with complaints to Magistrates, the High Court relied on Birla Corpn. Ltd. v. Adventz Investments & Holdings Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine SC 682, wherein the Supreme Court held that under the amended sub-section (1) to Section 202 CrPC, it is obligatory upon the Magistrate that before summoning the accused residing beyond its jurisdiction. he shall inquire into the case himself or direct the investigation to be made by a police officer or by such other person as he thinks fir for finding out whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused. The Supreme Court also held that the order of the Magistrate must reflect that he has applied his mind to the facts of the case and the law applicable thereto. It was also held that the application of mind has to be indicated by disclosure of mind on the satisfaction and considering the duties of the magistrates for issuance of summons to accused in a complaint case, there must be sufficient indication of it. The Supreme Court after referring to a catena of its previous judgments held that summons may be issued if the allegations in the complaint, the complainant statement and other materials would show that there are sufficient grounds for proceeding against the accused.

The records of the instant matter, however, did not reveal that the Magistrate had complied with the provisions of Section 202 CrPC and applied her mind to the facts of the case and the law applicable thereto. The order of taking cognizance stated that “cognizance of the matter is taken against accused no. 1, 2, 3 and 4”. Section 190 CrPC deals with cognizance of offence by Magistrate, which provides that the Magistrate “may take cognizance of any offence.” It is settled law that cognizance is taken of the offence and not the offender. The Magistrate did not even mention which of the offences she had taken cognizance of.

It was, thus, held that the Magistrate failed to exercise her discretion to issue summons against the petitioners residing beyond her territorial jurisdiction in the manner required. Even otherwise, considering the allegations, it was found that there was no material before the Court to proceed under criminal jurisdiction. [Mohd. Yusufuddin Ahmed v. Ruth Karthak Lepchani, 2019 SCC OnLine Sikk 198, decided on 07-12-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Full Bench of Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, CJ and Priyantha Jayawardena, PC, and Murdu N.B. Fernando, PC, JJ., allowed appeals filed by two appellants out of eight accused.

The two Accused-Appellant-Petitioners (hereinafter called Appellants) were charged along with six others in the Magistrate’s Court of Jaffna. They were charged for “Joining an Unlawful Assembly armed with any deadly weapon”, an offence punishable under Section 141 of the Penal Code; “Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt by dangerous weapons or means” while being members of an unlawful assembly, an offence punishable under Section 317 read with Section 146 of the Penal Code; and “Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt by dangerous weapons or means” punishable under Section 317 read with Section 32 of the Penal Code.

The Magistrate convicted all eight accused for the first two counts, after trial. The two appellants being aggrieved with the conviction and the sentence appealed to the High Court of Jaffna.

The High Court Judge affirmed the conviction and sentence. Thus the instant appeal was filed.

The Counsels for the appellants M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, J. Arulanantham and D. Mascarange contended that he would mainly address the issue of dock identification as there was no proper dock identification relating to two appellants and there was no sufficient evidence to establish the identity of the two appellants. There was no dispute that neither the victim nor any other witness, in this case, knew the two appellants.

The Court while allowing the appeal opinioned that the evidence was unsatisfactory and the conviction and sentence of the two appellants was set aside accordingly acquitted. [Rathnasingham Janushan v. Officer In-charge, SC (Spl) Appeal No. 07 of 2018, decided on 04-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed a criminal appeal filed against the order of the Metropolitan Magistrate whereby he had acquitted the accused-respondent for the absence of the complainant-appellant and his advocate at the stage when the case was placed for evidence.

It may be noted that the matter was listed before the trial court on 31 occasions, out of which, the complainant (appellant herein) was absent 11 times. On the 31st occasion as well, when the matter was placed for evidence, the complainant and his advocate were absent. Consequently, the trial Magistrate passed the impugned order mentioned above. In the instant appeal, it was submitted by the complainant that it was due to inadvertence of his counsel, who misheard the next date of hearing, that the complainant was not able to present himself before the trial court on the day the impugned order was passed.

On facts, the High Court found that the pleas made by the appellant were unsubstantiated and no relief could be given to him.

