Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising of Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah*, JJ., recently held in an interesting case that evaluation of evidence on merits is not permissible at the stage of considering the application for discharge and the same is beyond the scope of revisional jurisdiction of the High Courts. The Bench explained,

“At the stage of framing of the charge and/or considering the discharge application, the mini trial is not permissible.”

The High Court of Rajsthan, in exercise of its revisional jurisdiction had quashed the order passed by the Special Judge, Prevention of Corruption Act. The High Court had set aside the charges framed by the Special Judge against the respondent-accused for the offence under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act  and consequently had discharged the accused of the alleged offence.

Factual Matrix of the Case

The respondent-accused was serving as a Patwari, when it was alleged by the complainant that  that for the purpose of issuing Domicile Certificate and OBC Certificate of his son, but the Patwari in lieu of endorsing his report demanded a bribe of Rs.2,800. Prsuant to the said complaint an investigation was conducted and the accused was chargesheeted on reaching to the findings that there was a prima facie case made out under Section 7 of the PC Act.

Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied the accused preferred revision application before the High Court whereby the High Court had discharged the accused.

It was submitted by the state that the High Court had committed a grave error in evaluating the transcript/evidence on merits which at the stage of considering the application for discharge is not permissible and is beyond the scope of the exercise of the revisional jurisdiction. It was further submitted that the accused had been charged for the offence under Section 7 of the PC Act and even an attempt is sufficient to attract the offence under Section 7 of the PC Act.

Stand taken by the Respondent

The defense raised by the respondent-accused was that, he had refused to issue residence certificate for Rajsthan and caste certificate in favor of complainant having come to know about the complaint being the permanent resident of Agra and that the complainant wanted a false residence certificate and caste certificate illegally. It was submitted that in fact the respondent-accused gave a report rejecting the request of the complainant and there was nothing pending before the accused and the decision regarding his application was already taken.

The respondent submitted that at the time of conversation two persons were present, (1) the complainant – Jai Kishore; and (2) Devi Singh. And the so far as the complainant was concerned, the accused categorically refused to accept any bribe. However, it was alleged that  the appellant had tried to confuse and mislead the Court by mixing the conversation of Devi Singh regarding his dues of Rs.4,850-/ to the bank against which he had paid Rs.2,000/- and the remaining amount of Rs.2,850/- was due to the bank. Thus, neither there was any acceptance nor there was any demand of bribe and the High Court has rightly discharged the accused. The reliance was placed on Dilawar Balu Kurane v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 2 SCC 135, it had been held that, by and large if two views are equally possible and the Judge is satisfied that the evidence produced before him will give rise to some suspicion but not grave suspicion against the accused, he will be fully justified to discharge the accused.

Findings of the Court

At the stage of Section 227, the Judge has merely to sift the evidence in order to find out whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused. The Bench opined that the High Court had exceeded in its jurisdiction and had acted beyond the scope of Section 227/239 Cr.P.C. While discharging the accused, the High Court had gone into the merits of the case and had considered whether on the basis of the material on record, the accused was likely to be convicted or not. For the aforesaid,

“The High Court has considered in detail the transcript of the conversation between the complainant and the accused which exercise at this stage to consider the discharge application and/or framing of the charge is not permissible at all.”

At the stage of framing of the charge and/or considering the discharge application, the mini trial is not permissible. At this stage, it is to be noted that even as per Section 7 of the PC Act, even an attempt constitutes an offence. Therefore, the High Court has erred and/or exceeded in virtually holding a mini trial at the stage of discharge application.

Lastly, the Bench stated, defence on merits is not to be considered at the stage of framing of the charge and/or at the stage of discharge application. In view of the above, the impugned judgment and order was held unsustainable in law and the same was quashed and set aside. The order passed by the Special Judge of framing charge against the accused under Section 7 of the PC Act was restored.

[State of Rajsthan v. Ashok Kumar Kashyap, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 314, decided on 13-04-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

*Judgment by: Justice M. R. Shah

Appearance before the Court by:

For the State: Adv. Vishal Meghwal

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Deepak Roshan, J., modified the sentence of the trial court to the extent in lieu of compensation which should be paid to the victim-wife.

In the pertinent case, the petitioner moved to this Court against the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge-I, whereby the appeal preferred by the petitioners was dismissed and the judgment of conviction and order of sentence whereby the petitioners were found guilty for offence punishable under Section 498-A of Penal Code, 1860 and they were convicted and sentenced to undergo RI for 18 months and fine of Rs 1000 each has been affirmed.

The counsel for the petitioners, J.P. Pandey, submitted that there are contradictions in prosecution witnesses and the allegations made in the FIR does not corroborate with the evidence of the informant hence, the petitioners deserve to be acquitted. Further, the petitioners have remained in custody for about one month as such some leniency may be granted by this Court.

