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FIR quashed dispute arising against Signature Not Verified by appellants: Himachal Pradesh High Court.

FIR quashed dispute arising against Signature Not Verified by appellants, upheld by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh through the learned Judge JUSTICE A.K. SIKRIHON and JUSTICE ASHOK BHUSHAN, in the case ofHimachal Pradesh Cricket v. State Of Himachal Pradesh (Criminal Appeal No. 1258 and 1259 of 2018).

Brief facts of the case:

Facts of the case are outlined in full in the said decision and our comprehensive explanation is presented for quashing that FIR. Therefore, it is not required to describe the facts as well as contentions in depth. In fact, while presenting the sequence of events, facts relevant to the current FIR have also been taken note of. We may, therefore, reiterate in brief that the subject matter of FIR was allotment of land to appellant No. 1 for the purpose of constructing cricket stadium at Dharamshala. A Lease Deed dated 29.07.2002 was executed between appellant No. 1 and respondent No. 1 through Director, Himachal Pradesh Youth Services and Sports Department for this purpose. It was intended to host international cricket matches at Dharamshala.

At their request, the International Cricket Council (ICC) reviewed the cricket infrastructure being created at Dharmshala by appellant No. 1. The ICC remarked that whilst the cricket stadium had potential to become stadium of international class, there was a demand to increase the quality of lodging and to provide more facilities.

Need for hostel housing for required quality was also underlined. Keeping in mind this Report of the ICC, the appellants had made request, inter alia, for allotment of more land including area of 720 square metre abutting the stadium. This area was under the occupation of Education Department and there was residential hostel housing thereto.

The chargesheet alleges that the aforementioned residential hostel was unlawfully demolished by the officers of Appellant No. 1 in collusion with other Government Officials, and that the land was then provided to Appellant No. 1 for development purposes. The chargesheet details the roles of several officials, including Shri K.K. Pant, Deputy Commissioner of Kangra (an IAS officer), Shri Mohinder Singh Katoch, S.D.O. of the H.P. P.W.D. Division in Dharamshala, and Shri Devi Chandra Chauhan, Xen. H.P. P.W.D. Division in Dharamshala.

JUDGEMNET:

On the basis of a comprehensive examination of the case, the court concluded that criminal intent or criminal conduct are absent. The following facts were established by the available evidence:

(i)they have not committed a crime and the evidence do not indicate that they have;

(ii) none of the officials who handled the appellants’ case will be charged;

(iii) two officers, Subhash Ahluwalia and T.G. Negi, who actively participated in the decision-making process were promoted by respondent No. 2 to the positions of Principal Secretary to CM and Advisor to CM, respectively, and were not prosecuted;

(iv) According to the prosecution, there was no criminal conduct on the part of the officials, and they completed their administrative tasks as required, hence the Central Government and the CVC have denied sanction. This alone is sufficient to exempt others from criminal punishment;

(v) nevertheless, the State Government remains to be the owner of the leased property on which the appellants have built assets worth more than 150 crores.

(vi) these assets are for the benefit of the general public and are being utilised as such. In addition, the filing of an indictment and an order taking cognisance do not constitute a final court order. It is a preliminary proceeding in criminal law that is susceptible to appeal in higher courts, such as this one.

Pant is not prosecuted since his employer did not provide permission to do so. We may further stress that the entire operation would not constitute a criminal case under the statutes cited in the indictment.

Therefore, these appeals are allowed, and the proceedings arising out of FIR under Section 447 read with Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, and Section 13(2) of the PC Act are hereby quashed. There is no expense order.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY – HARILAKSHMI

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