Explaining the mandate of Section 256 CrPC, the Court observed:

“Section 256 mandates that if the complainant does not remain present on the appointed day after the summons has been issued on the complaint and unless attendance of complainant has been dispensed with, the Magistrate shall acquit the accused. If the Magistrate feels that the order of acquittal should not be passed on that date, the Magistrate has to give reasons.”

Reiterating that speedy trial is a fundamental right of the accused, the Court noted that the Magistrate cannot allow a case to remain pending for an indefinite period.

The Court observed that “the Magistrate in terms of sub-section (1) of Section 256 exercises wide jurisdiction”. In the present case, it was noted, the Magistrate had acquitted the accused as provided under Section 256 because he did not find any reason to adjourn the hearing of the case to some other day. As noted above, out of the 31 dates, on 11 dates the complainant was absent but still the Magistrate did not dismiss the complaint on those dates.

In such a situation, the High Court was of the opinion that there was no illegality in the impugned order so as to require any interference. The appeal was, therefore, dismissed. [Champalal Kapoorchand Jain v. Navyug Cloth Stores, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 4805, decided on 26-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: S.S. Shinde, J. dismissed a writ petition filed against the order of the Magistrate who had directed the petitioner to deposit 20% of the amount of the subject cheques while allowing his application of exemption from appearance on the condition that his Advocate record the plea.

The petitioner was alleged to be a debt of Rs 100 crores due to Aditya Birla Real Estate Fund — the complainant. It was alleged that he had issued 4 cheques in the name of the complainant for discharging the said debt. However, when presented for encashment, the said cheques were dishonoured for insufficiency of funds. After the legal formalities, the complainant registered a complaint under Section 138 (dishonour of cheque) of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. Subsequently, the process was issued by the Magistrate and summons were served on the petitioner. He was, however, not able to appear before the Magistrate due to non-availability of confirmed railway ticket from Gurgaon to Mumbai. But he instructed his Advocate to attend the proceedings and “take appropriate steps in the interest of the petitioner”. The Advocate appeared before the Magistrate and presented an application for personal exemption of the petitioner. The Magistrate passed a conditional order thereby allowing the exemption application on a condition that the Advocate for the petitioner shall record plea on his behalf if the Advocate pleads not guilty then the petitioner shall secure his presence for bail and deposit 20% of the cheque amount as interim compensation within 60 days from the date of the order. The impugned order was passed by the Magistrate in the exercise of his powers under Section 143-A of the NI Act.

Rohan R. Sonawane, Advocate for the petitioner contended that Magistrate erred in passing the impugned order when the petitioner was absent and an exemption application seeking personal exemption for the day was sought on his behalf. Per contra, A.A. Ponda, N. Mndargi, S. Poria and C. Keswani, Advocates for Aditya Birla Real Estate Fund, opposed the present petition.

The High Court referred to several cases of the Supreme Court including Surinder Singh Deswal v. Virender Gandhi, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 739 and Bhaskar Industries Ltd. v. Bhiwani Denim & Apparels Ltd. (2001) 7 SCC 401. It was noted, The magistrate is empowered to record the plea of the accused even when his counsel makes such plea on behalf of the accused in a case where the personal appearance of the accused is dispensed with.” The contention of the petitioner was that no written instructions were given to the Advocate, thereby authorising him to record a plea of the accused. On this aspect, the Court stated: “Under Section 205 CrPC on the first day, the Advocate for the accused can record the plea, for which written application by the accused is not contemplated.”

Note was also taken of the fact that the petitioner filed the present petition near about 2 months from the date of passing the impugned order. The proceedings under Section 138 are required to be disposed of within 6 months keeping in view the mandate of Section 143 of the NI Act and within 3 months from the date of assignment of the case as held by the Supreme Court in Indian Bank Assn. v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 590.

Keeping in view the mandate of Section 143, the Court was of the opinion that the Magistrate was right in passing the impugned order. In such view of the matter, it was held that the petition was liable to be rejected.[Sidharth Chauhan v. Aditya Birla Real Estate Fund, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1297, decided on 19-07-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Pakistan Supreme Court: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. allowed a criminal appeal against a conviction order under Section 302 (b) of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 which was passed on the basis of confessional statements.

