Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of MM Shantanagoudar* and Vineet Saran, JJ has held that Section 195(1)(b)(i) CrPC will not bar prosecution by the investigating agency for offence punishable under Section 193 IPC, which is committed during the stage of investigation. This is provided that the investigating agency has lodged complaint or registered the case under Section 193, IPC prior to commencement of proceedings and production of such evidence before the trial court. In such circumstance, the same would not be considered an offence committed in, or in relation to, any proceeding in any Court for the purpose of Section 195(1)(b)(i) CrPC.

Background and issues raised

A case was registered against the Appellant/Accused No. 1, who was working as Regional Manager (South) at Chennai with the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd, under Section 120B read with Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 IPC; and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act).

In the present case, the Accused Nos. 2 and 3 had colluded with Appellant/Accused No. 1 to create a false sale deed, and gave false explanation of escrow arrangement amongst the three parties, to justify how the seized currency came to be in the Appellant’s possession. This was done to exonerate the Appellant/Accused No. 1 and recover the seized currency at the stage of investigation itself.

This gave rise to the question before the Court as to

  1. Whether Section 195(1)(b)(i), CrPC bars lodging of case by the investigating agency under Section 193, IPC, in respect of offence of giving false evidence which is committed at the stage of investigation, prior to production of such evidence before the Trial Court?
  2. Whether an offence under Section 193, IPC committed at the stage of investigation, prior to production of the false evidence before the Trial Court by a person who is not yet party to proceedings before the Trial Court, is an offence “in relation to” a proceeding in any court under Section 195(1)(b)(i), CrPC?
  3. Whether the words “stage of a judicial proceeding” under Explanation 2 to Section 193, IPC can be equated with “proceeding in any court” under Section 195(1)(b)(i), CrPC?

Analysis by the Court

Import of the Words “in relation to” in Section 195(1)(b) (i) CrPC

The construction of the words “in relation to” must be controlled by the overarching principle   applicable to Section 195(1)(b), CrPC i.e., even if the offence is committed prior to giving of the fabricated evidence in court, it must have a direct or reasonably close nexus with the court proceedings.

Section 195(1)(b)(i), CrPC may be attracted to the offence of fabricating false evidence prior to its production before the Court, provided that such evidence is led by a person who is party to the court proceedings, for the purpose of leading the Court to form a certain opinion based on such evidence. The bar against taking of cognizance under Section 195(1)(b)(i) may also apply where a person who is initially not a party to the court proceedings fabricates certain evidence, and

1) subsequently becomes a party and produces it before the Court; or;

2) falsely deposes as a witness before the Court on the strength of such evidence,

for the purpose of causing the Court to form an erroneous opinion on a point material to the result of the proceedings.

However, where a person fabricates false evidence for the purpose of misleading the investigating officer, this may not have any direct nexus with the subsequent court proceedings.

“There is an indirect nexus inasmuch as if the investigating agency does not suspect any wrongdoing, and the Court commits the case for trial, the evidence will be produced for the Court’s perusal and impact the judicial decision-making process. However, it may be equally possible that even if the fabricated evidence appears sufficiently convincing, the investigating agency may drop proceedings against the accused and divert its time and resources elsewhere. Therefore, the offence may never reach the stage of court proceedings. Further, if it subsequently comes to light that the evidence was falsely adduced, it will be the investigating agency which will suffer loss of face and be forced to conduct a fresh investigation.”

Hence, though the offence is one which affects the administration of justice, it is the investigating agency, and not the Court, which is the aggrieved party in such circumstance.

“Just like a private party who has been a victim of forgery committed outside the precincts of the Court, the investigative agency should not be left remediless against persons producing false evidence for the purpose of interfering with the investigation process. Moreover, the present case concerns offences alleged to have been committed under the PC Act. Public interest and the reputation of the State will suffer significant harm if corrupt public servants are facilitated by third parties in hiding their assets from scrutiny. Hence any interpretation which negates against the speedy and effective trial of such persons must be avoided.”

Whether “stage of a judicial proceeding” under Explanation 2 to Section 193 IPC is synonymous   with “ proceeding in any court” under Section 195(1)(b)(i) CrPC?

Section 195(1)(b) is meant to restrict the right to make complaint in respect of certain offences to public servants, or to the relevant Court, as they are considered to be the only party who is directly aggrieved or impacted by those offences. Furthermore, for the purpose of Section 195(1)(b)(i), CrPC, there must be an intention on part of the alleged offender to directly mislead the Court into forming a certain opinion by commission of offence under Section 193 IPC.

