Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: While answering important questions related to freedom of press; meaning of criminal defamation against the State and requisites of Section 199(2) of Criminal Procedure Code, the Single Judge Bench of Abdul Quddhose, J., observed that, application of mind by the State to the materials placed on record before granting sanction to the public prosecutor for launching prosecution under Section 199(4) CrPC is a necessary and that the State cannot act on an impulse or a whim. Moreover public prosecutor must independently assess the materials available on record and must independently take a view as to the availability of sufficient materials to launch prosecution on behalf of the State under Section 199 (2) CrPC.

As per the facts of the case, writ petitions were filed by several reputed editors challenging the Order launching the prosecution for criminal defamation against them by the State Government under Section 499 of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 199(2) of CrPC. The State Government of Tamil Nadu initiated the proceedings after the newspapers published articles against the then Chief Minister, J. Jayalalitha, which were considered defamatory in nature.

The counsel for the petitioners P.S. Raman and M.S. Murali, contended that freedom of press is considered a foundation for proper functioning of democracy and criticism should not be viewed as defamation, because in a free democratic society, those who are responsible for public administration should be open to criticism and citizens have a legitimate right to know the conduct of public officials as they have an influential role in society. It was further contended that the articles in question, did not pertain to the conduct of the public functionary in the discharge of his/her public functions; the sanction for prosecution was given in total disregard of Section 199(2); and the impugned sanction had been accorded by total non-application of mind. The State Government represented by S.R. Rajagopalan, A.A.G, denied the petitioner’s argument of non- application of mind while according the sanction to prosecute the editors and the newspapers.

Perusing the arguments, the Court at length discussed various aspects of criminal defamation enumerated under Chapter XXI, Sections 499-502 of IPC and various Supreme Court decisions on the point. The Court observed that as per IPC, “the person charged for defamation must have the intention to harm the reputation of the person against whom words have been spoken or any article has been published by him.” The Court further noted that criminal defamation is a non-cognizable offence under the Criminal Procedure Code; and the only non-cognizable offence in the Indian Penal Code having a large number of exceptions to any offence which indicates the legislative intent to restrict the usage of the criminal defamation law. The Court went on to say that “State should not be impulsive like an ordinary citizen in defamation matters and invoke Section 199(2) CrPC to throttle democracy”. However, the Court also pointed out that media houses too have a responsibility to remove the decay that is slowly creeping into the way news is being reported or published. The Court finally concluded the judgment by allowing the writ petitions as none of the prosecutions fell under the category of Section 199(2) CrPC. [N. Ram v. Union of India, WP No. 5129 of 2012, decided on 21-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: P.G.M. Patil, J. issued guidelines to be followed by Judicial Magistrates, for the passing of orders when the requisition is submitted by the SHO of police station seeking permission to investigate, non-cognizable offence.

In this case the H.N. Shirahatti, PSI Kagwad Police station received information that within the limits of Mole Village some people were playing gambling for there personal benefit which is contrary to law and illegal. He filed a complaint and therefore proceeded to the spot after informing the Dy. SP and CPI, under there instruction and guidance. On reaching the spot he found that certain person were saying Yakka means Rs 100. and they conducted a raid and caught hold 13 persons and recovered cash of Rs 10,250 On the basis of the complaint, the SHO registered a crime for offence under Section 87 of Karnataka Police Act Act. Subsequently, after investigation, a charge sheet was filed against the petitioner and other accused of the offence punishable under Section 87 of the Act. 

The petitioner’s counsel submitted that the complaint is misconceived, and the alleged offence is non-cognizable as per the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). Therefore, the police have no authority to investigate the crime. It was further submitted that the police have not complied with the mandatory requirement of Sections 155(1) and 155(2) of CrPC. On the contrary, the respondent’s (Government) counsel said that the jurisdictional Magistrate has permitted the concerned police to take up the investigation and therefore, there is compliance of Section 155(2) of CrPC.

It was opined by the Court that the police officer has no authority of law unless the jurisdictional magistrate permits the police officer for investigation of the non-cognizable offence. The Court relied upon Mukkatira Anitha Machaiah v. State of Karnataka, 2013 SCC OnLine Kar 6703 where it was held that under Section 155 of CrPC when the officer in charge gets the information for the commission of non-cognizable offence then he shall enter or cause to enter the information in prescribed book and refer the informant to magistrate; and under Section 155(2) no police officer shall investigate a non-cognizable case without an order of a Magistrate having the power to try such case or commit the case for trial.