 Appellants herein were tried before trial court for committing murder of a minor. As the investigation progressed, the accused were hauled up by the police and produced before a Judicial Magistrate when they, one by one, confessed the guilt. They were convicted under Section 302(b) of PPC and sentenced to death. The conviction order was upheld by the Peshawar High Court. Hence, the instant appeal.

The counsels for the appellants, Khalid Mehmood and Zahoor Qureshi, contended that reliance on confessional statements by the Courts below was fraught with multiple errors, heavily impinging upon the principle of safe administration of criminal justice; according to him, the statements were inherently flawed; these were contradicted by prosecution’s own witness, a dichotomy that escaped notice of the courts below.

The Court noted that since the appellants had been handed down the ultimate corporal penalty which was irreversible in nature on the basis of their confessions, the said confessions warranted careful scrutiny.

It was noted that both the appellants appeared before the Magistrate one after another on the same date which was quite intriguing. Both of them conducted themselves in a comfortable unison even in an extreme crisis situation; and both were in tune with the prosecution, which reasonably excluded the hypothesis of voluntary disclosure, free from taints of inducement or persuasion. The Court observed that it appeared to be more of a negotiated settlement rather than a volitional representation as there was a remarkable similarity in both the statements, in terms of sequential order as well as the pattern these were reduced into writing.

The Court observed that The fate of the prosecution’s case is hinged upon confessional statements, made by the convicts before a Magistrate and it is on the basis of their disclosures that they have been handed down the ultimate corporal penalty, irreversible in nature and thus warrants most careful scrutiny.” On overall analysis of the prosecution’s case, it was held that the confessional statements could not be relied upon without potential risk of error. The Court held that, “In the absence of evidentiary certainty, it would be unsafe to maintain the convictions on moral satisfaction that certainly cannot equate with legal proof.”

In view of the above, the appellants were held entitled the benefit of doubt and their appeal was allowed, thus setting aside the impugned judgments.[Muhammad Azhar Hussain v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 10, decided on 02-05-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

South Africa High Court, Kwazulu–Natal Division: This appeal was preferred before the Bench of Ploos Van Amstel, J., against the order of conviction and sentence of appellant passed by regional Magistrate for commission of crime of rape in contravention of Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act, 2007.

Facts of the case were such that the complainant a minor girl alleged appellant for the offence of raping her on several occasions between the years 2012 to 2015. The case went before the Magistrate where he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mkumbuzi, Counsel on behalf of the appellant submitted that complainant was not a competent witness and thus, her evidence was inadmissible on the ground that Magistrate had failed to establish if complainant understood the difference of truth and lies or the consequences of lying in accordance with Section 164(1) of the Act, 1977. Case of DPP v. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, 2009 (4) SA 222 (CC) was relied on where it was stated that a child unable to comprehend what it was to speak the truth cannot be admonished to speak the truth and hence, was an incompetent witness and cannot testify.

High Court was of the view that the rationale behind a person to be admonished to speak the truth was to make sure that the evidence was reliable without which the appellant’s right to a fair trial would be compromised.  Agreeing with the submissions of the appellant the conviction and sentence were set aside and the appeal was allowed. [SS v. State, CASE NO. AR 220 of 2018, Order dated 01-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. dismissed a hotel owner’s petition assailing dismissal of the application for his discharge, holding that since couples were found in semi-naked condition in hotel rooms adjacent to petitioner’s room, it was a matter requiring a complete trial.

A case of immoral trafficking was registered against the petitioner, pursuant to which he filed an application for discharge under Sections 227 and 228 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The said application was rejected by the Magistrate. Hence, the instant petition was filed under Section 482 CrPC.

Learned counsel for the petitioner, Mr Shri Prakash Srivastava, submitted that as per Section 15 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 only a special police officer is empowered to search without a warrant. Since the raid at petitioner’s hotel was not conducted by a special police officer, the whole search was vitiated in law and no criminal prosecution based on the same was permissible. Further, no medical examination was done on the couples produced before the Magistrate to establish any scientific evidence relating to there being immoral trafficking.

Learned counsel for the respondent, Mr Pramod Kumar, submitted that the raid was conducted in presence of Additional/Assistant Superintendent of Police who is notified as a ‘special police officer’ under the Act. Further, Section 15(5-A) of the Act provides for examination by a registered medical practitioner only for the purposes of determination of age, or detection of any injuries. Lastly, the petitioner, being the owner, was in the room adjacent to rooms where couples were recovered in semi-naked condition and, thus, he could not take the plea of innocence or ignorance.

