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Inherent powers of High Court meant for rarest of cases where justice cannot be secured in normal course of law: High Court of Jammu and Kashmir

High Courts in India have the inherent power to quash pending FIRs, criminal proceedings or investigations. However inherent powers are meant to be used only in the rarest cases where the normal course of law is not sufficient to secure the ends of justice or to prevent the abuse of power by a lower court. This was held in the judgement passed by a single member bench of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir consisting of Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul in the case of Rajeev Malhotra v Mohammad Ishaq Chowdhary [CRM(M) no.77/2021] pronounced on 25th August 2021.

The respondent, Mohammad Ishq Chowdhury attempted to put up a CA cold storage at industrial estate Zainakote, upon getting approval from the government. The respondent entrusted the said work to the petitioner, Rajeev Malhotra. The money to purchase a Pre Engineered Building was sent to the petitioner for this purpose and it is alleged by the respondent that the petitioner did not make the full payment to the seller but instead took a part of the money for himself. As a result of this, the respondent filed a criminal case against the petitioner for cheating, criminal breach of trust and criminal intimidation before the Trial Court under Sections 406, 409, 418, 420, 506 of the Indian Penal Code. The Trial Court took cognizance of the matter and issued process against the petitioner to appear before the Court to answer the allegations. Aggrieved by this, the petitioner filed the instant petition before the High Court requesting them to use inherent power to quash the proceedings against him.

It was further submitted by the petitioner that the complaint filed by the respondent lacked content and was frivolous. The High Court observed that where the factual foundation for the alleged offence had been laid down in a complaint, the Court should not hasten to quash the proceedings just because one or two ingredients have not been stated in the complaint and that the complaint did possess the basic structure required for it to be considered. The case of Priti Saraf & Another v State of NCT of Delhi & Another [2021 SCC Online SC 206], where the Supreme Court of India declared that “inherent power of the High Court is an extraordinary power which has to be exercised with great care and circumspection before embarking to scrutinize a complaint/ FIR /charge-sheet in deciding whether the case is the rarest of rare cases, to scuttle the prosecution at its inception”.

Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul came to the conclusion in the judgement that “While inherent power of the High Court has a wide ambit and plenitude, it has to be exercised to secure ends of justice or to prevent an abuse of the process of any court. Petition on hand, when looked from all angles, requires and demands meticulous analyzation of facts by this Court as if it is in appeal and acting as an appellate court and to draw its own conclusion vis-à-vis impugned order, complaint and proceedings emanating therefrom. This is not the aim and objective of provisions of Section 482 Cr. P.C. more particularly when petition on hand does not unveil any ground muchless cogent or material one, to portray that inherent powers are to be exercised to prevent abuse of process of court and to secure ends of justice.” Accordingly the petition was dismissed.

Click here for the judgement

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