The Court thus issued guidelines to be followed by Judicial Magistrates, as to how they have to approach and pass orders when requisition is submitted by the SHO of police station seeking permission to investigate, non-cognizable offence. Some of them were that the word ‘permitted’ is not an order in the eyes of law and when the requisition is submitted by the informant to the Jurisdictional Magistrate, he should make an endorsement on it as to how it was received, either by post or by Muddam. When the Magistrate passes the orders permitting the investigation, he/she shall specify the rank and designation of the Police Officer who has to investigate the case.[Vaggeppa Gurulinga Jangaligi v. State of Karnataka, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 2708, decided on 10-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Chander Bhusan Barowalia, J., addressed a bail application for release of the petitioner arrested under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the penal Code, 1860.

The present application for bail states that the petitioner is innocent and has been falsely implicated. It has also been stated that he is neither in a position to tamper with the evidence nor in a position to flee from justice.

According to the police report, prosecution story which had led to the filing of FIR under the above-mentioned Sections was that,

“Promila Devi, Pradhan, Gram Panchayat Bhadarnu/complainant, got registered a complaint against the petitioner, alleging therein that the Department of NSFDC had imparted training for fruit processing to the women belonging to the Scheduled Caste. As per the said training programme, a sum of Rs. 5,000 towards Kaushal Vikaas Bhatta, per women, was to be paid to them; however, only Rs. 2,000 per women by way of Cheque was paid to them. As per the allegations,  Him. Con. Ltd. was found to have shown another training programme having been organized at Karsog, however, which as a matter of fact, was not at all organized. Consequently, FIR under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B IPC came to be registered against the petitioner.”

Additional Advocate Generals, Shiv Pal Manhans and P.K. Bhatti, contended that the petitioner was found involved in non-cognizable offences and in the case at this stage he is enlarged on bail, he may tamper with the prosecution evidence and may also flee from justice.

High Court on noting the facts and circumstances of the case stated that, petitioner being the resident of the place and joining the investigation is neither in a position to tamper with the prosecution nor to flee from justice.

Thus, the Court held that the present is a fit case where the judicial discretion to admit the petitioner on bail, in the event of arrest, is required to be exercised in his favour. Bail granted subject to conditions. [Bhumi Nand v. State of H.P., 2019 SCC OnLine HP 2167, decided on 16-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Birendra Kumar, J. dismissed a criminal miscellaneous application filed by the petitioner challenging the order of cognizance passed against him under various Sections of IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. 

In the instant petition the accused in connection with Vigilance P.S. Case of 2013 registered under Sections  409, 420, 467, 468, 471, 477A and 120B of the Penal Code as well as under Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The petitioner, when worked as an Executive Engineer, was alleged to pass false measurement report of Government schemes and uncompleted worked which was marked as completed in the aforementioned reports. It was further alleged that the reports were submitted in collusion with the Assistant Engineer. 

It was averred by the petitioner that allegation made in the FIR on their face value did not disclose a cognizable offence made out against the petitioner and even if any non-cognizable offence is made out, investigation of the same was not permissible, except under order of the Magistrate.

The Court observed that no cognizable offence was disclosed in the FIR against the petitioner though the apparent allegation of embezzlement of public money was there. It was stated that, petitioner was a Government servant having a specific allegation of submission of measurement report which showed completion of the work whereas the work was not completed at all in respect of Government schemes. Hence, prima facie material was there against the petitioner for proceeding with the trial. [Md. Zahoorul Haque v. State Of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1017, decided on 25-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: While deciding a criminal petition filed under Section 482 of CrPC, a Single Judge Bench of Aravind Kumar, J. held that Section 155(2) CrPC clearly discloses that a Police Officer is not entitled to investigate a non-cognizable offence without the order of a Magistrate having power to try such an offence.

Petitioners were arrayed as accused in a criminal case for offences punishable under various sections of the Karnataka Police Act, 1963. The petitioners were seeking to quash the said proceedings against them contending, inter alia, that the same was in violation of Section 155(1) and (2)  CrPC.

Learned counsel for the petitioners contended that if the information relates to a non-cognizable offence than the Investigating Officer has to take permission of the jurisdictional Magistrate before proceeding to investigate the matter; and on account of such defect being large in the instant case, the prosecution launched against the petitioners was liable to be quashed.

The Court perused Section 155 CrPC and held that Section 155(2) CrPC clearly discloses that a Police Officer is not entitled to investigate a non-cognizable offence without the order of a Magistrate having power to try such an offence. However, the Court perused the approval granted by the jurisdictional Magistrate which disclosed that an application under Section 155(2) CrPC was made by the IO concerned seeking permission into the offence alleged against the petitioners. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed holding it to be sans merit. [Syed Shabeer v. State of Karnataka, Criminal Petition No. 2630 of 2017, decided on September 8, 2017]