Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench of *Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ., addressed the instant case dealing with vexatious complaint. The Bench, while expressing concern over such practises emphasised over the need of scrutinising such complaints at its initiation. The Bench said,

“The Trial Judge has a duty under the Constitution and the CrPC, to identify and dispose of frivolous litigation at an early stage by exercising, substantially and to the fullest extent, the powers conferred on him.”

The fact of the case was that the parties had been at loggerheads from 2006 onwards.  It was the case of the respondent  that the Appellants came to his house, beat him and his wife with iron rods, and threatened to kill them. Similar counter-allegations were made by the appellants against the respondent. On 05-08-2012, the respondent filed a Non Cognizable Report (NCR) No. 158 of 2012 and the Appellant had filed a counter-complaint as NCR No. 160 of 2012. Later on, the appellant had filed an application under Section 155(2) of CrPC before the Magistrate, almost 5 years after the alleged incident, seeking permission for the police to investigate NCR No. 160 of 2012.

Being unsatisfied with the allegations made and charge sheet filed against him, the Respondent instituted a fresh private complaint against the Appellant under Section 200 of CrPC Complaint Case No. 2943 of 2018 in respect of the very incident that took place on 05-08-2012 regarding which compensation had been already paid by the appellant but the allegations of fraud, injury to bull, forging of affidavit, etc. which were not found in the 2012 complaint were also found in the private complaint.

While criticising the rehashing of same incident in the private complaint given that Appellant had already been convicted for the offence, which was of no relevance to the present case, the Bench cited the judgment of Upkar Singh v. Ved Prakash, (2004)

13 SCC 292, wherein it had been held that, any further complaint by the same complainant or others against the same accused, subsequent to the registration of a case, is prohibited under the Code because an investigation in this regard would have already started and further complaint against the same accused will amount to an improvement on the facts mentioned in the original complaint, hence will be prohibited under Section 162 of the Code.

The same principle would also apply where a person gives information of a non cognizable offence and subsequently lodges a private complaint with respect to the same offence against the same accused person.

“The complainant cannot subject the accused to a double whammy of investigation by the police and inquiry before the Magistrate.”

In Amitbhai Anilchandra Shah v. CBI, (2013) 6 SCC 348, the Supreme Court had held that, that a second FIR in respect of an offence or different offences committed in the course of the same transaction is not only impermissible but it violates Article 21 of the Constitution.

“Permitting multiple complaints by the same party in respect of the same incident, whether it involves a cognizable or private complaint offence, will lead to the accused being entangled in numerous criminal proceedings. As such, he would be forced to keep surrendering his liberty and precious time before the police and the Courts…”

Noticing that as on 05-08-2012, appellant 1 was a 76 year old man and appellant 2 was suffering from epileptic seizures; and appellant 4 was of unsound mind, the Bench opined that there was no equity in allowing them to be dragged into criminal proceedings pertaining to a petty offence, instituted 6 years after the alleged incident. Since, respondent’s conduct in filing a delayed complaint case, suppressing material facts, and utilising fresh proceedings to materially improve on his earlier version, in totality, said the Bench, amounted to gross abuse of the process of court.

Role of the Lower Judiciary in Preventing Abuse of Court Process

The Bench, while expressing concern, remarked,

This is a case that should not have been allowed to reach as far as this Court.”

The justice dispensation machinery in India is plagued with backlogs and a significant factor in this backlog is the vast mass of frivolous litigation. The Bench stated,

“Curtailing such vexatious litigation is, thus, a crucial step towards a more effective justice system – a step that cannot be taken without the active involvement of the lower judiciary.”

In Subrata Roy Sahara v. Union of India, (2014) 8 SCC 470, the Supreme Court had stated,

“…One needs to keep in mind, that in the process of litigation, there is an innocent sufferer on the other side, of every irresponsible and senseless claim. He suffers long drawn anxious periods of nervousness and restlessness, whilst the litigation is pending, without any fault on his part. He pays for the litigation, from out of his savings (or out of his borrowings), worrying that the other side may trick him into defeat, for no fault of his. He spends invaluable time briefing counsel and preparing them for his claim. Time which he should have spent at work, or with his family, is lost, for no fault of his…”

Lastly, the Bench stated, the Magistrates are the first lines of defence for both the integrity of the criminal justice system, and the harassed and distraught litigant. And  a litigant pursuing frivolous and vexatious proceedings could not claim unlimited right upon court time and public money to achieve his ends.

