Orissa High Court: Sashikant Mishra J. allowed the criminal petition and quashed the FIR and the criminal proceeding due to inordinate delay on the part of investigating authorities.
The facts of the case are such that an FIR was lodged against the present petitioner on by the then Tahasildar, Chhendipada before the Officer-in- Charge, Chhendipada Police Station leading to registration of case for the alleged commission of offence under Sections 447/379/188/294/535/506 of Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC. The said case is presently pending in the Court of J.M.F.C., Chhendipada. Final Report was submitted in the case after more than 15 years. The inaction of the investigating agency complied with inordinate delay was cited as a ground by the petitioner for quashment of the FIR and the consequential criminal proceedings in the present application filed under Section 482 Cr.P.C.
Counsel for the petitioner M/s. Anirudha Das, A Das,S.C. Mishra, A. Das and A. Sahoo submitted that that continuance of the case without Final Form being submitted for as long as 15 years by itself is an abuse of the process of Court. It is further argued that the petitioner is presently aged about 72 years and has been going through tremendous mental strain and anxiety because of pendency of the criminal case and the uncertainty attached to it. Since right to speedy trial is also a part of fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, it was contended that inaction of the investigating agency for an inordinately long period of time directly violates such right, for which the proceedings need to be quashed.
Counsel for respondents Mr. P. K. Maharaj admitting that the Final Form was not filed for as long as 15 years, however, contends that no time limit being prescribed for conclusion of a criminal proceeding, mere delay in submission of Final Form or Final Report, as the case may be, cannot be a ground to quash the Proceedings.
The Court observed that this is a case of a man against whom an FIR was lodged and investigation continued for as long as 15 years to ultimately end in a Final Report being filed. One can only imagine the stress that the petitioner would have undergone during all these years with the “Sword of Damocles” hanging over his head.
The Court further observed that pendency of a criminal proceeding, irrespective of the nature of the offence alleged, are sufficient to cause concern, anxiety and apprehension in the mind of the accused not to speak of the expenses that he may have to incur in defending himself. What is a matter of greater concern to note is that there is no explanation whatsoever from the side of the investigating agency as to the reasons for non-completion of investigation for all these years.
The Court also took note of the fact that save and except the offence under Section 506, all the other offences alleged to have been committed by the accused namely, Sections 447/379/188/294/353 of IPC, are punishable with imprisonment for terms ranging from one year to three years at the most. So even if a Final Form had been submitted, the concerned Magistrate would have been hard put to take cognizance keeping in view the provisions under Section 468 of Cr.P.C. However, that is besides the point. The crux of the matter is inordinate delay in completion of the investigation.
The Court held that the inaction of the investigating agency to conclude the investigation for as long as 15 years, that too, without offering even a semblance of explanation is a direct affront to the cherished principle of right to speedy trial ingrained in the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The Court held this is a fit case to exercise its inherent powers under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. to put an end to the fiasco, once for all, moreso, as the investigation has ended in Final Report True being submitted.
The Court also observed that the higher police authorities should take note of such inaction on the part of the investigating officer (s) and pass appropriate orders to be followed by all concerned so as to prevent the same from recurring in future.[Binod Bihari Shetty v. State of Orissa, CrlMC No. 112 of 2020, decided on 03-01-2022]