The Court opined that no legal provision had been violated. Petitioner being the owner of hotel, and being present in the room adjacent to rooms from where couples were found in semi-naked condition, at this stage, could not be said to be innocent. Thus, the petition was dismissed holding that a full-fledged trial was required in the matter.[Sudhir Kumar v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 289, Order dated 06-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., for the reason of procedural lapses, quashed an order passed by the trial court wherein the Magistrate had convicted the petitioner (accused) after recording the plea of guilt voluntarily made by him.

The petitioner was convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 454 and 380 read with 34 IPC. Darshan Singh, Advocate representing the petitioner submitted that the Magistrate erred in convicting the petitioner by recording his plea of guilt as the trial court had not then reached the stage of framing of charges. Contravention of Section 240 and 241 CrPC contended.

After discussing Sections 238, 239 and 240 CrPC, the High Court was of the view that the conviction of the petitioner could not be sustained. Moreover, at the time when the petitioner was produced before the Magistrate and his plea of guilt was recorded, neither there was no legal counsel representing him, nor any amicus was appointed by the Magistrate. It was observed: “In the present case there is apparently no compliance with Sections 239 and 240 i.e. consideration by the Magistrate of the police report and the material submitted before it and an opinion formed that charge should be framed. Further, no legal counsel apparently has been provided to the petitioner before recording his plea of guilt.” As for non-framing of charges, the Court held: “As no charge was framed there was no question of the Magistrate at that stage to record the plea of guilt or otherwise of the accused, even if voluntarily made.” Holding that failure of justice had been questioned in the present case, the Court quashed the petitioner’s conviction and remitted the matter back to the trial court. [Adi Malik v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8204, dated 24-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., while dismissing a criminal revision petition, held that the magistrate has a power to pass an order granting interim maintenance under Section 23 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, with effect from the date of filing of the substantive petition under Section 12.

The wife filed a petition under Section 12 against the husband on 10-09-2014. Subsequently, on the wife’s petition under Section 23, by the impugned order the Magistrate awarded interim maintenance of Rs 15,000 for the wife and Rs 15,000 for the minor daughter payable monthly by the husband (appellant). The maintenance was ordered to paid from the date of filing of the substantive petition under Section 12.

Ranjan Bajaj, Advocate for the husband submitted that the trial court was in error in awarding maintenance from the date of filing of petition under Section 12. Per contra, Varun Chawla, Advocate appearing for the wife, supported the impugned order.

The High Court perused the entire record and held that the trial court passed the order of maintenance after proper analysis of all the relevant material. As for the submission of the husband mentioned above, the Court observed, “Section 23 of the DV Act does not provide a substantive right to parties but is a provision which empowers the trial court to pass an order granting interim maintenance in a petition filed under Section 12 of the DV Act. Merely because the trial court has not exercised the power under Section 23 of the DV Act, when a substantive petition under Section 12 of DV Act was filed and chose to pass an order only when a separate application under Section 23 of the DV Act was filed, does not mean that a Magistrate does not have the power to pass an order with effect from the date of filing of the substantive petition under Section 12.” In such view of the matter, the court did not find any merit in the petition which was thus dismissed. [Gaurav Manchanda v. Namrata Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7353, dated 27-02-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a matter where the Gujarat High Court had set aside the order passed by a Chief Judicial Magistrate who had taken cognizance of the offences punishable under Sections 420, 465, 467, 468, 471, 477A and 120-B IPC on the basis of the second supplementary charge sheet filed by the police and ordered issuance of process to the accused, the bench of R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee, JJ held that the High Court ought not to have gone into the merits of the matter when the matter is in nascent stage.

Holding that the High Court overstepped in the said matter, the bench said:

“When the prosecution relies upon the materials, strict standard of proof is not to be applied at the stage of issuance of summons nor to examine the probable defence which the accused may take. All that the court is required to do is to satisfy itself as to whether there are sufficient grounds for proceeding.”