Hence, the Bench quashed all litigations between the parties arising out of the complained incident by exercising its inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.

[Krishna Lal Chawla v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 191, decided on 08-03-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

*Judgment by: Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising of Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ., addressed the instant petition regarding landlord-tenant dispute, wherein the petitioner had challenged the judgment of Civil Judge by which the Court had affirmed the execution proceedings for evicting the petitioner. The Bench remarked,

This is a classical case of how civil proceedings can be prolonged ad infinitum, causing grave injustice to one of the parties.”

The facts of the case relate back to the case of Debashish Sinha v. Sreejib Sinha, 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 7890. One Rabindra Nath Sinha, the original tenant was inducted as a lessee by the respondent under an agreement for 21 years in 1967. After expiry of the said period the respondent filed a suit for eviction against the original tenant which was decreed in favour of the respondent by the decree dated 17-08-2005. The original tenant challenged the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court successively up to the Supreme Court. However, the appeals were dismissed on contest, affirming the decree of eviction.

However, after conclusion of initial legal battle, the respondent put the decree in execution in the year 2009. It was at that stage that the present petitioner, Debashish Sinha entered appearance claiming himself to be a nephew of the original tenant and filed an application under Order XXI Rule 97, 99 and 100 read with Sections 47 and 151 of the CPC contending, inter alia, that he had been running a business in a decreetal shop room under the name and style “The Wardrope” since 1977 with the original tenant. It was also pleaded that the agreement of partnership in respect of the said business was executed in the year 1980. On the basis of said partnership agreement the petitioner claimed independent title over the decreetal property as that of a tenant.

The petitioner contended that the decree passed against the original tenant was not binding upon the petitioner and it could not be executed against him. The Executing Court by an order dated 20-09-2011 dismissed the said objection. The petitioner preferred an appeal against the said judgment before Civil Judge (Senior Division), which was again dismissed and the judgment of the Execution Court was affirmed.

The Supreme Court observed, there being no privity of contract between the decree holder and the petitioner with regard to tenancy in respect of decreetal shop room, the Courts below rightly dismissed the application filed by the petitioner under Order XXI Rule 97, 99, 100 read with Sections 47 and 151 of the CPC. The Bench, while dismissing the appeal, remarked,

“The landlord filed suit for possession which succeeded right till this Court. The execution proceedings filed in the year 2009 has dragged on for 12 years. This application filed by the petitioner itself was an abuse of process of law.”

The Bench opined that merely dismissing the petition would not suffice as some signal must be sent to discourage this nature of litigation. Thus, while dismissing the SLP the Bench imposed the following directions:

1) The execution should be satisfied within a period of 15 days from this order being placed before the Trial Court.

2) Damages should be computed by the Executing Court at the market rates against the petitioner from the date of filing the objection i.e. 26-03-2010 till possession gets transferred.

3) For wastage of judicial time and for dragging on the proceedings, the petitioner should be burdened with costs of Rs. 1 lakh to be paid to the respondent within the period of three months.

[Debashish Sinha v. Sreejib Sinha, SLP No. 4148 of 2020, 08-03-2021]

*Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

For Petitioner: Adv. S.K. Bhattacharya, Adv. Anindo Mukherjee and AOR  Sarla Chandra,

For Respondent:  Adv. Pijush K Roy, Adv. Sudipa Roy, Adv. Kakali Roy and AOR Rajan K. Chourasia

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has imposed a fine of Rs 5,00,000 on the petitioner seeking ban on the sale and use of Coca Cola, Thums up, Soft Beverages. The PIL had also sought issuing Notification uprising people at large not to drink and use it, as the same is detrimental to the cause of health.

Calling the invocation of Supreme Court’s jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution an abuse of process, the Court said,

“The petition has been filed without the petitioner having any technical knowledge on the subject. The source of his assertions has not been substantiated. No justification or explanation is forthcoming during the submissions of Mr S P Singh, learned Senior Counsel on why two specific brands in particular are chosen to be the target of the proceedings.”

It, hence, said that besides dismissing the petition an order directing the imposition of exemplary costs was necessary.

The costs imposed is to be deposited in the Registry within one month and shall be disbursed to the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association.

