On 5th April 2023, the single judge bench of Justice Raj Chattopadhyay of High Court of Calcutta quashed criminal proceedings in a private complaint alleging offences under sections 465 and 468 of the Indian Penal Code in the case of Sunil Bharti Mittal v. State of West Bengal (C.R.R No. 48 of 2016)
Facts of the Case:
In 2014, the complainant had applied for two connections of Airtel Broadband through two agents. It was alleged that the agenda assured him that a ‘customer relationship’ form would be sent to him. It was further alleged that he was promised of attaining a rental discount of Rs.300 per month, but the same was never provided. It was further stated by the complainant that the form and the bill would contain his forged signature. Thus, the offences of cheating, forgery, and criminal conspiracy were alleged to have been committed by all four accused persons including Mittal. The Magistrate took cognizance of the offence and observed that a prime facie case was mad out against all four accused and further directed issuance of process against all of them. Aggrieved by this, the petitioners approached the High Court.
The Court observed that it is settled law that the code does not contemplate any vicarious liability of any party who is not charged directly for the commission of an offence, except for some provisions when provided for. It was further observed that in the current case, neither cognizable offences had been disclosed in the complaint nor the allegations against them as made in the complaint when taken even on their face value have made out any prosecutable case. The Court opined that a person ought not to be dragged into court merely because the complaint has been filed. That the words “sufficient ground for proceeding” appearing in section 204 Cr.P.C are of immense importance. That, the said words amply suggest that an opinion is to be formed only after due application of mind that there is a sufficient basis for proceeding against the said accused and formation of such an opinion is to be stated in the order itself. Hence, cognizance of offence taken against the petitioners and the issuance of process against them by the trial court suffered from gross illegality. The Court conclusively quashed the proceedings against the petitioners.
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JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY DIVYA SHREE GN