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“Supreme Court Validates Lower Court’s Acquittal in Karnataka State Case.”

Case Title – Parteek Bansal Vs State of Rajasthan and Ors.

Case Number – Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 2520/2017

Dated on – 6th March,2017

Quorum – Justice Vikram Nath

FACTS OF THE CASE

In The Case of Parteek Bansal Vs State of Rajasthan and Ors., the Appellant and the Respondent No. 3 initially met each other online in June 2014. The father of the Respondent No. 3, who is the Respondent No.2 in the present case, visited the appellant in Udaipur, the appellant who is a Chartered Accountant based in Hisar, was approached by the Respondent No.2 regarding a wedding proposal for his daughter, the Respondent No. 2 in the present case, who was at the time working as the Deputy Superintendent of Police in Udaipur, Rajasthan. The engagement of the Respondent No. 3 and the appellant took place in Udaipur on 18th February,2015 followed by a wedding on the 21st of March,2015. However, on 10th October, 2015, the Respondent No. 2 filed a complaint against the appellant at the Hisar Police Station under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. A similar complaint was also filed by the Respondent No. 2 at the Udaipur Police Station on the 15th of October,2015, five days later of the complaint, leading to the registration of FIR NO. 156 on the 1st of November,2015. Initially, the first FIR registered in Hisar implicated several family members of the appellant, but after conducting further investigation, only the appellant was proceeded with the charge under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Thereafter, the trail commenced against the appellant in the court of the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Hisar. Concurrently, the appellant filed a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 before the High Court of Rajasthan and sought to quash the second FIR registered in Udaipur. However, the High Court of Rajasthan dismissed the petition on the 6th of March, 2017 citing the precedence of the complaint in Udaipur and lack of awareness by the Rajasthan Police regarding the earlier complaint in Hisar. Being aggrieved by the decision of the High Court of Rajasthan, the appellant appealed the case before the Supreme Court of India, which further stayed for investigation in the Udaipur FIR until further orders. Adhering to the decision of the High Court of Rajasthan, the trial in Hisar concluded and the Trial Court acquitted the appellant on the 2nd of August, 2017. The judgment and the acquittal order revealed that the prosecution called upon several witnesses, including the Investigating Officer and other members of the police force. However, they were unable to bring forward the complainant and the victim to testify during the proceedings of the court, resulting in the conclusion of the evidence of the prosecution and proceedings with the statement recording of the appellant under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 before ultimately acquitting the appellant.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

  1. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case pointed out two complaints, the acquittal judgments and the ostensible errors in the impugned orders and that these errors lead to the series of events, with the complaint at Udaipur was former than that at Hisar and secondly, the Rajasthan Police having no knowledge of the proceedings being conducted at Hisar.
  2. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the complainants were well-aware of the multiplicity of the complaints registered in Hisar as well as the Udaipur Police Station but they did not take any requisite step to withdraw their complaint stating that it was wrongly registered in Hisar or that it may be transferred to Udaipur for the purpose of investigation.
  3. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the impugned proceeding were nothing but an abuse of the process of law and that the only motive of the complainant was to harass the appellant and make him face the prolonged trial of the courts.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

  1. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the court at Hisar had no territorial jurisdiction to conduct the trial of the present case as the offense was committed in Udaipur. Therefore, the acquittal judgment delivered by the Hisar Court was void.
  2. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the complaint should have been looked into and investigated by the Rajasthan Police. However, because of the interim order issued by the court, the investigation had been stalled. Therefore, the petition should be dismissed.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

  1. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prescribes the punishment for Husband or Relative of Husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty
  2. Section 482 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prescribes the punishment for using a false property mark
  3. Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 prescribes the power to examine the accused.

ISSUES

  1. The main issue in the present case revolves around whether the filing of two FIRs for the same incident is valid?
  2. Whether the decision of the High Court to dismiss the petition was appropriate, considering the circumstance and timing of filing of the FIRs in both the jurisdictions?
  3. Whether the trial adhered to the principles of a fair and just trial and due process?
  4. Whether the acquittal was justified on the basis of the inability of the prosecution to present important witnesses?

 COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT

The court in the case of Parteek Bansal Vs State of Rajasthan and Ors., observed that the Respondent No. 2 and 3 were misusing their official powers by lodging complaints one after another. The court, further, observed that the deportment of the Respondent No. 2 and 3 of not presenting themselves before the Trial Court in Hisar nor withdrawing their complaint, signifies their sole intention to harass the appellant.  The court observed that even before this court, the respondent no. 2 and 3 vigorously opposed the quashing of the FIR in Udaipur. It was alleged in the FIR filed in Hisar that the Respondent No. 2 and 3 demanded a sum of Rupees 50,00,000 and an Innova Car while visiting the appellant. Thus, the court was of the opinion that the argument that no offense was committed in Hisar but only in Udaipur was incorrect. The court stated that the misuse of the state machinery for ulterior intentions and harassment of any individual warrants castigation. Therefore, the court imposed costs on Respondent No. 2 to compensate the appellant. The court in the present case, allowed appeal and quashed the order of the High Court as well as the proceedings registered as FIR No. 156/2015 dated 1st November,2015 at the Women Police Station, Udaipur are also quashed. The court ordered the Respondent No. 2 to pay costs of Rupees 5,00,000/- (Rupees Five Lacs Only), which was ordered to be deposited mandatorily with the Registrar of the Court within four weeks. The court stated that upon deposit of the total amount specified, % shall be paid to the appellant and another % shall be transferred to the Supreme Court Legal Service Committee.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Sruti Sikha Maharana

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Words said in a fit of rage do not amount to abetment of suicide: Supreme Court.