[Umedsinh P Chavda v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 500  , order dated 11.06.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Vivek Singh Thakur, J. contemplated a petition filed under Section 482 of CrPC, where the petitioner arrived at a compromise with the respondent for quashing of the FIR filed under Sections 279 and 337 of IPC along with allegations under Motor Vehicle Act, 1988.

Factual matrix of the case was that the complainant-respondent was crossing the road and he was hit by a motorcycle which was driven by the petitioner. The complainant fell unconscious and he did not know the main cause of the accident. He subsequently lodged an FIR on the basis of the information which was supplied by the people present at the site of the accident. The contention of the complainant was that it is not known to him that how the accident had occurred and as to whether petitioner was at fault or not and that after the accident petitioner along with his family had approached him in his village and had taken care of his injuries and further that petitioner was a young graduate engineer and even if had it been fault on his part, he would have forgiven him, as he was feeling guilty for hitting him with his Motor Cycle, therefore, he did not intend to continue criminal proceedings against him and had prayed for compounding the case.

The submissions of the petitioner had also been made he had stated that he was feeling guilty for hitting the complainant and therefore had repentance for the same and had apologized to the complainant, who had agreed to forgive him. He undertook to be more careful in the future. He further deposed that at the time of the accident he was not in possession of documents of the vehicle as well as driving license, but now he possesses the same. He had also stated that he has deposed in the Court out of his free will, consent and without any coercion, pressure or threat.

But the main issue in the instant petition was that the State contended that accused was not entitled to invoke inherent jurisdiction of this Court to exercise its power on the basis of compromise arrived at between the parties with respect to an offence not compoundable under Section 320 CrPC, reliance was placed on Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303, where the Supreme Court explained the power of the High Courts under Section 482 CrPC. and had held that, “these powers are to be exercised to secure the ends of justice or to prevent abuse of process of any Court and these powers can be exercised to quash criminal proceedings or complaint or FIR in appropriate cases where offender and victim have settled their dispute and for that purpose no definite category of offence can be prescribed.” However, it was also observed that Courts must have due regard to nature and gravity of the crime and criminal proceedings in heinous and serious offences or offence like murder, rape and dacoity, etc. should not be quashed despite victim or victim family have settled the dispute with the offender. Jurisdiction vested in High Court under Section 482 CrPC is held to be exercisable for quashing criminal proceedings in cases having overwhelming and predominately civil flavor particularly offences arising from commercial, financial, mercantile, civil partnership, or such like transactions, or even offences arising out of matrimony relating to dowry, etc., It was also held that no category or cases for this purpose could be prescribed and each case has to be dealt with on its own merit but it is also clarified that this power does not extend to crimes against society.

The Court observed that though Section 279 is not compoundable under Section 320 of CrPC, however the contentions in Gian Singh’s case where the power of the High Court under Section 482 CrPC was not inhibited by the provisions of Section 320. the Court further observed that the type of offence dealt in the instant petition was not expressly barred or prohibited by the general view for compounding hence, the petition was allowed. [Rohit v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 1333, decided on 22-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Bench of R. Narayana Pisharadi, J. quashed criminal proceedings against a person accused of cheating a bank holding that the case against him would be an abuse of process of the Court.

Petitioner herein was a customer of Bank of Baroda for many years. He introduced accused’s 1 to 3 to the said bank to enable them to open an account therein. Subsequently, the accused used credit/purchase facility given to them by the bank and obtained approximately Rs 1 crore from it. It was alleged that the accused had hatched a conspiracy to cheat the bank and cause loss to it. A case was registered against the accused and the petitioner under Section 120B, and Sections 420 and 406 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860. The instant petition was filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 requesting quashing of proceedings against petitioner.

The Court noted that the only allegation against the petitioner was that he introduced accused to the bank to enable them to open an account. He did not falsely misrepresent the bank; there was no material indicating any transaction between the petitioner and other accused. No material was produced by the prosecution to prove that the introduction of accused to the bank, by the petitioner, was part of a conspiracy to cheat the bank. Therefore, no question of dishonest misappropriation of any amount by him arose.

It was held that it is a normal banking practice that a person who wants to open an account in a bank will have to get himself introduced by another account holder in the same bank. The mere act of introducing a person to a bank to enable such person to open an account in the bank, without anything more, does not attract the offence of cheating punishable under Section 420 IPC against the person who makes the introduction, even when the person introduced by him subsequently commits an act of cheating against the bank. Reliance in this regard was placed on Manoranjan Das v. State of Jharkhand, (2004) 12 SCC 90.

