Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Z.A. Haq and Amit B. Borkar, JJ., while addressing the matter, observed that:

In the absence of a specific penal provision creating vicarious liability, an administrator of a WhatsApp group cannot be held liable for objectionable content posted by a member of a group.

Common intention cannot be established in the case of WhatsApp service user merely acting as a group administrator.

By the present application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the applicant laid challenge to charge-sheet filed in the Court of Judicial Magistrate in pursuance of FIR registered with non-applicant 1 for offences punishable under Sections 354-A(1)(iv), 509 and 107 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

As per the FIR, applicant was an administrator of a WhatsApp group, that accused 1 used filthy language against non-applicant 2 on a WhatsApp group of which applicant was an administrator, that despite accused 1 using filthy language against the non-applicant 2, applicant had not taken any action against accused 1.

Further, it was alleged that the applicant being the administrator had not removed nor deleted accused 1 from the WhatsApp Group.

In view of the above, non-applicant 2 lodged the FIR against the applicant and accused 1.

Hence, the applicant has, therefore, filed a present application challenging filing of charge-sheet and continuation of proceedings against the applicant.

Crux of the Issue

Whether an administrator of a WhatsApp group can be held criminally liable for the objectionable post of its member for committing offences punishable under Sections 354-A(i)(iv), 509 and 107 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000?

Powers of the WhatsApp Group Administrator:

A group administrator has limited power of removing a member of the group or adding other members of the group. Once the group is created, the functioning of the administrator and that of the members is at par with each other, except for the power of adding or deleting members to the group.

The administrator does not have the power to regulate, moderate or censor the content before it is posted on the group. But, if a member of the WhatsApp group posts any content, which is actionable under law, such person can be held liable under relevant provisions of law.

Further, it was expressed that, a group administrator cannot be held vicariously liable for an act of a member of the group, who posts objectionable content, unless it is shown that there was a common intention or pre-arranged plan acting in concert pursuant to such plan by such member of a Whatsapp group and the administrator.

In the FIR it was stated that sexually coloured remarks were made by accused 1 and applicant being administrator of the WhatsApp group had not taken action of deleting the accused 1 from the group, nor had sought an apology from accused 1.

Decision

In Court’s opinion, non-removal of a member by the administrator of a WhatsApp group or failure to seek apology from a member, who had posted the objectionable remark, would not amount to making sexually coloured remarks by the administrator.

Court found that essential ingredients of Section 107 of IPC that the applicant had instigated or intentionally aided by his act or illegal omission to accused 1 to make sexually coloured remarks against non-applicant 2 were conspicuously absent. Hence the said Section will not be attracted in the present case.

Section 509 of the IPC criminalizes word, gesture, or act ‘intended’ to insult the modesty of a woman. In order to establish this offence, it is necessary to show that modesty of a particular woman has been insulted by a spoken word, gesture or physical act.

In the present matter, the above-stated offence cannot be made out against applicant, when the grievance of non-applicant 2 was that accused 1 had used filthy language against the non-applicant 2.

To constitute an offence under Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, a person must publish or transmit an obscene material in electronic form.

High Court in view of the above discussion, found no allegation or material that the applicant had either published, transmitted or caused to be published or transmitted in electronic form any material, which was lascivious or appealed to prurient interest or its effect was such to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who were likely to read, see or hear the matter contained.

Bench added that the applicant had neither published nor transmitted or caused to be published or transmitted any electronic form, any material which was obscene in nature.

Lastly while concluding, the High Court held that parameters of exercise of the powers conferred on this Court under Section 482 CrPC being settled, that in order to prevent the abuse of process of any Court and to secure the ends of justice, this power can be exercised.

Bench stated that the present case is the one where power needs to be exercised.

Taking the overall view of the matter, Court was satisfied that even if allegations in the FIR were accepted as correct and considering the material in charge sheet on its face value it does not disclose essential ingredients of offences alleged against the applicant under Sections 354-A(1)(iv), 509 and 107 of the Indian Penal Code and section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Hence the continuation of present proceedings against the applicant would amount to an abuse of process of Court. [Kishor v. State of Maharashtra, Criminal Application (APL) No. 573 of 2016, decided on 01-03-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr R.M.Daga, Advocate for the applicant. Mr T.A.Mirza, A.P. P. for the non-applicant No.1.

Mr Sanjay A. Bramhe, Advocate for the non-applicant No.2.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Manipur High Court: In a petition filed under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure for quashing criminal compliant filed before the Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class, Churachandpur, MV Muralidaran, J., observed that

“It was incumbent upon the court below to have first discovered the basic nature of the dispute which altogether involves question of actual payment.”

The petitioner 1 and 2 are the Chief and Secretary of Lamdan Village Authority. The respondent was the ex-Secretary of Lamdan Village Authority and had voluntarily resigned from the post on 21-10-2013.

The respondent challenged the proceedings of the Special General Body Meeting held on 08-06-2013 thereby appointing the present petitioner-accused 1 as Chief before the customary Court as well as before the Deputy Commissioner, Churachandpur , his objection was, however, rejected as the petitioner-accused 1 was properly appointed. A Civil Suit was also filed by the respondent to restrain petitioner-accused 1 from acting as Chief and declare him the Chief of the Village but he did not succeed in that as well. The present respondent then filed the criminal complained before the Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class, Churachandpur regarding cutting down of trees belonging to the common forest and selling them without the consent of the villagers.

The present petition was filed on the ground that the respondent had given the incorrect facts about the civil suit and had also filed a malicious complaint in order to harass the petitioner-accused 1 and failed to appear before the concerned Magistrate. There was a non-disclosure of material facts relating to payment of full transaction in a money claim.

The main issue was as to whether the petition filed by the complainant before the Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class, Churachandpur is confined to civil dispute and the course of action so adopted is abuse of process of the Court?

The Court observed that after perusal of the statement of the complainant-respondent and witnesses and careful scrutiny of records, it is established that the dispute relates to the civil nature, moreover, the respondent has concealed the material and relevant facts relating to the actual transaction that took place.

The Court relied on the judgment in the case of GHCL Employees Stock Option Trust v. India Infoline Ltd., (2013) 2 SCC (Crl) 414 wherein the Supreme Court had elaborately discussed the controversy in hand and held that

“There is no dispute with regard to the legal proposition that the case of breach of trust or cheating are both a civil wrong and a criminal offence, but under certain situations where the act alleged would predominantly be a civil wrong, such an act does not constitute a criminal offence.”

The Court was, of the opinion that the lower Court failed to determine the nature of dispute first which was predominantly of civil nature and was deliberately categorized as a criminal offence in order to wreck vengeance.

The Court also relied on the judgment in the case of Inder Mohan Goswami v.  State of Uttaranchal, (2007) 12 SCC 1, wherein it was held that,

“The High Courts have been invested with inherent powers, both in civil and criminal matters, to achieve a salutary public purpose. A court proceeding ought not to be permitted to degenerate into a weapon of harassment or persecution.”

Applying the said principle to the case at hand, the Court observed that

“The inherent power under Section 482 CrPC is not to be exercised by this Court generally to stifle the legitimate prosecution but here the prosecution has been launched, in concealment of material facts in the name of wrecking vengeance on the applicants”.

Perusing the statement of the complainant and witness recorded under Sections 200 and 202 Cr.P.C. respectively, in support of the complaint the Court came to the conclusion that

“no whisper regarding manner of committing forgery has been made which may give credence to the money claim. Perusal of the record further shows that as per annexures appended to the present application, the matter has been finally settled amicably. It is surprising that after the Petitioners had made it specific allegations regarding the respondent.”

The Court noticed that the complainant “very cleverly chose to brand a civil dispute as criminal offence”. It is obvious that the entire proceedings initiated at the instance of the complainant is in abuse of the process of the Court and the ends of justice requires that such proceedings which have been initiated with an ulterior motive should not be allowed to go unchecked as that would adversely affect the ends of Justice. When the dispute in question is discovered to be predominantly of civil nature then an attempt to make it criminal offence should be thwarted and discouraged. The payment made in full satisfaction of the transaction is to be ascertained on the face of evidence and documents which may be scrutinized by the civil court of the competent jurisdiction.

“The complainant instead of choosing proper forum for realization of the claimed outstanding amount, has chosen a different path which will not serve the ultimate purpose of full payment. The dispute in question is purely of civil nature and the proceedings in question are discovered to be misuse of the process of the Court and the same cannot be allowed to go on any further.”

Allowing the petition, the Court held that the entire proceeding was initiated with an ulterior motive and is an abuse of the process of the Court and the ends of Justice and therefore is liable to be quashed.

