Mens Rea can be determined only at time of trial and not during issuing of the summons: High Court of Jharkhand

At the stage of issuing summons, a strict standard of proof cannot be applied and the court is required to see that there are satisfactory grounds for proceeding. Aspects like Mens Rea are relevant only during the trial and should not be considered during issuing of the summons. This was held in the judgement passed by a single member bench of the High Court of Jharkhand consisting of Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi in the case of Suresh Sahu v State of Jharkhand [Cr.M.P. No. 1348 of 2021] pronounced on 11th August 2021.

The main petitioner, Suresh Sahu along with his parents Shiva Sahu and Sonamati Devi, filed this petition before the High Court of Jharkhand with the prayer to quash the entire criminal proceeding against them which was filed under Sections 307, 341, 323 and 498(A) of the Indian Penal Code for the attempt to murder, wrongful restraint, voluntarily causing hurt and harassment of a woman to an extent she could be driven to suicide. The petitioner was married to the complainant as per Hindu rites and rituals and lived with her at his parent’s house for six months with many problems. It is alleged that after the time period, the petitioners began to verbally abuse and insult the complainant about the weak economic background of her family and their inability to pay a decent dowry. Additionally the petitioners are accused of attempting to strangulate the complainant, physically attack the complainant leading to her hospitalisation and eventually kicking the complainant out of their home.

The petitioner’s counsel contended before the court that the petitioner’s had no intention to cause any harm to the complainant and that despite them not committing any of the alleged offence cognizance was taken against them. The counsel furthered his argument by citing the case of Priyanka Srivastava & another v State of Uttar Pradesh & others [(2015) 6 SCC 287] and concluding that the entire criminal proceedings filed against the petitioners should be quashed. The court however noted that there were more than sufficient materials on the record which prima facie substantiated the complainant’s statements so the petitioner’s request to quash the proceedings would not be granted.

Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwidevi concluded in the judgement that “The mens rea can only be decided at the time of trial and not at the stage of issuing summons. When prosecution relies upon the materials, strict standard of proof is not to be applied at the stage of issuance of summons or to examine the probable defence which the accused may take. All that the Court is required to do is to satisfy itself as to whether there are sufficient grounds for proceeding. Before summoning the accused, the facts stated will have to be accepted as they appear on the very face of it”. Accordingly the criminal miscellaneous petition was dismissed.

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