Madhya Pradesh High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Anand Pathak, J. allowed a petition which was preferred under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure seeking quashment of FIR registered against the petitioner and consequential  criminal proceedings for offence under Sections 376, 506 of Penal Code, 1860. 

 

An FIR was registered by respondent 2/complainant/prosecutrix on 04-12-2019 who happened to be a lady aged 41 years against the petitioner, a male aged 55 years with the allegations that her husband Mukesh died in 1999 leaving two children and the petitioner induced her to marry so that he can maintain her children born out of first wedlock of prosecutrix and with that inducement he brought her to Bajranggarh and without her consent committed rape in the month of May, 2001 with her as a result whereof she became pregnant and out of such relation, one child was born. Thereafter petitioner used to have physical relationship with her continuously and when after four years she came back to Gwalior then also petitioner used to call her for intermittent payments towards her maintenance amount and used to commit rape and threatened her with dire consequences.  

 

After investigation, charge-sheet was filed against the petitioner and trial was under consideration. Counsel for the petitioner submitted that from the very contents of FIR, improbable event has been conceptualized by prosecutrix and case suffered from vexatious litigation just to harass petitioner. He pointed out that it is highly improbable that she remained silent for such long years and after 18 years she raised her voice. He also pointed out that petitioner did not part his whole property in favour of prosecutrix, then these false allegations have been levelled. 

The Court was of the opinion that when petitioner and prosecutrix lived together as a couple for 18 long years then after such lapse of time any allegation levelled by prosecutrix pales into oblivion because they are primarily motivated to exert pressure. Not only this, perusal of application under Section 125 of Cr.P.C. filed at the instance of respondent 2 further revealed that on the one hand she levelled the allegations that they lived in live-in relationship but now she made an application that they lived as married couple. Such divergent stand can only be availed of in case of misrepresentation of facts. 

The Court after reiterating the different exigencies laid down under which interference under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. can be made in the case of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, 1992 Supp (1) SCC 335 found that no offence is made out and perusal of charge-sheet and different statements further substantiates the arguments of petitioner. Besides that, it appears to be vexatious and frivolous litigation just to exert pressure over petitioner to extract money or an attempt made by prosecutrix to convert domestic dispute into criminal allegations. It would be miscarriage of justice if such false allegations are allowed to sustain and petitioner is unnecessarily dragged into litigation to defend himself. 

The petition was allowed and the FIR was quashed.  

[Manohar Silawat v. State of Madhya Pradesh,2022 SCC OnLine MP 1288, order dated 09-06-2022] 


For Petitioner: Mr Amit Lahoti  

For Respondent: Mr Ravi Ballabh Tripathi 


*Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a dowry demand and harassment case, where a woman had lodged criminal complaint against her husband and in-laws but  no specific role was attributed to the in-laws, the bench of SA Nazeer and Krishna Murari*, JJ has held that it would be unjust if the in-laws are forced to go through the tribulations of a trial and that general and omnibus allegations cannot manifest in a situation where the relatives of the complainant’s husband are forced to undergo trial. The Court observed that a criminal trial leading to an eventual acquittal also inflicts severe scars upon the accused, and such an exercise must therefore be discouraged.

The Court also observed that while incorporation of section 498A of IPC was aimed at preventing cruelty committed upon a woman by her husband and her in-laws, by facilitating rapid state intervention, it is equally true, that in recent times, matrimonial litigation in the country has also increased significantly and there is a greater disaffection and friction surrounding the institution of marriage, now, more than ever. This has resulted in an increased tendency to employ provisions such as 498A IPC as instruments to settle personal scores against the husband and his relatives

The Court took note of several rulings wherein the Court has expressed concern over the misuse of section 498A IPC and the increased tendency of implicating relatives of the husband in matrimonial disputes, without analysing the long term ramifications of a trial on the complainant as well as the accused. The Court has observed in those judgments that false implication by way of general omnibus allegations made in the course of matrimonial dispute, if left unchecked would result in misuse of the process of law.

“Therefore, this court by way of its judgments has warned the courts from proceeding against the relatives and in-laws of the husband when no prima facie case is made out against them.”

In the case at hand, general allegations were levelled against the in-laws. The complainant alleged that ‘all accused harassed her mentally and threatened her of terminating her pregnancy’. Furthermore, no specific and distinct allegations have been made against either of the Appellants herein

The Court observed that

“This simply leads to a situation wherein one fails to ascertain the role played by each accused in furtherance of the offence. The allegations are therefore general and omnibus and can at best be said to have been made out on account of small skirmishes.”

The Court, hence, held that allowing prosecution in the absence of clear allegations against the in-laws would simply result in an abuse of the process of law.

[Kahkashan Kausar v. State of Bihar, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 162, decided on 08.02.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice Krishna Murari

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: Alarmed by the growing trend amongst seed companies of engaging in frivolous litigation with farmers, virtually defeating the purpose of speedy redressal envisaged the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the bench of MM Shantanagoudar and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ has said that the summary redressal available to the farmer under the 1986 Act may go a small but crucial way to provide instant relief in a sector which is already facing stress on several counts.

The Court was hearing a case where a Seed Company was contesting the farmers’ claims before consumer fora on the preliminary point of maintainability right up to the Supreme Court, compelling small agriculturists such as the Respondents to spend unnecessarily on litigation in order to secure relief for themselves, amounting to a sum which probably exceeds even the quantum of relief claimed. Rebuking the company, the Court said,

“This tendency to resist even the smallest of claims on any ground possible, by exploiting the relatively greater capacity of seed companies to litigate for long periods of time, amounts to little more than harassment of agriculturists.”

Discussing the serious issue of Farmer suicides, the Court observed that most Indian farmers own only small landholdings, which require expensive inputs such as irrigation, electricity, seeds, fertilizer, and pesticide, but do not generate sufficient output to cover the costs of the same. It further said that when agriculturists with such small landholdings do enter into agreements to grow crops on terms dictated by seed companies, it is in the hope of earning some profit that would offset the cost of their inputs and generate some income for the household.

“the success or failure of the crop would make or break the income of the farmer for the entire season. This can result in situations where small and medium scale farmers find themselves trapped in contracts where they buy expensive seeds which turn out to be defective, resulting in a failed season and severe financial hardship. The problem of indebtedness further worsens the plight of the farmer, and, all too often, manifests in the tragedy of suicide.”

The Court, hence, said that though the farmers faced with grievances against seed companies, may, in suitable cases, opt for other remedies such as a civil suit, relief under the Seeds Act, 1966, but excluding such farmers from the purview of the 1986 Act would be a complete mockery of the object and purpose of the statute. The Court, hence, held that the respondent Farmer in the case at hand was a “consumer” under the 1986 Act.

[Nandan Biomatrix Ltd. S. Ambika Devi, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 309, decided on 06.03.2020]