[M. Khuripou v. Pamei Dimpu, Crl. Petn. No. 24 of 2014, decided on 28-02-2020]


Appearance made before the Court by:

For the Petitioner/Accused (s) : Advocate N. Umakanta

For the Respondent : Advocate S. Abung

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Rajnish Bhatnagar, J., held that:

“Once a cheque is issued by a person, it must be honored and if it is not honoured, the person is given an opportunity to pay the cheque amount by issuance of a notice and if he still does not pay, he is bound to face the criminal trial and consequences.”

Accused 2, 3 and 4 had approached Respondent 2 in January 2009 and allured him into investing Rs 50 lacs in their company with the assurance that the same would be doubled in 5 years and relying on such assurances, he invested his lifetime savings with them.

Accused persons failed to return the principal amount with interest being total of Rs 1 Crore but then he was further inducted to invest Rs 20 lacs more with the promise to return Rs 2 crores on or before March 2019 and that MoU dated 26-07-2018 was executed, whereby accused persons undertook to pay the complainant a sum of Rs 47,53,519 and a cheque was also issued; and that later MoU dated 05-05-2019 was executed and it was promised that the complainant would be made a partner in the business and receipt of Rs 50 lacs as principal amount was retained with the promise that it would be safe and secure with them and it would become Rs 2 crores in 2019.

On 18-02-2019 another Promissory Note was issued by accused 2 in favour of the complainant and his wife acknowledging liability to pay an amount of Rs 2,47,53,000/- payable to the complainant and his wife on or before 30-06-2019.

Later, in July 2019 nine cheques were issued and the said cheques were dishonored and while cheque at Sr No. 1 was dishonored for the reasons “account closed”, the bank returning memos in respect of other cheques from Sr Nos. 2 to 9 came with the remarks “kindly contact drawer”.

Respondent 2 served a legal notice upon the accused persons, which were duly served upon but since no payment was made under the cheque, the complaint was filed by respondent 2.

Accused 4/ Petitioner was summoned by the MM for offences under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.

Petitioner sought quashing of the present proceedings on the grounds that neither she was a Director nor she had signed the cheques in question nor she ever participated in any of the meeting or negotiations with the complainant with regard to the transactions in question nor she ever executed any document, hence she had no role in the offence.

Analysis, Law and Decision

“…Negotiable Instruments Act, provides sufficient opportunity to a person who issues the cheque.”

Bench stated that the High Court cannot usurp the powers of the Metropolitan Magistrate and entertain a plea of an accused, as to why he should not be tried under Section 138 of the N.I. Act.

The plea regarding why he should not be tried under Section 138 NI Act is to be raised by the accused before the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate.

Further, the High Court expressed that an offence under Section 138 of the N.I. Act is technical in nature and defences, which an accused can take, are inbuilt; for instance, the cheque was given without consideration, the accused was not a Director at that time, accused was a sleeping partner or a sleeping Director, cheque was given as a security etc., etc., the onus of proving these defences is on the accused alone, in view of Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Burden of Proving

Offence under Section 138 NI Act is an offence in the personal nature of the complainant and since it is within the special knowledge of the accused as to why he is not to face trial under Section 138 NI Act, he alone had to take the plea of defense and the burden cannot be shifted to complainant.

“…no presumption that even if an accused fails to bring out his defense, he is still to be considered innocent.”

If an accused has a defense against dishonour of the cheque in question, it is he alone who knows the defense and responsibility of spelling out this defense to the Court and then proving this on the accused.

In the instant case, respondent 2/complainant stated that under Section 138 of N.I. Act has made specific averments that while Accused’s 2 and 3 were directors of the company, accused 4 had been handling finance and accounts of the accused 1 company and responsible for its day to day operations alongwith other accused persons.

Court stated that the plea raised for the petitioner that Summy Bhasin never participated in any negotiations with the complainant cannot be considered at this preliminary stage since such defense can only be considered during the trial stage.

Prosecution under Section 138 of the Act can be launched for vicarious liability against any person, who at the time of commission of offence was in charge and responsible for the conduct of the business of the accused company.

Petitioners plea that the offences were committed without his knowledge cannot be considered at this stage considering the fact that the Complainant specifically averred that negotiations had taken place with him along with other co-accused persons and they were prima facie aware about the whole series of transaction.

Lastly, Bench expressed that the deal with the complainant was not a trivial or a routine case of marketing, sale or purchase of goods or services.

When such a huge investment was being sought from the complainant and applied for the running of the affairs of the company, it is not fathomable that the accused persons were unaware of the financial implications for themselves and for the accused company.

In exercise of jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC, Court cannot go into the truth or otherwise of the allegations made in the complaint or delve into the disputed questions of facts.

Therefore, it can be concluded from the above discussion that, Section 138 of the NI Act spells out the ingredients of the offence and the said ingredients are to be satisfied mainly on the basis of documentary evidence, keeping in mind the presumptions under Sections 118 and 139 of NI Act and Section 27 of the General Clauses Act as well as the provisions of Section 146 of the Act.

“…trial that alone can bring out the truth so as to arrive at a just and fair decision for the parties concerned.”[Summy Bhasin v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1189, decided 10-03-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., with regard to the settlement of disputes stated that:

“In crimes which seriously endangers the well being of the society, it is not safe to leave the crime doer only because he and the victim have settled the dispute amicably. “

The instant petition was filed under Section 482 CrPC for offence under Sections 419, 467, 471, 474, 376, 354, 506 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Petitioner/Accused had met respondent 2 and revealed that his name to be Shiva and promised the complainant to marry her. Complainant and the Petitioner became intimate and had a physical relationship she had been promised marriage by the petitioner.

Later the respondent 2/complainant came to know that the petitioner had concealed his identity and his real name as ‘Akhtar’.

Respondent 2/Complainant stated in the FIR that the petitioner took her to Arya Samaj Mandir wherein they got married and in the marriage certificate he gave his name as Akhtar. After the marriage, the petitioner started demanding money and when respondent 2 visited his parents, she was driven away with them.

The instant petition was filed as the parties amicably settled their dispute.

A Status Report was also filed wherein it was stated that Akhtar/Shiva hid his identity and was sexually exploiting the respondent 2 for five years. It was also stated that the petitioner forged Aadhaar Cards and has got two Aadhaar Cards, one in the name of Akhtar and the second in the name of Shiva. On further investigation, it was also found that the marriage certificate was also fake.

Analysis and Decision

Bench stated that the power of the High Court under Section 482 CrPC to quash proceedings is those offences which are non-compoundable is recognized.

Court noted that the Supreme Court time and again held that the High Court has to keep in mind the subtle distinction between the power of compounding offences given to the Court under Section 320 CrPC and the quashing of criminal proceedings and the jurisdiction conferred upon it under Section 482 CrPC.

For the above purpose, Court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Shiji v. Radhika, (2011) 10 SCC 705.

Further, the Bench added that:

“While exercising its power under Section 482 CrPC, High Court is guided by the material on record as to whether the ends of justice would justify such exercise of power.”

 Court referred to the Supreme Court decision in Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303, wherein it has been elaborated under what circumstances, criminal proceedings in a non-compoundable case could be quashed when there is a settlement between the parties.

In the case of Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab, (2014) 6 SCC 466, the Supreme Court laid down principles by which the High Courts should be guided in giving adequate treatment to the settlement between the parties.

Court expressed that:

An offence of rape is an offence against the society at large and apart from offence under Section 376, the petitioner is also accused of committing offences under Sections 419,467,468,471,474,506 and 34 IPC.

In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, Bench opined that it is not in a position to quash the FIR on the basis of compromise entered into between the parties and wherein it was stated that the petitioner/accused and the respondent 2 decide to stay as husband and wife and lead their peaceful marital life.

Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that when parties reach a settlement and on that basis a petition is filed for quashing criminal proceedings, the guiding factor for the High Court before quashing the complaint in such cases would be to secure; a) ends of justice, b) to prevent abuse of process of any court.

In view of the FIR and Status Report, Bench held that it’s evident that the petitioner has been accused of serious offences like rape and forgery having a bearing on vital societal interest and these offences cannot be construed to be merely private or civil disputes but rather will have an effect on the society at large.[Akhtar v. GNCTD,  2021 SCC OnLine Del 260 , decided on 01-02-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Petitioner: Haraprasad Sahu, Advocate

Respondents: Kusum Dhalla, APP for State

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., in regard to quashing of FIRs expressed that:

“High Court cannot mechanically quash FIRs for non-compoundable offences by exercising powers under Section 482 CrPC just because parties have decided to bury their hatchets.”