The Court held that it cannot interfere with the findings of the courts below due to the limited scope of the revisional jurisdiction, therefore, the conviction against the petitioners are confirmed. With respect to the sentence, the Court observed that the incident is of the year 2004 and 15 years have elapsed and the petitioners have suffered the rigors of litigation for the last 15 years and also remained in custody for 36 days. The court was of the view that it may not be proper for this Court to send the accused persons back to prison and found that it is expedient in the interest of justice that the sentence should be modified in lieu of compensation which should be paid to the victim-wife. Hence, the Court modified the impugned order to the extent that the petitioners are sentenced to undergo for the period already undergone subject to the payment of fine of Rs 5000 each failing which they shall serve the rest of the sentence as directed by the trial court. [Santosh Mandal v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1453, decided on 18-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: The Bench of Deepak Roshan, J. dismissed a revision application seeking to set aside the lower courts’ order acquitting the respondents in a case filed under Sections 448, 323, 427, 506 of Penal Code, 1860.

A complaint was filed by the applicant herein, against the respondents alleging that the latter had assaulted and abused her and her husband. The learned Chief Judicial Magistrate acquitted the accused persons, holding that the allegations made in the complaint petition were not proved. This was affirmed by the learned Sessions Judge who found that “there is huge discrepancy in the statement of witnesses with the averments made in the complaint petition regarding the manner of occurrence.” Aggrieved by judgments of the lower courts, the applicant filed the instant revision application before this Court and contended that the impugned judgments passed by the lower courts were not at all sustainable as they suffered from illegality and infirmity.

The Court in its order after giving due cognizance to all the facts and documents held that the applicant had failed to make out a case so as to warrant any interference from the Court. It observed that “It is only in glaring cases of injustice resulting from some violation of fundamental principles of law by the trial court, that the High Court is empowered to set aside the order.” It was further opined that “the petitioner has failed to establish any glaring injustice resulting from violation of fundamental principles of law. There is no illegality in the impugned order to approach this Court for appreciation of evidence and the finding which is not at all perverse.” The Court, thus, dismissed the application.[Geeta Devi v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 455, decided on 03-05-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division Member Bench of S.M. Kantikar (Presiding Member) and  Dinesh Singh (Member), dismissed a revision petition filed against the order of Haryana State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, whereby the order of the district forum was affirmed.

The main issue that arose before the Commission was whether the instant dispute required interference by the National Commission under Section 21(b) of the Consumer Protection Act (COPRA).

The Commission observed that the respondent  1 had entered into an agreement with the appellant wherein the appellant had promised for providing various amenities like Club House, Internal roads, installation of fire fighting system and arrangement of sewerage and garbage etc. Further, the maintenance charge was to be calculated by taking the area as 1830 sq. ft, however, the appellant charged excess amount of maintenance charges from the respondent 1. Also, the amenities promised by the appellant were not provided to the respondent 1. The Commission rejected the contention of the petitioner that the respondent 1 did not fall under the category of “consumer” as per the provisions of COPRA. In the decision of Rubi (Chandra) Dutta v. United India Insurance Co. Ltd., (2011) 11 SCC 269, wherein it was held that the National Commission while deciding a matter under Section 21 of the Act, should not interfere with the concurrent finding of fact recorded in the judgment impugned before it.

The Commission held that there is a drastic increase in the number of problems from the construction industry where consumers are fooled by builders or developers. The petitioner failed to provide evidence such as the Commissioner’s Report, Engineer’s report etc. to prove that the amenities as per the agreement were provided to the respondent 1 and it had also failed to justify the excessive money which was charged by it from the respondent 1 in the form of maintenance charges. Finally, the Commission held that to exercise the revisional jurisdiction under Section 21(b) of the COPRA it must show that there was a jurisdictional error or a legal principle was ignored or miscarriage of justice. The petition was dismissed and the order of state commission was upheld.[Make Wave Sea Resort (P) Ltd. v. L.R. Chowdhary,2018 SCC OnLine NCDRC 389, order dated 13-11-2018]

 

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division Bench of S.M. Kantikar, Dinesh Singh, Members, dismissed a revision petition filed against the order of the State Commission whereby the appeal of appellants was dismissed on the ground of merits as well as delay.

The main issue that arose before the Commission was whether the appeal was maintainable under Section 21(b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (COPRA).

The Commission observed that the order passed by the state commission was well-appraised and well-reasoned. The state commission did not find just and reasonable cause for the delay in filing the appeal and the same was written in the order in a proper manner. The appellant had caused an unreasonable delay of 221 days in filing the appeal before the state commission. Further, the order of the state commission also states that the appellants did not approach the forum with clean hands. The Commission also observed that in order to exercise revisional jurisdiction under Section 21(b) of the COPRA, there must be a jurisdictional error or legal principle ignored or material irregularity in the order of the lower forum.

