Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delay in lodging a complaint cannot be used as a ritualistic formula for doubting prosecution case

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., addressed an appeal impugning an order and judgment of acquittal of the accused of offences punishable under Section 498-A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), Section 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation), 494 (Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife) read with Section 109 (Punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of Penal Code, 1860.

The complainant- PW-1 got married to accused 1. It has been stated that at the time of complainant’s father’s retirement he received a cheque of retirement benefits that the accused 1 got to know about and demanded PW-1 to get Rs 1 lakh from her father. It has been added that accused 1 also suspected PW-1 of immortality.

Accused 1 got married to accused 5 while he was still married to PW-1. Thus PW-1 lodged a complaint.

In the Supreme Court’s decision of Murlidhar v. State of Karnataka, (2014) 5 SCC 730, it was held that,

Unless the conclusions reached by the trial court are found to be palpably wrong or based on erroneous view of the law or if such conclusions are allowed to stand, they are likely to result in grave injustice, Appellate Court should not interfere with conclusions of the trial court.

High Court while deciding the matter, noted that there is a presumption of innocence in favour of respondent and such presumption is strengthened by the order of acquittal passed in favour of the trial court.

Further, the bench stated that, according to PW-1, accused 1 demanded Rs 1 lakh when he saw the retirement benefits cheque in the hand of her father and her father got retired on 28-02-2001. PW-1/Complainant lodged the complaint on 04-01-2002, but the delay for the same was not explained. PW-1 left her children behind when she left the accused 1’s house but she never filed for divorce, custody petition. But filed for maintenance petition on 10-03-2003 for which the delay was not explained again.

Delay in lodging the complaint cannot be used a ritualistic formula for doubting the presecution case and discarding the same solely on the ground of delay in lodging the complaint.

Delay has the effect of putting the Court in its guard to search if any explanation has been offered for the delay, and if offered, whether it is satisfactory.

Hence, the Court stated that in the present case there was not even an attempt by the prosecution to explain the delay. Court noted that, PW-1 had no problems living alone with her parents but when PW-1 heard from her father that accused 1 had married accused 5, PW-1 decided to teach accused 1 a lesson.

In view of the above, Court held that,

It is unfortunate that in a matter like this even the family members get dragged. Prosecution should refrain from dragging all family members unless there is enough specific evidence against the family members otherwise provisions of Section 498-A will, unfortunately, be misused as a weapon.

Therefore, the allegation of offence under Section 494 of IPC had not been proved and the decision of the trial court of acquittal of all the accused persons was rightly taken. [State of Maharashtra v. Ashok, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 331, decided on 26-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: The Bench of Michael Zothankhuma, J. dismissed a civil writ petition filed by a retired government employee seeking full pension, gratuity and other retirement benefits.

Petitioner, an Assistant Manager in the respondent corporation was arrested for offence under Sections 406, 408, 409, 470, 120-B, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. He was suspended from his post from the date of his arrest but reinstated later. No departmental proceeding was initiated against him. A charge sheet was filed against him and pending disposal of the criminal case, he retired. The said criminal proceedings were stayed by the trial court pursuant to a co-accused’s challenge to filing of charge sheet.

The petitioner submitted that as he had retired, he was entitled to full pension, gratuity and other retirement benefits since no departmental proceeding was initiated against him and even the criminal proceedings had been stayed by the High Court.

Respondent argued that Rule 69 of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972 clearly stipulates that a retired government servant is not entitled to any gratuity and would be entitled to provisional pension only, during the pendency of judicial proceedings. He also submitted that all other retirement benefits had already been paid to the petitioner.

The Court noted that petitioner had been receiving a provisional pension; and held that in view of Rule 69 of the CCS (Pension) Rules, respondents were not obligated to pay full pension and gratuity. In view thereof, the petition was dismissed.[Birendra Kumar Das v. Assam Power Generation Corpn. Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 22, Order dated 21-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: In the matter where 71 petitioners had filed a writ application challenging the fixation of the cut-off date of the Contributory Provident Fund Scheme on publication of the West Bengal Comprehensive Area Development Corporation Employee’s [Death cum Retirement] Benefit Regulations 2008, I.P. Mukerji, J struck down the part of regulations fixing a cut-off date and held that the petitioners will be entitled to the benefits of the impugned Regulations. However, they will have to return the entire amount of the employer’s share towards Contributory Provident Fund with interest

The Regulation which was merely an Administrative Instruction, was published on 10th December, 2008 and was made applicable with retrospective effect from 1st April, 2008 and and the benefit was extended to all whole time employees, permanent and temporary who were in the service of the Corporation on 1st April, 2008 and also to those who were appointed on and after that date. The employees, by these Regulations became entitled to pension after ten years of qualifying service.

The court observed that, “After termination of their service, the retired employees cannot sit as watchdogs on the periphery of the organization and expect that this benefit will also be extended to them in full measure”. However, the Court took note of the ratio of D.S. Nakara v. Union of India, (1983) 1 SCC 305 where it was observed that the court is entitled to read down an offending piece of legislation to make it compatible with the Constitution. Applying the above-mentioned ratio to the case at hand, the Court said that the impugned regulations treat the members of the same class differently as they make a discrimination between members of the same class i.e. retired employees. It confers benefits on those who retired between 1st April, 2008 and 10th December 2008 and leave out the rest. Hence, reading down the Regulations, the Court held that the benefits of these regulations have to be extended to the remaining petitioning retired employees also. [Rabindra Nath Munsi v. State of West Bengal, 2016 SCC OnLine Cal 2302 decided on 15.06.2016]