The instant petition was filed for quashing of an FIR for offences under Section 377 of Penal Code, 1860 read with Section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act).

Respondent 2/Complainant stated that after completion of his work when he reached home, he saw his 7 year old son crying, who told him that the accused who stayed in the same building had come and sodomosied him.

It was further stated that the underwear of the child was wet with blood. On completion of investigation, there was enough material to proceed against the petitioner for offences under Section 377 IPC and Section 4 POCSO Act.

The reason that has been stated for quashing of the FIR was due to the intervention of the elders of the society and friends. In view of the same, parties decided to put an amicable end to the disputes.

Analysis and Decision

Bench while analysis the facts and circumstances of the case, stressed that Section 377 IPC and Section 4 of the POCSO Act are non- compoundable offences and while exercising powers under Section 482 CrPC to quash criminal proceedings for non-compundable offences on the basis of compromise, the High Court should scan the entire facts to find out the thrust of allegations and the cruxof the settlement.

While stating the above position, Court referred to the decision of Supreme Court in State of Maharashtra v. Vikram Anantrai Doshi, (2014) 15 SCC 29.

Bench also referred to the following decisions of the Supreme Court:

The offence in the instant case was of grave nature.

POCSO Act was enacted only because sexual offences against children were not being adequately addressed by the existing laws and the purpose of the Act was to provide protection to children from sexual assault and sexual harassment and for safeguarding the interest and well being of children.

While noting the above stated objective of the POCSO Act, Bench stated that permitting such offences to be compromised and quashing FIRs would not secure the interest of justice.

Calling out the impact of such offences to be a serious one, Court also stated that, an offence under Section 377 IPC committed on a child of 7 years or an offence under Section 4 of the POCSO Act shows the mental depravity of the offender and cannot be said to be private in nature.

Hence, Court opined that the father of the victim cannot be permitted to settle the dispute and the Bench cannot lose sight of the fact that the accused was being prosecuted for an offence that shocks the value system of a society.

Deterrence to others committing similar offence is a must and they cannot get a signal that anything and everything can be compromised.

Therefore, Bench dismissed the petition in view of the above discussion. [Sunil Raikwar v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 258,  decided on 29-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Petitioner: Amit Gupta, Advocate

Respondents: Kusum Dhalla, APP for the State and Rahul Raheja, Advocate for R-2

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dinesh Kumar Singh-I, J., while discussing abetment of suicide, stated that:

“…if some act either of omission or commission results in instigation to the victim to commit suicide, that act would also be treated to be an abetment.”

Factual Background of a Woman Subjected to Torture in demand of Dowry

Informant stated that his daughter was married with accused-applicant 1 in accordance with the Hindu rites and as per demands, dowry was provided. At the time of marriage, the applicant 1 (husband), applicant 2, Om Prakash Mishra (father-in-law), applicant 3, Rakesh Mishra, (brother-in-law) started demanding four-wheeler as additional dowry because of which ‘Bidai’ of his daughter could be done.

After a lot of persuasion, the Gauna was performed and when her daughter (deceased) went to her matrimonial home, all the accused-applicants started making taunts that marriage was performed for very cheap, further it was made clear to the deceased that unless the amount asked for is fulfilled, it would be difficult for her to live in matrimonial home peacefully.

Mental and Physical Harassment

Victim was harassed mentally and physically on various occasions, she was pressurized to give her jewellery to which she refused and was beaten up by banging her head against the wall and subjected to filthy language and threat of divorce.

Victim’s husband used to increase the volume of the T.V and close the door of the house so that screaming or weeping of the deceased would not go out, even the family members of the accused-applicant 1 used to call the victim and harass her on the phone.

Accused-Applicant 1 later, dropped the deceased near the house of the informant retaining the jewellery at his home and further filed for divorce.

Suicide

Later it was stated that, since the informant’s daughter used stay disturbed mentally because of the case having been filed against her and having received notices from the Court, she used to say that despite having been tortured, she could not get any case registered against the persons of her sasural and was passing time with her child in her parents’ home and even then, she was not being allowed to remain peacefully and in these circumstances after getting fed-up, on 23-10-2017 she committed suicide by hanging herself by a stole from the ceiling fan, for which the accused- applicants are responsible.

Analysis of the Bench

The above-stated circumstances could be treated to have been driven the deceased to commit suicide which could have taken to fall in the category of abetting the commission of suicide by the deceased.

Court expressed that:

Merely because the deceased died at the parent’s house, is being hammered as the main argument on the part of the applicant, to be the reason why abetment to commit suicide should not be taken to be established in this case even prima-facie.

Bench relied upon the Supreme Court’s decision in Guru Charan Singh v. State of Punjab, (2020) 10 SCC 200, wherein it was held that in order to give finding of abetment under Section 107, which is necessary to sustain the conviction of abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC, it must be established that the accused instigated a person either by an act of omission or commission or by persistent cruelty or harassment.

Circumstances or atmosphere in the matrimonial home without the instigation of suicide being established in someway are not enough to sustain the conviction on abetment of suicide.

 Conclusion

In the instant case, Court noted that it came on record that various litigations had been thrust upon the deceased from the side of the accused-applicants which might have generated a situation in which deceased found no way out but to commit suicide.

Bench stated that it may tour out to be not finally proved that the applicants were involved in the commission of this offence but in proceedings under Section 482 CrPC:

this Court cannot give finding in this regard as the evidence, which is likely to be recorded before the trial court, the said evidence would be appreciated by the said court then only finding can be returned on this point.

While dismissing the application, Court held that if the applicants appear and surrender before the Court below within 30 days and apply for bail, then the bail application would be considered and decided in view of the law laid down by this Court in Amrawati v. State of U.P.,2004 (57) ALR 290, as well as a judgment passed by Supreme Court in Lal Kamlendra Pratap Singh v State of U.P., (2009) 4 SCC 437.

In case, the applicants do not appear before the Court below within 30 days period, coercive action shall be taken against them. [Kranti Mishra v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 81, decided on 22-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Counsel for Applicant: Shailesh Kumar Shukla, Rajiv Lochan Shukla

Counsel for Opposite Party: G.A., Akhilesh Kumar

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Manju Rani Chauhan, J., expressed that:

“At the present time, only from the temple of justice like Courts, everyone hopes for right and fair justice.”

Pursuant to an order, a letter had been sent by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Agra along with the explanation, who has passed the cognizance/summoning order on a printed proforma.

For what reasons did the Magistrate tender apology?

Magistrate, in the explanation given, submitted that due to huge workload and by mistake, he/she passed the cognizance/summoning order on a printed proforma for which he/she has tendered his unconditional apology.

Observation

Bench stated that the explanation given by the Magistrate concerned could not be acceptable for the reason that:

“If a Judge makes such a mistake, then from where will the general public get fair justice.

A Judge acts like a God, he/she should not make mistakes due to haste or excess of work. How will a normal man get justice when a judge makes a mistake because of the excess of his/her work?”

Court stated that it would not be in the interest of justice to proceed against the concerned Magistrate.

Bench warned the concerned Judicial Magistrate to remain more careful and cautious in future while passing any judicial orders. Further, added that the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Agra shall ensure that such orders on a printed proforma are not passed by any judicial officers of Judgeship Agra.

With regard to the application filed under Section 482 CrPC being filed for setting aside the Order passed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Agra for quashing the entire proceedings under Sections 498A, 323 IPC and Section 3/4 of D.P. Act, Court observed that the cognizance/summoning order was passed without application of mind on a printed format.

Further, summoning orders passed on a printed proforma had already been set aside by this Court in Application under Section 482 No. 41617 of 2019 (Vishnu Kumar Gupta v. State of U.P.).

Hence, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Agra after perusing the entire records shall pass a fresh speaking and reasoned order, in accordance with law. [Sanjay v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 44, decided on 18-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court:  Vivek Singh Thakur, J., while exercising powers under Section 482 CrPC, allows the present petition,  stating, “… power of High Court under Section 482 CrPC is not inhibited by the provisions of Section 320 CrPC and FIR as well as criminal proceedings can be quashed by exercising inherent powers under Section 482 CrPC, if warranted in given facts and circumstances of the case for ends of justice or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court, even in those cases which are not compoundable where parties have settled the matter between themselves.”