“Though a criminal investigation is certainly a stage of a judicial proceeding insofar as it may culminate in issue of process and trial against the accused, it would not be a proceeding in relation to a certain Court under Section 195(1)(b) (i), CrPC before the Court has even taken judicial notice of such investigation.”

Section 2(i) CrPC defines “judicial proceeding” as including any proceeding in the course of which evidence is or may be legally taken by oath. The investigation under the PC Act was admittedly a stage of a judicial proceeding by virtue of Explanation 2 to Section 193 IPC. However, neither was the fabricated evidence in the present case given on oath before the investigating officer, nor is the investigating authority under the PC Act deemed to be a “court” for the purpose of Section 195(1) (b), CrPC.

In the present case, it is not the Trial Court but the Investigating authority/agency which has been directly impacted due to fabrication of evidence by the Appellants/accused.

“The Appellants’ intention was not to mislead the Trial Court, at least not at the first instance. Rather, their goal was to ensure that the Appellant/Accused No. 1 was cleared of wrongdoing at the stage of investigation itself. It was after being charged under Section 193 IPC, that the Appellants/accused reiterated the fictitious escrow arrangement story before the Trial Court so as to prove their innocence. Hence it cannot be said that the offence under Sections 120B read with 193 IPC was committed by the Appellants “in relation to” a proceeding in a court under Section 195(1)(b)(i), CrPC.”

Thus, the investigation conducted by the agency under the PC Act cannot be equated with a proceeding in a court of law under Section 195(1) (b)(i) CrPC, though it is deemed to be a stage of a judicial proceeding under Section 193, IPC.

“Had this been a case wherein the Investigating agency had not developed any suspicion against Accused Nos. 2 and 3, and the Trial Court had subsequently discovered the subterfuge caused by them, we may have taken a different view.”

[Bhima Razu Prasad v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 210, decided on 12.03.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice MM Shantanagoudar

Appearance before the Court by:

For Appellants: Senior counsel Basava Prabhu Patil, and counsels Amit Anand Tiwari and B. Karunakaran

For State: Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: Sanjay Dhar J., while allowing the present bail application, observed that given to the relationship shared between the prosecutrix and the petitioner, it cannot be determined at once whether physical relationship built therein was forced or consensual.

Through the present application, petitioner-accused has sought bail in the case arising out of an offence under Section 376 Penal Code, 1860 registered with Police Station, Katra. It is the case of prosecutrix that the petitioner cohabited and thereby developed physical relation with her on a false pretext of marriage. Upon coming to know that the petitioner is to enter into a wedlock with some other woman, the prosecutrix narrated the entire incident to her mother upon which a complaint under Section 376 IPC was registered against the petitioner. According to the petitioner, the allegations made in the FIR are vexatious and baseless and that no offence under Section 376 IPC is made out against him as even if it is assumed that there was any physical relationship between the petitioner and the prosecutrix, the same was consensual. Further, the petitioner has denied having made any false promise of marriage to the prosecutrix.

Court summarized the principles governing the grant or refusal of bail in the following points;

  1. The gravity of the offence and the nature of the accusation including severity of punishment in the case of conviction.
  2. The position and status of the accused vis-à-vis the victims or witnesses.
  3. The likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice.
  4. The possibility of the accused tampering with the evidence and/or witnesses and obstructing the course of justice.
  5. The possibility of repetition of the offence.
  6. The prima facie satisfaction of the Court in support of the charge including frivolity of the charge.
  7. Stage of the investigation.
  8. Larger interest of the public or the State.

Further, the Court placed reliance on the case of, Mahipal v. Rajesh Kumar and another, (2020) 2 SCC 118, wherein it was said, “…No straight jacket formula exists for courts to assess an application for the grant or rejection of bail. At the stage of assessing whether a case is fit for the grant of bail, the court is not required to enter into a detailed analysis of the evidence on record to establish beyond reasonable doubt the commission of the crime by the accused. That is a matter for trial. However, the Court is required to examine whether there is a prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence and on a balance of the considerations involved, the continued custody of the accused sub-serves the purpose of the criminal justice system.”