Stating that while hearing revision under Section 397 Cr.P.C., the High Court does not sit as an appellate court and will not reappreciate the evidence unless the judgment of the lower court suffers from perversity, the bench said:

“materials produced by the prosecution ought not to have been brushed aside by the learned Single Judge to quash the order of issuance of summons to the respondent-accused. As to whether these evidences are sufficient to sustain the conviction of the respondent-accused or whether he has a plausible defence or explanation is the matter to be considered at the stage of trial. The learned Single Judge ought not to have weighed the merits of the case at the initial stage of issuance of summons to the accused.”

The Court explained that while taking cognizance of an offence based upon a police report, it is the satisfaction of the Magistrate that there is sufficient ground to proceed against the accused and when the satisfaction of the Magistrate was based on the charge sheet and the materials placed before him, the satisfaction cannot be said to be erroneous or perverse and the satisfaction ought not to have been interfered with.

It was, hence, held that the High Court committed a serious error in going into the merits and  demerits of the case and hence, the impugned order was set aside. [State of Gujarat v. Afroz Mohammed Hasanfatta, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 132, decided on 05.02.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: The Bench of S. Talapatra, J. dismissed a criminal revision petition challenging an order whereby the Sessions Court refused to take cognizance of a police report filed under Section 173(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on the ground that further investigation was continuing against the arrested and absconding accused persons.

The question before the Court was that whether a police report can be filed in part keeping the investigation incomplete or continuing; and whether such a report could be brought within the definition of ‘police report’ under Section 2(r) of CrPC.

Learned public prosecutor submitted that the trial court was duty bound to consider the police report and infer whether any offence has been disclosed. Whereas counsel on behalf of respondent argued that a police report can be filed only after completion of investigation as there was no other provision in CrPC to file a police report in part.

The Court observed that Section 2(r) of CrPC clearly stated that a report forwarded by a police officer to the Magistrate is a police report. Whether on the basis of the said report, cognizance of any offence shall be taken by the Magistrate, is altogether a different question.

It was opined that after receipt of a police report, the Magistrate can do one of following: (i) he may decide that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding further and drop action; (ii) he may take cognizance of offence under Section 190(1)(b) of CrPC on the basis of materials in the police report; or (iii) he may direct further investigation by the police.

After a perusal of records, the Court noted that eighteen charge sheets had been filed in the instant case. Admittedly, these charge sheets were not a result of the further investigation but of a continuing investigation. Hence, it was inferred that the subject police report was not filed on completion of the investigation. In view thereof, it was held that there was no infirmity in the impugned order.[State of Tripura v. Bimal Chakraborty, 2019 SCC OnLine Tri 1, decided on 03-01-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Mauritius Intermediate Court: The Bench of B.R. Jannoo- Jaunbocus, set aside the motion of the defendant in relation to the protection of his fundamental rights.

The facts of the case are that the accused was a public official and was charged under Sections 4(1)(b)(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2002 for unlawfully and criminally, soliciting from another person, a gratification for doing an act which was facilitated by his duties. The case was heard by a differently constituted Bench of the Intermediate Court, which dismissed the matter against the accused.  It was then appealed to the Supreme Court against the acquittal. The Court was faced with the Herculean task of interpreting the Constitution. The questions before the Court were –

  1. Whether the Court on appeal can remit back a case to the lower Court with the direction that another Magistrate, other than the trial Court should hear evidence and proceed to pass sentence in the teeth of Section 10 of the Constitution?
  2. Whether a newly constituted bench can sentence an accused without hearing all the evidence on record?

The Court held that the right of the accused to a fair hearing at sentencing stage and the duty upon the court to give an accused party the opportunity to be heard before sentence should be passed upon him. An omission to hear a defendant before passing sentence is a serious breach of procedural fairness. The direction given by the Supreme Court in the present case was that of directing the Presiding Magistrate to designate another magistrate “to hear evidence on the appropriate sentence to be passed and proceed to sentence”. The Court concluded that there was no infringement of the principle laid down in Sip Heng Wong Ng v. R (Privy Council Appeal No 52 of 1985) [1985 MR 142], if it were to proceed with the hearing for the purpose of sentencing. The motion of the defence was set aside. [Independent Commission Against Corruption v. JOTTEE Dharmanund, 2019 INT 3, decided on 17-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, J. allowed a challenge to the order of Additional District Judge for execution of an order passed under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The facts of the case are such that the Additional District Judge, while taking up an execution case in connection with an alimony order passed under the Hindu Marriage Act, suffered an identity crisis and acted as a Magistrate to invoke provisions of Section 125(3) CrPC and allied provisions to issue a distress warrant against the husband. The Collector was directed to realise the maintenance allowance as arrears of land revenue. The husband assailed the order as sans jurisdiction.