 Background

The instant petition, under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been filed by petitioner Girdhari Lal, on the basis of compromise arrived at between him and respondent 2, for quashing dated 07-07-2017, registered under Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act, 2012 and subsequent proceedings arising thereto. It is contended on behalf of respondent 1 that petitioner accused is not entitled to invoke the inherent jurisdiction of this Court to exercise its power on the basis of compromise arrived at between the parties with respect to an offence not compoundable under Section 320 CrPC.

 Observations

Pursuant to its decision, Court placed reliance over the following cases;

Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303, explaining that High Court has inherent power under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure with no statutory limitation including Section 320 CrPC.

Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab, (2014) 6 SCC 466, where the Supreme Court has summed up and laid down principles by which the High Court would be guided in giving adequate treatment to the settlement between the parties and exercise its power under Section 482 of the Code while accepting the settlement and quashing the proceedings or refusing to accept the settlement with direction to continue with criminal proceedings.

Madan Mohan Abbot v. State of Punjab, (2008) 4 SCC 582, it was emphasized by the Supreme Court that in matter of compromise in criminal proceedings, a commonsense approach, based on ground realities and bereft of the technicalities of law, should be applied.

With respect to the offence committed under the POCSO Act, the Court remarked, “No doubt Section 8 of POCSO Act is not compoundable under Section 320 CrPC. However, as explained by Supreme Court in Gian Singh’s, Narinder Singh’cases, power of High Court under Section 482 CrPC is not inhibited by the provisions of Section 320 CrPC.”

 Decision

Quashing FIR against the petitioner, the Court said, “Keeping in view nature and gravity of offence and considering facts and circumstances of the case in entirety, I am of the opinion that present petition deserves to be allowed for ends of justice and the same is allowed accordingly.” [Girdhari Lal v. State of Himachal Pradesh, Cr. MMO No. 388 of 2020, decided on 04-01-2021]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: R. Pongiappan, J., addressed the Criminal Original Petition seeking to quash the First Information Report of first respondent police as the same was alleged to be illegal.

The instant petition was filed to quash the FIR. The said FIR was registered for the offences punishable under Sections 294(b), 323, 324, 506(1) and Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002.

Petitioner Counsel submitted that petitioner 1 is the husband of the second respondent. Petitioner 1 had filed the original petition under Section 13(1)(1-b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 to seek dissolution of marriage. The said petition has been pending for commencement of trial.

In view of the above circumstances, to threaten the petitioners, respondent 2 lodged a false complaint and first respondent police without making my enquiry registered a case.

Analysis and Decision

Bench first and foremost referred to the Supreme Court decision on Kamal Shivaji Pokarnekar v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 14 SCC 350, wherein it was held that:

“5. Quashing the criminal proceedings is called for only in a case where the complaint does not disclose any offence, or is frivolous, vexatious, or oppressive. If the allegations set out in the complaint do not constitute the offence of which cognizance has been taken by the Magistrate, it is open to the High Court to quash the same. It is not necessary that a meticulous analysis of the case should be done before the Trial to find out whether the case would end in conviction or acquittal. If it appears on a reading of the complaint and consideration of the allegations therein, in the light of the statement made on oath that the ingredients of the offence are Sonu Gupta v. Deepak Gupta, (2015) 3 SCC 424. disclosed, there would be no justification for the High Court to interfere.”

Bench on perusal of the facts of the case found that the averments made in the FIR clearly constituted the prima facie case for offences under Sections 294(b), 323, 324, 506(1) and Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002,

Court further relied on the Supreme Court decision in CBI v. A. Ravishankar Prasad, (2009) 6 SCC 351, wherein it was held that:

“Inherent powers of High Court under Section 482 CrPC are meant to act ex debito justitiae to do real and substantial justice, for the administration of which alone it exists, or to prevent abuse of the process of the court. These inherent powers can be exercised in the following category of cases: (i) to give effect to an order under the Code; (ii) to prevent abuse of the process of court; and (iii) to otherwise secure the ends of justice. Extraordinary power under Section 482 CrPC should be exercised sparingly and with great care and caution.”

Hence, relying on the above-stated decisions, the Court expressed that:

“…only in the circumstances that registration of case itself is an abuse of process of law, inherent powers can be exercised to prevent abuse of process of law.”

Petitioners in the instant case could not prove that the registration of the FIR was an abuse of process of law, therefore, Criminal Original Petition was dismissed. [Karunamoorthi v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 6026, decided on 02-12-2020]


Advocates for the parties:

For Petitioners: W. Camyles Gandhi

For Respondent 1: S.Karthikeyan Additional Public Prosecutor

For Respondent 2: K.Vasanthanayagan

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Soumitra Saikia, J., observed that

“..a valid decree of divorce by itself is no ground to deny the maintenance to a divorced wife.”

The criminal petition filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 sought the quashment of the Judgment and Order.

Wife/OP had filed an application under Section 125 CrPC claiming maintenance from the petitioner/husband @ Rs 5000 per month, later the husband filed a petition seeking to reduce the maintenance allowance stating that there was a substantial loss of income and was facing financial hardship.

In the meanwhile, the divorce case was decreed in favour of the husband. By the said judgment, the marriage was dissolved by decree of divorce under Section 13(1)(i–a) and (i)(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act.

Later, the husband’s petition seeking to reduce the maintenance allowance was allowed. The wife again preferred the revision petition stating that she decree of divorce would not automatically disentitle the wife from getting maintenance and the said revision petition was allowed by setting aside by remanding the matter back to the Judicial Magistrate Court.

Being aggrieved with the above, the husband filed the present criminal petition.

Analysis and Decision

On perusal of Section 125 and 127 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, it revealed that legislature engrafted the said provisions for the benefit of the wife, a child and the parents of any person of any in order prevent them from becoming destitute.

In the instant matter, the concern is with regard to the maintenance in respect of a divorced wife.

“…true purport of the provisions of Section 125 is to ensure that in the event the husband fails to provide for adequate sustenance on an application made before the Magistrate, the sections empower the Magistrate to order the husband to provide for adequate maintenance for the benefit of the wife so as to prevent the wife from being reduced to a destitute or be compelled to live a life of beggary.”

Supreme Court consistently has held that a divorced wife would also be included in the definition of a wife as it defined under Section 125 CrPC.

“…responsibility of the husband towards a wife will not cease merely because a decree of divorce has been passed severing the marriage between the husband the wife.”

Decisions referred by the Court:

Rohtash Singh v. Ramendri, (2000) 3 SCC 180; Manoj Kumar v. Champa Devi,(2018) 12 SCC 748, Swapan Kumar Banerjee v. State of West Bengal, (2019) 4 SCC 146.

Court upon perusal of the Supreme Court decisions stated that it is evident that Section 125 CrPC being beneficial legislation to provide for protection to the wife, a mere divorce between the husband and wife will not preclude the “divorced wife” from claiming and/or availing of the benefits available to a wife under Section 125 CrPC.

The husband cannot absolve his responsibility to maintain and to provide for the adequate maintenance to the wife unless there are evidences to support that the wife is no longer required to be maintained in view of certain changed circumstances.

Bench also added that the claim for maintenance of a divorced wife can only be defeated either on the ground that she has remarried or that she is able to maintain herself. 

“…a ‘divorce’ does not change the status of a wife in the context of Section 125 CrPC.”

“…power under Section 127(2) CrPC, can only be invoked by a magistrate for cancellation of maintenance granted earlier only when there are changed circumstances after grant of such maintenance under Section 125.”

In the instant matter, there was no change of circumstances, which required the magistrate to invoke its powers under Section 127(2) for cancellation of the order directing payment of maintenance.

High Court directed the trial court to decide the matter afresh. [Bijoy Seal v. Sefali Seal, 2020 SCC OnLine Gau 4024, decided on 30-09-2020]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

Advocate for the Petitioner: P J SAIKIA

Advocate for the Respondent:  K KALITA

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Sanjay Kumar, J., quashed the proceedings under Section 499 IPC against the petitioner holding that the complainant was neither a family member nor a near relative of the deceased whose defamation was alleged to have been caused by the petitioner, and hence the complaint itself was not maintainable.

The instant petition was filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 seeking to quash complaint titled Sant Kanwar v. Raj Kumar Saini, Complaint No. 83 of 2018 under Sections 499, 500 and 501 of Penal Code, 1860.

It was noted by the Court that the issue of maintainability of the instant petition under Section 482 CrPC stands settled in favour of the petitioner as the inherent powers of this Court cannot be curtailed by existence of the alternative remedy of revision under Section 397 CrPC. 