 Another case bearing similar facts was cited by the Court, Uday v. State of Karnataka, (2003) 4 SCC 46, wherein the Supreme Court observed,

It usually happens in such cases, when two young persons are madly in love, that they promise to each other several times that come what may, they will get married. As stated by the prosecutrix the appellant also made such a promise on more than one occasion. In such circumstances, the promise loses all significance, particularly when they are over come with emotions and passion and find themselves in situations and circumstances where they, in a weak moment, succumb to the temptation of having sexual relationship. This is what appears to have happened in this case as well, and the prosecutrix willingly consented to having sexual intercourse with the appellant with whom she was deeply in love, not because he promised to marry her, but because she also desired it. In these circumstances, it would be very difficult to impute to the appellant knowledge that the prosecutrix had consented in consequence of a misconception of fact arising from his promise. In any event, it was not possible for the appellant to know what was in the mind of the prosecutrix when she consented, because there were more reasons than one for her to consent

It was conclusively observed by the Court,

“The mystery that has to be unravelled by the investigating agency in such circumstances would be whether the consent of the prosecutrix to have sexual intercourse with petitioner was a consensual and deliberate choice on her part or it was obtained on account of misconception of fact on the basis of a false promise of marriage. This Court would not like to comment on this aspect of the matter at this stage, but then the material on record does suggest that there was deep-seated love between the petitioner and the prosecutrix.”

While allowing the present bail application Court said,

“Having regard to the long standing love affair between the prosecutrix and the petitioner coupled with the manner in which they have lived with each other for months together, a prima facie case for grant of bail is made out.”  [Rahul Raina v. Union Territory J&K, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 13, decided on 27-01-2021]


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: John Michael Cunha J., while rejecting the present petition, recorded no error or infirmity in the challenged order warranting interference under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India.

 Brief Facts

The Petitioner in the present case has filed this writ petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India, seeking to quash proceedings registered for the offences punishable under Section 120B read with Sections 409 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(c) and (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It is pleaded by the petitioner that, he is sought to be prosecuted for the alleged offences in his individual capacity whereas the material produced by the Investigating Agency on the face of it reveals that the entire transaction was entered into by the firm of which the petitioner was a nominal partner.  

Issue

Whether the charges framed against the petitioner are valid and sustainable in the eyes of law?

Observation

The Court, pursuant to its decision, cited relevant cases and made the following observations;

Sham Sunder v. State of Haryana, (1989) 4 SCC 630, “(…)The essential characteristic of a firm is that each partner is a representative of other partners. Each of the partners is an agent as well as a principal.  He is  an agent insofar as he can bind the other partners by his acts within the scope of the partnership agreement. He is a principal to the extent that he  is bound by acts of other partners. In fact, every partner is liable for an act of the firm. Section 2(a) of the Partnership Act defines as “act of a firm” to mean any act or omission by all the partners, or by any partner or agent of the firm which gives rise to a right enforceable by or against the firm.”

Standard Chartered Bank v. Directorate of Enforcement, (2005) 4 SCC 530, “(…) The corporate bodies, such as a firm or company undertake a series of activities that affect the life, liberty and property of the citizens. Large-scale financial irregularities are done by various corporations. The corporate vehicle now occupies such a large portion of the industrial, commercial and sociological sectors that amenability of the corporation to a criminal law is essential to have a peaceful society with stable economy.”

Sunil Bharti Mittal v. CBI, (2015) 4 SCC 609,

“The Penal Code, 1860 save and except in some matters does not contemplate any vicarious liability on the part of a person. Commission of an offence by raising a legal fiction or by creating a vicarious liability in terms of the provisions of a statute must be expressly stated. The Managing Director or the Directors of the Company, thus, cannot be said to have committed an offence only because they are holders of offices. The learned Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, therefore, in our opinion, was not correct in issuing summons without taking into consideration this aspect of the matter. The Managing Director and the Directors of the Company should not have been summoned only because some allegations were made against the Company.”

The Court further observed that, “The argument of learned counsel for petitioner that the contract entered into between Sri Lakshmi Venkateshwara Minerals (accused 2), of which petitioner is one of the partners, and Shree Mallikarjuna Shipping Pvt. Ltd., (accused 4) (Annexure- ‘H’) was concluded much before the seizure of the property is totally misplaced”

Decision

While dismissing the present petition, the Court said, the allegations made in the charge sheet clearly go to show that in addition to the Firm, petitioner 1 is implicated in the alleged offences in his individual capacity as is evident from the allegations found in the charge sheet.” [K. Mahesh Kumar v. State of Karnataka,  2020 SCC OnLine Kar 1637, decided on 16-10-2020]


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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Manoj Misra and Virendra Kumar Srivastava, JJ. clarified that no protection shall be given and the investigating agency shall be free to take all steps to bring the investigation to its logical conclusion if the victim is not produced by the date fixed.