In view of the above, the petition was allowed. [K.J. Hubert v. Sub Inspector of Police, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1122, Order dated 04-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. hearing an application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, quashed the cognizance taken against the petitioner holding that the subject dispute was purely a civil dispute.

Chairman of an NGO named Bharat Bharati (Educational) Service Institution, instituted a complaint case against the petitioner (Managing Director of the said NGO) alleging non-disbursal of funds received by him from the central government in lieu of certain jobs done by the NGO for the forest department of the State. Cognizance of the said case was taken under Sections 406, 420, 467 and 120(B) of the Penal Code, 1860. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner moved this Court under Section 482 of CrPC praying for quashing of the learned Magistrate’s order.

The Court observed that a purely civil dispute with regard to the distribution of money among the office bearers of the concerned NGO could not be said to be in the nature of any criminal offence as it was a pure and simple money dispute among the office bearers of the said NGO.

It was opined that where a person is aggrieved by non-payment of money, the only remedy available is under common civil law by way of filing a money suit. Reliance, in this regard, was placed on the judgment in Indian Oil Corpn. v. NEPC India Ltd, (2006) 6 SCC 736 where the practice of settling civil disputes by applying pressure through criminal prosecution was deprecated.

In view of the above, it was held that the institution of complaint case against the petitioner was the abuse of process of the court, and petitioner’s application was allowed.[Rameshwar Prasad Sinha v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 48, Order dated 15-01-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the judgment of the Delhi High Court whereby it had dismissed appellant’s writ petition seeking to quash the FIR filed against them.

The case arose out of a property matter between the appellants and the complainant. The parties had entered into an agreement for the development of appellants’ property. However, the said agreement could not be performed due to the statutory ban on new construction in the area. It was the complainant’s case that the appellant was not returning a deposit of Rs 1 crore made at the time of entering into the agreement. Therefore, an FIR under Section 406 IPC was lodged against the appellants. The appellants’ filed a writ petition before the High Court seeking to quash the said FIR; however, the petition was dismissed. Aggrieved thereby the appellants preferred the instant appeal. The complainant opposed the appeal on the ground that the chargesheet had already been filed in the case and therefore the FIR could not be quashed at this belated stage.

The Supreme Court turned down the said contention of the complainant while referring to High Court’s power under Section 482 CrPC. After referring to Joseph Salvaraj A v. State of Gujarat, (2011) 7 SCC 59, the Court observed that “there is nothing in the words of Section 482 which restricts the exercise of the Court’s power to prevent the abuse of process of court or miscarriage of justice only to the stage of the FIR. The power is undoubtedly conferred to prevent abuse of process of any court.” Furthermore, on the facts of the case, the Court held that the money deposited with the appellant could not be said to be an entrustment. In any case, if there was a misappropriation, the remedy was available in a civil court. In the opinion of the Court, the FIR filed under Section 406 IPC was not tenable and therefore it was quashed. The appeal was thus allowed and the judgment impugned was set aside. [Anand Kumar Mohatta v. State (NCT of Delhi),2018 SCC OnLine SC 2447, decided on 15-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, J., dismissed an execution first appeal filed against the order of Additional District Judge whereby appellants objection to the execution of a money decree sought by decree-holder against the judgment-debtor was dismissed.

It was contended by the appellant-objector that she was the sole owner of the two properties attached in the execution and the judgment-debtor, her son, had no right over them. The Executing Court dismissed the objections of the appellant holding that in proof of her title to the said properties, the appellant filed only a Power of Attorney of her husband in her favour which wasn’t sufficient. Counsel for the appellant submitted that there was a family settlement, however, neither was any such settlement pleaded in the objections nor any document filed in that regard.

The High Court was of the view that it appeared that the purpose was to delay the execution. The appellant and the judgment-debtors were hand-in-glove with each other and were not making a clean breast of state of affairs. In Court’s opinion, it was an attempt to fabricate the documents. Furthermore, one of the judgment-debtors had already left India. The court observed that appellant-objector could not on one hand claim arms length distance from judgment-debtors and on the other hand represent their interest. The appeal was held to be an abuse of process of Court and thus dismissed.[Charanjit Kaur Virk v. Premlata Sharma,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12020, dated 15-10-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Singapore: A Five Judge Bench comprising of Sundaresh Menon, CJ., Andrew Phan Boon Leong, Judith Prakash, Tay Yong Kwang, Steven Chong, JJ., allowed an appeal filed against the order of the High Court whereby the High Court refused to grant a stay in favour of the appellants.