On perusal of the complaint, respondent-complainant demonstrated that he claimed to be a follower of late Chaudhary Matu Ram Hooda, an Arya Samajist and freedom fighter. He stated that late Chaudhary Matu Ram Hooda was an inspiration and a guiding light for him. While so, he claimed to have read newspapers on 02-04-2018 and 03-04-2018, wherein it was reported that the petitioner had made several defamatory statements against late Chaudhary Matu Ram Hooda. It is on the strength of these newspaper reports that he filed the subject complaint alleging that the petitioner had committed the offence of defamation.

Section 199 CrPC deals with prosecution for defamation. Sub-section 1 thereof states that no Court should take cognizance of an offence punishable under Chapter XXI of the Penal Code, 1860, except upon a complaint made by some person aggrieved by the offence. The said provision mandates that the complaint made by a ‘person aggrieved’.

Section 499 IPC defines defamation and Explanations 1 and 2 appended thereto give an indication as who would be a ‘person aggrieved’. Explanation 1 states that imputing anything to a deceased person would amount to defamation, if such imputation would have harmed the reputation of that person had he been living and such imputation is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives. Explanation 2 states that it may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such.

In view of the above, the Court stated that the ‘person aggrieved’ must have an element of personal interest, being either the person defamed himself or in the case of a deceased person, his family member or other near relatives.

Section 320 CrPC permits compounding of the offence of defamation but it is only the person who is defamed who can agree to the same. For the said, Patna High Court’s decision in Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh v. State of Bihar, 1986 SCC OnLine Patna 174 was referred to, wherein it was observed that though generally, the person aggrieved is only the person defamed, an exception has been made in the case of a deceased person but the ‘persons aggrieved’ even in such case are limited only to members of his family or his near relatives, whose feelings would be hurt by the defamatory statement, and none else.

In the instant case, the respondent-complainant did not claim to be a member of the family of late Chaudhary Matu Ram Hooda or his near relative. The summoning order manifested that he contended before the Magistrate that he fell within the definition of a ‘person aggrieved’ as his family was closely ‘related’ to late Chaudhary Matu Ram Hooda, but this claim seemed to have been based more on ideological considerations rather than any actual ‘relationship.

Explanation 1 to Section 499 IPC makes it amply clear that it is only the ‘family members’ or ‘near relatives’ of the deceased person, against whom imputations have been made, who can claim to be ‘persons aggrieved’.

Therefore, the respondent-complainant, who is not a ‘family member’ or ‘near relative’ of late Chaudhary Matu Ram Hooda, cannot unilaterally assume unto himself the status of an ‘aggrieved person’ under Section 199 CrPC, whereby he could assert that his feelings were hurt and maintain the subject complaint against the petitioner before the Magistrate for the alleged offence of defamation.

In view of the above discussion, the Court stated that the complaint was deficient and tainted in its very inception, therefore not maintainable. [Raj Kumar Saini v. Sant Kanwar, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 2165, decided on 02-12-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Suresh Kumar Kait, J., addressed a matter involving the determination of jurisdiction with regard to the occurrence of a crime.

The instant petition was filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 in regard to quashing an FIR for the offences under Sections 420/406 of Penal Code, 1860.

Facts of the instant case:

Since 2009, the petitioner through his sole partnership had been undertaking the business of fresh/dehydrated onions and garlic and other perishable items export to various countries like Europe, Gulf and rest of Asia.

In January 2018, the Complainant’s office, Tiger Logistics, approached the Petitioner and one Makbul Sheikh- salesman of Tiger Logistics. Makbul Sheikh represented to the petitioner that respondent 2 is a commission agent and can provide cost-efficient and reliable services.

Petitioner, based on the transit time of 21 days promised by Tiger Logistics, entered into a sales contract with his customer Sadro SRL, an importer based in Italy. Upon such commitment, the Petitioner provided 13 bookings to Respondent 1 for 26 containers.

The Petitioner only as a goodwill gesture as a sincere exporter and upon the insistence of the representatives of Tiger Logistics paid an amount of Rs.10,76,100 through cheque.

Over the month of January 2018, petitioner had sent 26 shipments of fresh onions through but the shipment did not reach the Port f Naples within 21 days.

Petitioner issued an email to the representatives of Tiger Logistics based out of Gujarat expressing his concerns with regards to the delay of 14 days in the delivery of the shipment of fresh onions.

Due to the Petitioner’s growing concern over the delay in delivery of shipments and risk of loss with every passing day, the Petitioner on 16-04-2018 issued another email to the representatives of Tiger Logistics based out of Gujarat expressing his concern over the delay.

The above-stated delay was acknowledged and accepted and in light of the same representatives of the Tiger Logistics apologized for the delay in the delivery.

However, to the dismay of the petitioner, there was complete failure on the art of the logistics service as promised.

Petitioners were subjected to a huge loss due to the delay in shipments. Respondent 2 started demanding approximately Rs 37 lakhs from the petitioner. Since there was an utter failure of shipping services provided by Tiger Logistics which cannot claim any part of the payment from the petitioner.

Since the petitioner did not pay the above-stated amount, present FIR was registered against the petitioner.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench referred to the Supreme Court decision in V.V. Jose v. State of Gujarat, (2009) 3 SCC 78  wherein it was held that even in a case where allegation were made in regard to the failure on the part of the accused to keep his promise, in absence of a culpable intention at the time of making initial promise being absent, no offence under Section 420 IPC could have been said to be made out.

Further, it was held in the above that, a matter which essentially involves dispute of a civil nature should not be allowed to be the subject matter of a criminal offence, the latter being not a shortcut of executing a decree which is non-existent.

Court in regard to the instant matter made an observation that:

“It is trite that an inquiry and trial with respect of an offence shall be conducted by the Court within whose local jurisdiction occurrence in question is said to have taken place and thereby cause of action has arisen. Section 178 and Section 179 of CrPC. are merely exceptions to this principle enumerated in Section 177, and their scope should not be enlarged on analogous consideration.”

Bench added that for determination of offences alleged to have been committed under Section 406 of the Penal Code 1860, Section 181 of CrPC lays down the jurisdiction of such court where “the offence was committed or any part of the property which is the subject of the offence was received or retained.”

 Jurisdiction and Breach of Trust

In view of the above-stated, Court held that,

Since the transaction between the parties in relation to the transaction of goods took place in Gujarat, the representations and meeting took place in Gujarat, the goods were shipped from Pipavav Port Gujarat, bill of ladings were released from Ahmedabad Gujarat, the invoices were raised by the entity based out of Gujarat and the jurisdiction of such invoices were subject to the court of Gujarat, therefore, applying the direct principles of Section 181, only the court situated in Gujarat can exercise jurisdiction over the alleged criminal breach of trust, if any.

 In case of Jai Prakash v. Dinesh Dayal: (1989) 39 DLT 376, this Court held that where the accused is carrying on business in a city, agreement to supply to complainant’s branch office at that city is entered within the local jurisdiction of that city, institution of complaint at New Delhi on the ground that the complainant’s head office situated there, is without jurisdiction.

In view of the above-discussed law and the facts and circumstances of the case, the registration of FIR in question in Delhi is an abuse of the process of law.

“Investigating Agency and Court should not be made an instrument of compelling a party to come to a place far away from his own place, to submit to the jurisdiction of a Court which actually has none.”

Hence, in the instant case, FIR was without jurisdiction and therefore the complainant attempted to seek unlawful recovery of money which was purely commercial matter.[Ramesh Boghabhai Bhut v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1475, decided on 23-11-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Ram Krishna Gautam, J., held that as per Section 482 Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, while exercising the inherent jurisdiction, High Court cannot make any comment on the factual matrix as the same remains under the trial court’s domain.

The instant application was filed under Section 482 Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 against the State of U.P. and Wsima Begum for quashing the charge sheet as well as the criminal case under Sections 420, 467 and 468 of Penal Code, 1860.

Applicants Counsel, Nazrul Islam Jafri, S.A. Ansari mentioned that allegations made against the applicant made out a case of civil liability as the applicant was alleged to have gotten her name mutated after the death of her husband under Section 34 of Land Revenue Act.

Applicant was married to Sagar Ali under Muslim Rites and customs and was blessed by one female child.

Applicant was subjected to cruelty with regard to dowry hence a criminal case was filed against her husband and in-laws.

Unfortunately, the husband of the applicant and his mother were murdered by unknown assailants. Due to the enmity and litigation, Parvej lodged a criminal case against the applicant and her family members on the basis of frivolous allegations under Section 147, 148, 149, 302, 307, 115 and 120-B of IPC read with Section 7 of Criminal Law Amendment Act.