The High Court, at the outset, observed that it is unheard of that an order passed under Section 24 HMA would be executed by taking resort to the provisions of CrPC. In view of the Court, this was a case the execution application was filed under the correct provisions of law, but the Additional District Judge consciously resorted to powers which have no nexus with the proceedings under consideration; the powers that are conferred on a Magistrate and not on an Additional District Judge. As such, it was held that the order impugned was devoid of inherent jurisdiction and could not stand a moment’s scrutiny. Accordingly, the order impugned was set aside. The Additional District Judge was directed to dispose of the matter in accordance with appropriate provisions of law. [Taraknath Mukherjee v. Sandhya Mukherjee, 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 6154, dated 07-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Mangesh S. Patil, J. dismissed a writ petition filed against the order of the Magistrate recalling his earlier order.

Brief facts of the case are that the Magistrate concerned, on an earlier occasion, had ordered investigation under Section 156 CrPC in a criminal case. Subsequently, the same Magistrate, vide the order impugned, recalled his earlier order. The petitioner submitted that the subsequent order was passed without jurisdiction as CrPC does not empower a Magistrate to recall his earlier orders. Reliance was placed upon Supreme Court decisions in Subramanium Sethuraman v. State of Maharashtra, (2004) 13 SCC 324 and Iris Computers Ltd. v. Askari Infotech (P) Ltd., (2015) 14 SCC 399.

The High Court, at the outset, observed that the principle laid down in the cases mentioned hereinabove does not cover a case of the instant nature. A trite principle was laid down in the said cases that a Magistrate does not have any power under CrPC to recall, review or reconsider his own order, howsoever illegal it might be. However, in the present case, it was not a matter of legality or otherwise of the order passed by the Magistrate but the manner in which the order was procured by misleading the Court by suppression of material facts and circumstances. Fraud vitiates everything, observed the Court. It was noted that the petitioner failed to disclose the fact of filing a complaint with the police; he misused the process by approaching a different Magistrate and had solicited the order which was subsequently set aside by the order impugned. Such and additional facts were serious matters which constitute fraud on the court. The Court was of the view that there was no illegality committed by the Magistrate in recalling his own order. The writ petition was accordingly dismissed. [Deepak v. Shriram,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 2199, dated 20-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Joymalya Bagchi and Ravi Krishan Kapur JJ., while setting aside the conviction and sentence imposed upon the appellant, stated that the evidence placed are too flimsy and contradictory to inspire confidence.

The factual matrix of the case was that the appellant was detained by the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) at the NSCBI Airport while he was proceeding towards immigration and subsequently on interrogation and suspicion of possession of contraband a complaint was filed under Sections 21(b) and 23(b) of the NDPS Act. An X-Ray was conducted of the abdomen of the appellant further on being detained under surveillance at the AIU office, 49 pieces of bullet shaped capsules were allegedly recovered from the appellant’s stool. The contents which were recovered consisted of ‘Hashish’.

The appellant had denied all the charges by stating that the procedure to recover contraband was in violation of Section 103 of the Customs Act, also no order of the Magistrate in terms of Section 103(6) of the mentioned Act was obtained.

Therefore, the Court denying the contentions of the respondents and giving due consideration to the circumstances and facts of the case, stated that the appellant was kept under surveillance at the AIU office until the time he defecated ejecting the contraband from his body. The said move by the authorities was said to be a violation of the statutory scheme but also an infringement of the fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, especially on no permission been taken from the magistrate for the same.

“Procedure entailing recovery of Narcotics/contraband from the body of the suspect requires invasion into the physical body of the suspect and an encroachment into his privacy such exercise should be in strict compliance with statutory safeguards”. [Mursaleen Mohammad v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Cal 4885, dated 19-06-2018]