This instant petition was sought for the quashing of the FIR registered under Sections 363, 366, 506 IPC. The allegation entailed in the FIR is that the victim (Petitioner 5), a sixteen-year-old girl was enticed away by the accused person.

Counsel for the Petitioner, Ram Sajivan submitted that the girl is an adult and that she had voluntarily married Kishan Kumar (Petitioner 1). Reliance was placed on the Aadhaar Card of petitioner 5 to prove the age. The date of birth as per Aadhaar is 01.01.2000.

Government Advocate for the Respondent submitted that the date of birth as per Aadhar Card has not been conferred any conclusive status by law and, therefore, it would be appropriate that this petition be disposed of by requiring the investigating agency to determine the age of the Petitioner 5 and record her statement and, thereafter, take appropriate action as per law.

After analyzing the submissions of the parties, the Court observed that there is no satisfactory documentary evidence to hold the victim to be an adult. The Court also provided certain directions to petitioner 1, that he shall produce petitioner 5 before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Farrukhabad to ascertain whether any force has been used on her or she has been voluntarily in the company of the petitioner 1. In case the victim deposes before the Chief Judicial Magistrate that force has been used on her, the Chief Judicial Magistrate shall proceed to pass appropriate orders immediately in respect of the custody/protection of the victim. However, in case the victim deposes that she has been voluntarily in the company of the petitioner 1 or any other person and that no force has been used on her, CJM shall call upon the Investigating Officer of the case and fix a date for appearance of the informant or the parents or natural guardian of the victim for the purpose of determining the age of the victim. Though in the event the victim is found to be a minor, the police would be free to take the investigation to its logical conclusion and may affect the arrest of the accused. [Kishan Kumar v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 4337, decided on 22-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: The Bench of Vipul M. Pancholi, J. allowed a petition seeking anticipatory bail subject to certain restrictions.

In the pertinent case, the allegations against the accused were of producing forged documents and of abetment. The counsel for the applicant stated that he is ready and willing to abide by all the conditions including the imposition of conditions with regard to powers of Investigating Agency. And considering the nature of the alleged offences, custodial interrogation was not needed at this stage.

The Court considered that the allegation against the applicant is that at the most he has abetted the main accused and there was an undue delay of 5 years in lodging the FIR. And since he is cooperating with the investigation agency, his custodial interrogation is not required. The Court relied on the law laid down by Shri Gurbaksh Singh Sibbia v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 565 and thus, allowed the petition directing the release of the applicant on bail.[Gupta Anandkumar Satyanarayan v. State of Gujarat, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 285, Order dated 21-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Mukta Gupta, J. allowed a bail application holding that the petitioner was entitled to default bail as the investigating agency failed to file chargesheet within 60 days.

The petitioner was alleged to be driving a white colour car at high speed without a license in an intoxicated state. On the fateful night, he lost control and rammed his car over the footpath. The car hit a tree and turned upside down. Four people, including the complainant and three other sleeping on the footpath, were injured. They were taken to hospital where two them were declared brought dead. The petitioner was arrested on 9-9-2018 and has been in custody since then. He filed an application seeking bail before the trial court. Besides the merits, he urged additional ground that he was entitled to default bail as chargesheet was not filed in the case. However, the trial court dismissed the application on the ground that it could not at that stage from an opinion whether the offence committed was under Section 304-I or 304-II IPC. Offence under Section 304-II IPC being punishable upto life imprisonment and 90 days from the date of arrest having not elapsed, the petitioner was not entitled to default bail. Aggrieved thereby, he filed the present petition.

The petitioner who was represented by R.K. Wadhwa, Vishesh Wadhwa and Meena Duggal, Advocates submitted that on the face of allegations, it could not be held that he committed the offence with any intention and at best knowledge could be attributed to him.

The High Court perused the record and observed that the facts of the case spoke for themselves that at best what was attributable to petitioner was the knowledge that his act was likely to cause the death of people sleeping on the footpath, in which case the offence was under Section 304-II. Such offence is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to 10 years. After referring to Rakesh Kumar Paul v. State of Assam, (2017) 15 SCC 67, the Court held that since a period of 60 days has elapsed from the date of arrest of the petitioner and no chargesheet was filed by the investigating agency, he was entitled to default bail. Consequently, the petitioner was granted bail subject to the conditions imposed. [Devesh Kumar v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 13073, dated 21-12-2018]