The Commission held that in the instant case the order passed by the state commission did not suffer from any form of irregularity as required under Section 21(b) of the COPRA. Resultantly, no interference by the Commission was required and hence the revision petition was dismissed by the Commission. [Agarwal Packers & Movers DRS Group v. Dibeyendu Pal, 2018 SCC OnLine NCDRC 418, order dated 01-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J., decided a criminal revision petition filed under Sections 397 and 401 IPC, wherein the order of conviction and sentence passed by the trial court against the petitioners was upheld.

The petitioners were convicted and sentenced by the trial court under Sections 323, 325 and 342 IPC. Having failed in an appeal before the appellate court against the order of the trial court, the petitioners filed the instant revision petition. The petitioners raised threefold contention before the High Court; and the Court based its decision of upholding the order of trial court on discussing the following three points-

1. Delay in lodging FIR: The Court referring to various Supreme Court decisions observed that it is more than settled that delay in lodging of FIR by itself cannot be a ground to doubt the prosecution case and discarding the delay in lodging FIR would put the Court on its guard to search if any plausible explanation has been offered for the delay and if offered whether it is satisfactory or not. There can be no hard and fast rule that any delay in lodging FIR would automatically render the prosecution case doubtful.

2. No independent witness: On this point, the Court observed that it is more than settled that a witness is normally to be considered as independent unless he springs from sources which are likely to be tainted and that usually means unless the witness has cause, such as enmity against the accused, to implicate him falsely. Ordinarily a close relative would be the last to screen the real culprits and falsely implicate an innocent person.

3. Contradictions in witnesses’ statement: The Court held it to be well settled that in every case there was bound to be some exaggerations, embellishments or improvements, which at time could even be deliberate. There was bound to be slight exaggeration but then the Court is required to sift the chaff from the grain and find out the truth from the testimonies of the witnesses. Total repulsion of evidence is unnecessary. The evidence is to be considered from the point of view of trustworthiness.

In light of the above discussion, and considering the fact finding by the courts below, the High Court concluded that the judgment and order passed by the courts below could not be termed as perverse so as to require any interference of the High Court in the instant revision petition. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed. [Madan Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh,  2018 SCC OnLine HP 256, decided on 19.3.2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The case before the bench comprising of A.K. Sikri & R.K Agarwal,JJ was whether the Court of Sessions is empowered to take the cognizance of offence when a similar application to this effect was rejected by the Judicial Magistrate while committing the case to Sessions Court, taking cognizance of offence only under Section 306 IPC and specifically refusing to take cognizance of offence under Sections 304-B and 498-A IPC.

The Court observed that normally, such a course of action would not be permissible. But referring to the present case, the court held that the power of Magistrate in refusing to take cognizance against the appellants is revisable by a superior Court, the Court of Sessions in this case, either on the revision petition that can be filed by the aggrieved party or even suo moto by the revisional Court itself. Also, it was not a case wherein the opportunity was not given to the other party to file a reply at the sessions Court against the order of Cognizance and the Court also heard their arguments. Thus, Court can take the cognizance of the matter and the appeal is dismissed. [Balveer Singh. v. State of Rajasthan, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 481, decided on 10.05.2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While deciding the appeal preferred against the judgement of the Sessions Court, which denied the maintenance granted by the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Karad,  M.S. Sonak J. modified the order of the Judicial Magistrate First Class and directed the respondent to pay  maintenance on monthly basis to the applicant with effect from 1 January 2015 thereby setting aside the order of the Sessions Court.

In the present case Mr. Sawant, learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the evidence on record does establish that the applicant was harassed and therefore compelled to live away from the respondent and the Additional Sessions Judge exceeded the bounds of revisional jurisdiction in interfering with the well reasoned decision of the Judicial Magistrate First Class. On the contrary counsel for the respondent Ms. Bhosale submitted that the Additional Sessions Judge, upon proper appreciation of the material on record has rightly held that the Applicant has abandoned the respondent and his children without reasonable cause.

The Court accepting the contentions of the applicant that the Additional Sessions Judge exceeded his jurisdiction and virtually reassessed the material on record purporting to exercise the appellate jurisdiction, when in fact, revisional jurisdiction was invoked and substituted its own findings in place of those recorded by the JMFC directed the respondent to pay maintenance amount of Rs. 600/- per month to the applicant along with a lump-sum amount of 50,000/- towards maintenance from the date of application till 1 January 2015, and to clear the arrears between 1 January 2015 to the date of this judgement within a month. [ Sou. Vaishali A. Waghmare v. Anil P. Waghmare, decided on December 10, 2015]