Applicant, after the death of Sagar Ali, filed an application for getting her name along with her minor daughter’s name mutated at the place of Sagar Ali over his agricultural property.

In light of the above-stated, the application was allowed and the names were mutated in the revenue records.

Further, it has been stated that OP-2 claiming to be the second wife of Sagar Ali moved an application before the Court of Nayab Tehsildar challenging the above mutation order on the ground that she was the legally wedded wife of Sagar Ali. Hence the present applicant was fully aware of those facts even then, she got her name mutated with the wrong contention.

Tehsildar on hearing both sides, in 2014 had set aside the mutation order.

Analysis 

Civil Suits regarding agricultural land of Sagar Ali and his mother Ikhlasi Begum, with regard to disputed “will”, said to be executed by Sagar Ali, is pending before the competent Civil Court.

Ummeda Begum claimed herself to be successor along with her daughter Zoya for the property of late Sagar Ali and late Ikhlasi Begum. She claimed herself to be the only successor wit no other inheritor.

Court noted that in many other previous litigations it was fully in the knowledge of Ummeda Fatima that Sagar Ali was married to Wasima Begum, who was blessed with one female child. Even after knowing this fact mutation application was moved with an incorrect affidavit and incorrect application of documents.

U.P. Revenue Code Section 114 (c) provides that “A person who commits the murder of a [Bhumidhar, asami or government lessee], or abates the commission of such murder, shall be disqualified from inheriting the interest of the deceased in any holding.”

The prima facie case was disclosed for cognizable offence and it was not a ground for quashing of the FIR.

Offence of moving application, with false and fictitious contention, claiming herself to be sole survivor along with her minor daughter over the property of late Sagar Ali and his mother Ikhlasi Begum, and thereafter, fabricating oral and documentary evidence for it and getting name mutated, knowing the legal situation of debarring of inheritance and conviction in that criminal case of murder, prima facie, makes out offences for which charge-sheet was filed.

Section 482 CrPC, provides that nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

In the decision of the Supreme Court in Hamida v. Rashid, (2008) 1 SCC 474, Supreme Court propounded that “Ends of justice would be better served if valuable time of the Court is spent in hearing those appeals rather than entertaining petitions under Section 482 at an interlocutory stage which after filed with some oblique motive in order to circumvent the prescribed procedure, or to delay the trial which enable to win over the witness or may disinterested in giving evidence, ultimately resulting in miscarriage of Justice.”

Abuse of Process of Court

In the Supreme Court decision of Dhanlakshmi v. R. Prasan Kumar, 1990 Supp SCC 686, it was propounded that “To prevent abuse of the process of the Court, High Court in exercise of its inherent powers under section 482 could quash the proceedings but there would be justification for interference only when the complaint did not disclose any offence or was frivolous vexatious or oppressive.”

Hence in view of the above, the exercise of inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC is within the limits, propounded as above. Therefore, this Court will not make any comment on the factual matrix because the same remains within the domain of the trial court.

Prayer for quashing the impugned order as well as the proceeding of the aforesaid complaint case was refused.[Ummeda Fatima v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1358, decided on 19-11-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: Michael Cunha J., dismissed the writ petition being found that the criminal action was rightly initiated against the petitioner.

This instant petition was filed under Article 226 and 227 of Constitution of India read with Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 seeking to quash the charge sheet and the entire proceedings pending before XXIII Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge and Special Judge for Prevention of Corruption Act, Bangaluru City on the grounds that the impugned order suffers from serious illegality as the impugned order of cognizance indicate total non-application of mind and hence is prayed for quashing of it.

Issue 1: Whether the prosecution of petitioner was done in his personal capacity?

Counsel for the petitioners submitted that the allegations leveled in the charge sheet are directed against the firm whereas the charge sheet does not disclose the active role of the petitioner except that he was representing the Company as the Managing Partner and hence prosecution of the petitioner without making the firm as accused is legally untenable and liable to be quashed.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that the allegations made in the complaint indicate that all the affairs of the firm were conducted by the petitioner and he was the face and mind of the Firm and therefore by application of Section 23 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 i.e MMDR Act, he alone could be proceeded and it is for the petitioner to demonstrate at trial that alleged offences were not within his knowledge and that he was not responsible for the day to day affairs of the Firm when the alleged offences were committed.

The Court after perusing all the records stated that the allegations are directed only against the firm and not against the petitioner in his personal capacity. On the other hand, the Firm itself being the offender, vicarious liability could be imputed to the petitioner by virtue of the statutory provision contained in Section 23 of MMDR Act which provides that when an offence is committed by a Company, every person, who at the time the offence was committed was in charge of, and was responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the Company shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.

Issue 2: Whether the order of taking cognizance and issuing summons is valid or not?

 Counsel for the petitioners submitted that the impugned order does not specify the offences in respect of which cognizance has been taken by the Special Court. It was further submitted that there is no clarity as to whether the cognizance was taken under the Penal Code, 1860 or MMDR Act.

The court observed that the very fact that the petitioner moved for bail based on the offences mentioned in the summons, it is clear that right from the inception, the petitioner was aware of the offences for which summons was issued to him and hence the objection raised by the petitioners has no ground.

The Court relied on the judgment R.R. Chari v. State of U.P., (1963) 1 SCR 121 wherein was stated that “The word ‘cognizance was used in the Code to indicate the point when the Magistrate or a Judge first takes judicial notice of an offence. It is a different thing from the initiation of proceedings.” and observed that Special Judge has taken cognizance under Section 190(1) (a) of CrPC and has thus proceeded to issue summons to the petitioner. Hence it is amply clear that Special Judge has taken cognizance of IPC offences as well as the offences under the provisions of Forest Rules and MMDR Act. It is also settled law that while taking cognizance and issuing summons in respect of IPC offences, based on the report under Section 173 CrPC, recording elaborate reasons is not required provided if sufficient grounds for proceeding against the accused has been satisfied.

It was also observed that in respect of the offences under the provisions of MMDR Act are concerned; Section 22 of the Act creates a restriction on the courts in taking cognizance of the offences under the Act.  The Section reads as under

“22. Cognizance of offences- No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act or any rules made thereunder except upon complaint in writing made by a person authorized in this behalf by the Central Government or the State Government.”

The Court observed that to get over this restriction, the respondent have filed a complaint in the proceedings before the Special Court in terms of Section 22 of the MMDR Act. This complaint thus amounts to due compliance of the statutory requirement prescribed in Section 22 of the MMDR Act.

Issue 3: Will filing of the complaint as stipulated under Section 22 of MMDR Act for Special Court to take cognizance of offence be considered valid?

 Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the impugned order of cognizance does not reflect that the Special Judge has looked into the averments made in the complaint yet.

The Court observed that the allegations made in the complaint as well as the facts constituting the offences alleged against the petitioner in the final report filed by the SIT are one and the same. Hence, if the Special Judge has looked into the final report by SIT and on satisfying himself that the allegations prima facie discloses the commission of offences by the petitioner under IPC as well MMDR Act, it is clear that the Special Judge has taken cognizance of the offences in terms of Section 22 of MMDR Act.

The court also relied on judgments Kanwar Pal Singh v. State of U.P. and observed that non-recording the reasons while issuing summons cannot be a reason to set aside the orders of cognizance and the summons issued to the petitioner.

The Court thus found no illegality in the impugned order and all the arguments stood no ground. The allegations made are duly supported by SIT and make out the ingredients of the offence under Sections 409, 420 of IPC and Sections 21 read with 4(1)(a) of MMDR Act, 1957.

In view of the above, the contentions by the petitioners are rejected and writ petition was dismissed.[Syed Ahmed v. State, WP No. 51101 of 2015, decided by 19-11-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Anoop Chitkara, J., setting aside the conviction against the petitioner, discussed the effect of compromise between the parties in cases attracting Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 and the cases of compounding of offence under the same.

Background

The petitioner stands convicted under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, vide order dated 26-07-2018 by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shimla. Application under Section 389 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, was made by the petitioner before the Sessions Judge, which stands dismissed in default by order dated 07-01-2019. The petition hereby was moved invoking Inherent powers of the High Court under Section 482 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, against the said conviction. 