The appellant had entered into four different contracts with different parties and all the contracts contained an Exclusive Jurisdiction Clause (EJC) i.e. in case if any dispute arises between the parties, the High Court of England shall have the exclusive jurisdiction to deal with such dispute. A dispute arose between the appellant and the respondent and the respondent filed a suit against the appellant in Singapore.

The main issue that arose before the Court, in this case, was whether the Assistant Registrar, as well as the High Court, was justified in refusing to grant a stay in suit proceedings in favour of the appellant.

The Court observed that the appellant had made out a good arguable case with regard to the EJC being a term in the contract and not just a part of the written agreement between the parties. EJC was incorporated by the parties’ course of dealings into the Contract. The Court then observed that the rule laid down in the case of The Jian He, [1999] 3 SLR(R) 432 was that in if the party seeking a stay does not have a good arguable or meritorious case then that would be a sufficient ground for the court to refuse a stay order. The only two grounds on the basis of which stay can be refused in cases involving an EJC clause are: abuse of process and denial of justice.

The Court held that neither of the two grounds for refusing the stay were made out and hence there was no strong cause for refusing the grant of stay. Resultantly, the appeal was allowed and a stay was granted by the court on suit proceedings pending against the appellant. [Vinmar Overseas (Singapore) Pte Ltd. v. PTT International Trading Pte Ltd., (2018) SGCA 65, order dated 22-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: A Single Judge Bench of M.K. Hanjura, J., allowed a petition under Section 561-A of CrPC, 1989 [Jammu & Kashmir], whereby petitioner sought quashing of FIR against him.

The main question that arose for consideration was whether a High Court exercising its inherent powers can quash an FIR without conducting a proper trial.

The Court observed that a High Court is entitled to quash a proceeding if it comes to the conclusion that allowing the proceeding to continue would amount to abuse of the process of the Court or that the ends of justice require that the proceeding ought to be quashed. Further, the Court referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, 1992 Supp (1) SCC 335, wherein the Supreme Court elaborately considered the scope of Section 482 Cr. P.C. In that case, the Supreme Court held that inherent powers can be used by the High Courts to prevent the abuse of process of the Court and to secure the ends of justice.

The Court held that the list of cases where a High Court can exercise inherent powers under both civil and criminal laws is not exhaustive in nature. The Courts have the inherent powers apart from express provisions of law which are necessary for proper discharge of functions and duties imposed upon them by law. The Court concluded by holding that Courts are invested with all such powers as are necessary to do right and to undo a wrong in the course of administration of justice on the principle of “Quando lex aliquid alicui concedit, conceditur et id Sine quo res ipsa esse non protest” (When the law gives the person anything, it gives him that without which it cannot exist). The petition was allowed and the impugned FIR was quashed.[Nisar Ahmad v. State of J&K,2018 SCC OnLine J&K 516, order dated 24-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Mir Alfaz Ali, J., dismissed a criminal petition filed under Section 482 CrPC wherein the petitioners sought quashing of charge-sheet and proceedings in criminal cases.

The petitioners were alleged to have trespassed into the land of Respondent 2 and caused damages to the fencing and RCC post. A criminal case was registered and charge-sheet was submitted under Sections 447, 427, 452 IPC against the petitioners.

The High  Court observed that witness statements under Section 161 CrPC clearly show that petitioners trespassed into the land of Respondent 2. A prima facie case for the said was made out. It was noted to be a trite law that for the purpose of exercising inherent power under Section 482, the Court needs to see whether allegations made in the FIR or evidence collected, on its face value, make out any offence. The Court relied on Radhey Shyam Khemka v. State of Bihar, (1993) 3 SCC 54, wherein it was held that the High Court while exercising such power cannot usurp the jurisdiction of trial court. The power has to be exercised to quash prosecution that amounts to abuse of process of court. It cannot be used to hold a parallel trial. In the instant case, having found that there was a prima facie case, the Court declined to interfere with the proceedings impugned. [Promod Adhikari v. State of Assam,2018 SCC OnLine Gau 822, dated 27-07-2018]