‘The Legislature Intend To Criminalize Only Those Breaches Which Are Accompanied By Fraudulent, Dishonest Or Deceptive Inducements.’ : Calcutta HC

The single-judge bench consisting of Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee of the Calcutta High Court on Monday, 8/05/2023 in the case of Girish Lahoti v. Firdous Alam (CRR 279 of 2022) quashed the criminal proceedings under Sections 484, 406 and 34 of IPC against a businessman who had allegedly refused to pay a portion of the price of goods purchased by him, on the ground that the accused did not have any fraudulent or dishonest intention right from the beginning of the transaction.

Facts of the Case:

The opposing party had filed a complaint with the ACJM, Dinhata, saying that the petitioner owed him Rs. 9,25,000/- but had only given him Rs. 5,000. When the opposing party wanted the remaining sum, the petitioner refused to pay it, according to the court. The petitioner filed an application before the High Court under Section 482 of the CrPC, praying for the quashing of proceedings pending before the Judicial Magistrate in Cooch Behar under Sections 484 (Counterfeiting a mark used by a public servant), 406 (Punishment for criminal breach of trust), and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention).

Judgment Review:

“Someone’s inability to pay a portion of the price of goods purchased by him cannot give rise to a criminal prosecution or criminal breach of trust or cheating unless fraudulent and dishonest intention is shown right from the beginning of the transaction, as mens rea is the crux of the offence.” The Court observed that no dishonest representation or inducement could be found or inferred right from the beginning, since according to complaint the petitioner has paid Rs. 5,00,000/- out of total outstanding amount Rs. 9,25,000/-. So it cannot be said that right from the beginning of the transaction, the petitioner had any fraudulent or dishonest intention i.e. the mens rea. Apex Court has cautioned in number of cases against criminalizing civil disputes such as breach of contractual obligation. “The legislature intend to criminalize only those breaches which are accompanied by fraudulent, dishonest or deceptive inducements” , the Court said. The Court said that continuation of the criminal proceedings pending against the present petitioners will be sheer abuse of the process of court in view of the fact that there is remote chance of convicting present petitioners either under section 420 or under section 406 of IPC, on the basis of the materials available in the record Accordingly, the court quashed the proceedings under Sections 420, 406 and 34 IPC against the petitioners.

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