Observations

The Court reiterating the objective of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, said, “The jurisprudence behind the N.I. Act is that the business transactions are honoured. The legislative intention is not to send the people to suffer incarceration because their cheque was bounced. These proceedings are simply to execute the recovery of cheque amount by showing teeth of penalty loss.”  Considering the peculiar facts of the present case and the power of Court to interfere in matters like such, the Court observed, “This Court has inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which are further supported by Section 147 of the N.I. Act to interfere in this kind of matter where parties have paid the entire money and where the complainant does not object to clear all the proceedings.” Reliance was placed on Shakuntala Sawhney v. Kaushalya Sawhney, (1980) 1 SCC 63, wherein the Supreme Court held, “The finest hour of Justice arise propitiously when parties, despite falling apart, bury the hatchet and weave a sense of fellowship or reunion.”  With respect to the compromise made and its effect over the FIR, the Court said, “(…) It is a fit case where the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure read with 147 of Negotiable Instruments Act, is invoked to compound the offence and consequently to quash the above-mentioned FIR and consequent proceedings” The Court further reproduced the guidelines as laid down by Damodar S. Prabhu v. Sayed Babalal H., (2010) 5 SCC 663, with respect to the compounding of offences under the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

Decision

While setting aside the impugned order of conviction by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, the Court directed the petitioner to be released from the prison with immediate effect.[Gaurav Sharma v. Ishwari Nand, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 2464, decided on 13-11-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has up this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Meghalaya High Court: W. Diengdoh, J., while refusing to quash a criminal case against a journalist as the Facebook post shared by the journalist sought to create a divide to the cordial relationship between the tribal and non-tribal living in the State of Meghalaya.

Genesis of the instant matter is with regard to an incident that occurred in the month of July 2020 wherein a group of boys while playing basketball were attacked by 20-25 unidentified youths.

Police in light of the above incident registered a criminal case under Sections 326, 307, 506 and 34 of Penal Code, 1860. Investigation in view od the said event is already in progress.

Petitioner who is a journalist responded to the said incident by posting her comments on Facebook, echoing her stance against such brutal attacks meted out to non-tribal in the State and the ordeal faced by them since the past several decades. In the said post, a query was also made to respondent 3 on their obligatory role of keeping vigil at the place of occurrence and their required assistance for apprehending the culprits.

Further, the petitioner submitted that the statements made were general in nature and were made in good faith without any criminal intent or mens rea.

Respondents 4 and 5 filed a complaint against the petitioner alleging that the said Facebook post of the petitioner incited communal tension between tribal and non-tribal and defamed not only the respondent 3 but the entire village for which offence under Section 153A, 505 and 499 of Penal Code, 1860 are made out.

Police registered a criminal case under Section 153 A, 500, 505C IPC against the petitioner and issued a notice under Section 41 A CrPC requiring the petitioner to appear before the investigation officer.

Aggrieved with the above complaint, the petitioner approached the Court with an application under Section 482 CrPC.

Analysis and Decision

In Court’s opinion, what is first required to be established is whether any case is made out under Section 153 A IPC following which the issue is dispute can be decided accordingly.

Section 153 A IPC:

“[153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. – (1) Whoever-

(a)  by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible grounds of religion, race place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or

(b)  commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquility, (or)

(c)  organizes any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or cast or community and such activity for any reason whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community,]

shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both”.

Bench on a cursory observation of the Facebook post noticed that the author has referred to the incident which took place at the Basketball Court.

Court stated that in the said post,

There is a distinct portrayal of an alleged skirmish between two groups, one, group allegedly consisting of tribal youths and the other group consisting of non-tribal youths.

Court further observed,

What can be deduced is that there is an attempt to make a comparison between the tribals and non-tribals vis-a-vis their rights and security and the alleged tipping of the balance in favour of one community over the other.

In view of the above deduction, Court opined that the same would fall on the mischief of Section 153 A IPC as it apparently seeks to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between two communities.

Supreme Court’s decision in Babu Rao v. State, (1980) 2 SCC 402 was cited wherein it was observed that,

“…It is seen that S. 153 A (1) (a) is not confined to the promotion of feelings of enmity etc. on grounds of religion only as argued by Shri Sen, but takes in promotion of such feelings on other grounds as well such as race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community….”

Bench stated that in the instant matter, it can be said that the said Facebook post sought to create a divide to the cordial relationship between the tribal and non-tribal living in the State of Meghalaya even alluding to the role of the State machinery as being bias in this regard.

Hence, the Court held that prima facie it appears that a case under Section 153 A IPC is made out against the petitioner.

Court refrained from going into the merits of the provision of Sections 500 ad 505 IPC, however, the said provisions read conjointly with Section 153A IPC would attract the provision of Section 155 (4) of CrPC.

No merit was found in the instant petition for exercising powers under Section 482 CrPC.[Patricia Mukhim v. State of Meghalaya, 2020 SCC OnLine Megh 167, decided on 10-11-2020]


Counsel for the petitioner: Advocate K. Paul.

For Respondents: N.D. Chullai, AAG with R. Colney, G.A for Respondent 1 and 2.

P.L. Khonsngi for Respondent 3-5.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: P. Somarajan J., allowing the present criminal miscellaneous case, clarified the law related to anticipatory bail under Section 438 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

Brief Facts

The State Government came up challenging the anticipatory bail granted under Section 438 CrPC. by the Sessions Judge on the simple reason that no crime was registered against the accused/first respondent till that time. Interestingly, within one month the first respondent was impleaded in the array of accused. The crime was earlier registered on the allegation of offence under Section 307, 324 read with Section 34 Penal Code, 1860 but later, Section 326 IPC was incorporated as well.

The present application is submitted both under Section 482 and 439(2) CrPC on the allegation that the earlier order granting anticipatory bail was used by the first respondent to avoid his arrest in connection with his impleadment subsequently as an accused in the existing crime.

 Issue

Whether an anticipatory bail, allowed in the absence of an FIR, permissible as per laws of Criminal Procedure?

 Observations

The Court made the following observation in addition to its decision;

“No blanket order should be passed under Section 438 Cr.P.C. to prevent the accused from being arrested when there is no crime registered against him. The procedure to be adopted is to direct the investigation to comply with the requirement under Section 41 A Cr.P.C., before effecting the arrest of accused so as to enable him to exhaust the remedy under Section 438 Cr.P.C. The defect crept in the order cannot be cured under Section 439(2) Cr.P.C. because of the reason that the accused will get a right to exhaust the remedy under Section 438 Cr.P.C. based on the subsequent accusation and it cannot be curtailed by invoking the jurisdiction under Section 439(2) Cr.P.C. By reserving the right of the first respondent to exhaust the remedy under Section 438 Cr.P.C. based on the present accusation, it is fit and proper to set aside the order granting anticipatory bail on the ground of non-registration of crime.”

 Decision

While allowing the instant petition, the Court said, “When no crime was registered against the first respondent, it is not permissible to grant anticipatory bail, on the reason that it would act as a blanket as against all sort of accusations which may arise in future against the said person.”[State of Kerala v. Ansar M.C.,  2020 SCC OnLine Ker 4569, decided on 21-10-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: Ashok G. Nijagannavar, J., allowing the present petition, quashed the chargesheet filed and made significant observations with respect to Court’s power under Section 482 Criminal Procedure Code.

Brief Facts

The complainant Police Inspector received credible information about illegal activities regarding prostitution by supplying foreign and Indian girls by contacting customers through an international website. The said information was confirmed by sending a decoy. Thereafter, upon receiving the reply regarding the supply of the girls for prostitution at a place called the Kaisar Service Apartment, the complainant and his staff conducted a raid and arrested three accused namely two girls and a man who allegedly supplied the said girls for the illegal act of prostitution. Upon the information gathered from accused 1, it is learned that he solicited the customers through a website designed by accused 4, the present petitioner; Gavin Mendes. After completion of the investigation, the police have submitted the chargesheet arraying the petitioner as accused 4. 

Contentions

It was submitted by the counsel for the petitioner that the accused is a professional software developer and the website made by him was only a fulfillment of a contract that he entered into without knowing the purpose of the other accused. It was further insisted that the name of the petitioner is nowhere found in the FIR and has been later arrayed as an accused in the chargesheet only on the basis of unfound reasons. Another ground urged by the learned counsel for the petitioner is that when there are allegations for an offence under Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, the investigation must be conducted by the concerned Cyber Crime Branch and not by the respondent police, as they have no jurisdiction to do so. Lastly, it was insisted that no prima facie case exists against the petitioner and the charges be quashed accordingly.

The testimony of accused 1 mainly relied on the submissions made by the Prosecution. Moreover, the existence of mala fides and collusion behind designing the website was vehemently insisted.

Observations

The Court making significant observations with respect to the Inherent power of the Court under Section 482 CrPC, cited, Vineet Kumar v. State of U.P, (2017) 13 SCC 369, where the Supreme Court held, “Inherent power given to the High Court under Section 482 CrPC is with the purpose and object of advancement of justice. In case solemn process of court is sought to be abused by a person with some oblique motive, the court has to thwart the attempt at the very threshold. The court cannot permit a prosecution to go on if the case falls in one of the categories as illustratively enumerated by this Court in State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal

State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, 1992 Supp (1) SCC 335, para 102 which illustrates 7 categories of cases where power under Section 482 CrPC can be rightfully exercised, namely: (i) No prima facie case (ii) no cognizable offence disclosed (iii) allegations in FIR and evidence fails to disclose any offence (iv) non-cognizable offence committed which can be investigated only by an order of Magistrate (v) allegations made are absurd or improbable (vi) express legal bar to the continuance of proceedings (vii) proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fides

 Decision

Allowing the present petition, the Court quashed the case against the accused of the offences punishable under Sections 4, 5 and 7 of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, Section 370, 370 A (2), 292 of the Penal Code, Section 67 of Information Technology Act and Section 14 of Foreigners Act. It further held that no prima facie case appeared against the petitioner and that the reasons for arraying him later are not well-founded.[Gavin Mendes v. State of Karnataka, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 1497, decided on 23-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Alok Kumar Verma, J., dismissed an application which was filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to quash the Charge Sheet.

Elections of the Legislative Assembly of Uttarakhand were held in the year, 2012. The applicant had contested the said election as a candidate of the Indian National Congress Party. While contesting the said election, the present applicant had printed a picture (photo) of Lord Badrinath in his handbills as well as pamphlets. On account of this illegal act on the part of the applicant to influence the voters and used the religious feelings of local people, an FIR was lodged against the applicant under Section 125 of the Act, 1951 and Section 153A of the Penal Code, 1860. After the submission of charge sheet when the Chief Judicial Magistrate took cognizance under Section 171-F of the Penal Code read with Section 123 (3) of the Act, 1951 against the present applicant and passed the summoning order, being aggrieved by which the applicant had filed a revision which was allowed by the Sessions Judge and in pursuance to the revisional order the Chief Judicial Magistrate took the cognizance in the offence punishable under Section 125 of the Act, 1951 and issued summons to the present applicant. The counsel for the applicant, Pankaj Purohit contended that the applicant was already a popular candidate and was well known in the constituency, he was given the charge of “Youth Welfare and Sports” portfolio in the Government; he completed his tenure of five years as a Cabinet Minister in the Government. He further contended that from the bare perusal of the FIR, it was evidently clear that no offence is made out as defined under Section 125 of the Act, 1951; by mere printing of pamphlets with the picture of Shri Badrinath Temple, no offence under Section 125 of the Act, 1951 was constituted; during the investigation, no evidence was collected by the Investigating Officer which would infer the promotion of religious enmity or hatred between two communities on account of the fact of printing of the pamphlets, containing the photo of Lord Badrinath Temple. The counsel for the State, S.S. Adhikari assisted by P.S. Uniyal on the contrary contended that Investigating Officer had found credible evidence against the applicant for his involvement in commission of the crime; there was a specific case against the applicant for his involvement in commission of the crime.

The Court while dismissing the application set aside the prayers of quashing the charge-sheet and explained that “it was fundamental duty of every citizen to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood and fraternity amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities. For fair and peaceful election, during the election campaign, party or candidate should not indulge in any activity which may create mutual hatred or cause tension between different classes of the citizens of India on ground of religion, race, caste, community or language.”

The Court further held that the applicant was not able to show at this stage that allegations are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the applicant.[Rajendra Singh Bhandari v. State of Uttarakhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 551, decided on 21-09-2020]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Ravindra Maithani, J., while discussing the scope of Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the object of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, held that,

“Violation under Rule 13 of the PCPNDT Rules will attract Section 23 of the PCPNDT Act.”

Petition in the instant matter was filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 against the decision of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Haridwar.

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994

Complaint under Section 23 of the PCPNDT Act was filed against the petitioner for violating Rule 13 of PCPNDT Rules, 1996. Hence in view of the said position, cognizance under Section 23 of the said Act was taken.

Issues that arose for consideration on 30-06-2020:

Whether violation of Rule 13 of the Rules under the Act would attract the provisions of Section 25 of the PCPNDT Act or Section 23 of the PCPNDT Act? This question is not directly involved. But, then it also requires deliberation as to whether in this petition this aspect can be examined.

If cognizance is taken under Section 23 of the PCPNDT Act and subsequently charged under Section 25 of the PCPNDT Act is farmed, what should be the limitation for cognizance?

Petitioner’s counsel, V.B.S Negi, Senior Advocate assisted by Ayush Negi, Advocate contended that the charge was framed under Section 25 of the PCPNDT Act for which limitation period is 1 year, but cognizance was taken long thereafter.

For the offence under Section 25 of the PCPNDT Act, the limitation period is 1 year, but in the instant petition, cognizance was taken under Section 23 of the PCPNDT Act for which the limitation period is of 3 years.

Object of Limitation

The opening sentence of Section 468 of the Code in itself makes it abundantly clear that the limitation is applicable at the time of taking cognizance, not consequent thereupon.

There may be a situation where cognizance is taken of an offence and charge is framed of different offence and again conviction is held under a different section.

So can it be said that the subsequent offence(s) would be determining factors for counting the period of limitation? The answer is in NEGATIVE.

Supreme Court decision in Sara Mathew, v. Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases,(2014) 2 SCC 62, observed that,

“…the object of Chapter XXXVI inserted in the CrPC was to quicken the prosecutions of complaints and to rid the criminal justice system of inconsequential cases displaying extreme lethargy, inertia or indolence. The effort was to make the criminal justice system more orderly, efficient and just by providing period of limitation for certain offences.”

Position as laid down by the Supreme Court in the decision of State of Himachal Pradesh v. Tara Dutt, (2000) 1 SCC 230, it was held that,

“…it is the offence of which the cognizance has been taken, which determines the period of limitation and not the offence under which the person is convicted and its natural corollary is that for the purpose of determining the period of limitation, the offence charged is also not relevant. What is relevant is the offence(s) under which cognizance has been taken.”

Bench in view of the above-stated position held that the lower Court had rightly dismissed the applications filed by the petitioner since cognizance was not time-barred.

Another question that was posed by the Court was:

“Whether a violation of Rule 13 of the Rules under the Act would attract the provisions of Section 25 of the PCPNDT Act or Section 23 of the PCPNDT Act?”

Jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC

Jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code is of much larger magnitude. The basic purpose of Section 482 of the Code is to do real and substantive justice for the administration of which, it exists.

In the present matter, the lower court’s order which has been challenged did not mention as to why the violation of Rule 13 does not attract the provision of Section 23 of the PCPNDT Act.

The Court had observed that the question as to under which Section of the PCPNDT Act, the case falls, would be examined at the stage of framing of charge. But, it was not examined when the charge was framed.

High Court noted that the above decision of the lower court was not passed in accordance with the principles of Judicial Decision Making.

Objective of PCPNDT Act 

In view of the decreasing sex ratio, the PCPNDT Act was framed. To get an offender is not an easy task because the offences are done in secrecy and in collusion.

Allegations against the petitioner

Allegations against the petitioner are that he did not inform the appropriate authorities about the change of sinologist and also he did not seek re-issuance of the certificate of registration as required under Rule 13 of the PCPNDT Rules.

Rule 13: Intimation of changes in employees, place or equipment

Rule 9 deals with the maintenance and preservation of records.

Sinologist

Position of sinologist is very important because it is he who conducts pre-natal diagnostic techniques. It is he who has to fill the form of the women on which this technique is conducted and this is form ‘F’, which is most important.

It was also observed that in the absence of form ‘F’, appropriate authorities will have no tool to supervise the uses of the ultrasound machine.

Re-issuance of the certificate of registration

Rule 13 does not only require that the information about the change of employees is to be given thirty days prior to the said change but, it also requires that a request shall also be made seeking re-issuance of the certificate of registration. It was also not done by the petitioner.

Section 25 of the PCPNDT Act: Residual Section

If punishment is provided elsewhere in the Act, the provision of Section 25 will not come into play.

Section 23 of the PCPNDT Act provides punishment for contravention of any of the provision of the Act or rules made thereunder.

Therefore, in the present matter, a violation under Rule 13 of PCNPDT Rules will attract Section 23 and not Section 25 of the PCNPDT Act.  [Nitin Batra v. State of Uttarakhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 352, decided on 20-07-2020]