CASE TITLE: KUMAR @ SHIVA KUMAR V. STATE OF KARNATAKA

CASE NO: SLP CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1427 OF 2011

DECIDED ON: 1.03.2024

QUORUM: HON’BLE JUSTICE UJJAL BHUYAN

FACTS OF THE CASE

The appellant has filed a special leave petition against the judgment passed by the trial court, and the high court dismissed the criminal revision petition. The trial court had convicted the appellant under section 306 of the IPC, sentencing him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years. It imposed a fine of Rs. 2000. If the appellant fails to pay the fine, he shall undergo strict punishment for four months.

The appellant was a tenant living in the deceased’s house. However, on the day of the incident, he was residing elsewhere since the term of his tenant agreement had ended. On 5.7.2000, when the deceased was returning home after dropping her sister’s kids at school, she saw the appellant waiting for her near Canara Bank. The appellant eve teased her, asking her to marry him. When the deceased did not respond, the appellant threatened to destroy her sister’s family, outraging their modesty and causing death. Upon arrival at the house, the deceased informed her sisters of the same and ingested poison. The neighbours saw the deceased lying on the floor in pain from the window and rushed to help. They opened the house door, and during this time, one of her sisters had also arrived with her husband. The deceased was taken to Nirmala Devi Hospital, after which she was relocated to Mission Hospital. She died on 06.07.2000 at 7:30 pm. Raju, the dead’s father, lodged an FIR on 07.07.2000 at 6:30 pm, alleging the appellant was liable for his daughter’s death. During the investigation, post-mortem was done, and the viscera of the deceased was sent for chemical analysis to the Forensic Science Laboratory, Bangalore. The doctor who did the examination stated that the death was caused by respiratory failure due to the consumption of a substance having Organophosphate. After the investigation, the police submitted the chargesheet, where the appellant was the accused.

The prosecution examined eleven witnesses and produced eleven documents as exhibits. The trial court gave its verdict after hearing both sides. The prosecution, beyond any reasonable doubt, had proved that the appellant was responsible for abetting the suicide of the deceased. Hence, the trial court convicted the appellant. As previously stated, the appellant had filed an appeal in the High Court of Karnataka, which upheld the judgement passed by the trial court and dismissed the petition. Following that, the aggrieved filed a special leave petition. The appellant was also granted bail contingent on the trial court’s satisfaction.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Section 107 of the IPC deals with abetment of a thing.

Section 306 of the IPC deals with abetment of suicide.

Section 309 of the IPC deals with attempt to commit suicide.

Section 161 of the CRPC deals with examination of witnesses by police.

Section 313 of the CRPC deals with power to examine the accused.

Section 374 of the CRPC deals with appeals from convictions.

APPELLANTS CONTENTIONS

The counsel for the appellant contends that the evidence produced by the prosecution has not been interpreted and analysed correctly since it does not aid the appellant’s conviction under section 306 of the Indian Penal Court. There are inconsistencies in the witness statements and the evidences produced by the prosecution which cannot be overlooked. It can be inferred that no case of instigation, abetment or conspiracy can be drawn against the appellant in this scenario.

The statements made by Prosecution Witness (PW) No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 12 are highly unreliable. The gaps in their testimony prove that they have improved and changed their story. The counsel for the appellant also revealed that the front of the right wrist of the deceased had a partially healed superficial linear incised injury. The prosecution has not explained the same. Since the injury was only partially recovered, it suggests it happened before the appellant teased her. This shows the appellant did not instigate her suicidal nature, and it might be something else. Although the deceased was hospitalised on 05.07.2000, the FIR was only lodged on 07.07.2000 at 6:30 pm. Additionally, the deceased had not told anyone about the appellant allegedly harassing her. Moreover, the appellant had gotten married two months before the incident took place so there was no reason for him to threaten, he was deceased making the accuracy of the prosecution’s case questionable.

 

RESPONDENT CONTENTIONS

The respondent asserts that the appellant has been convicted rightfully. The prosecution has proved his liability without any reasonable doubt before the trial court. Even the high court has upheld the impugned order. Hence, the question of credibility does not arise. There is no such rule in any legislation that a conviction cannot be made on the statements given by the family members. A simple reading of the witness statements of PW 1, 2 and 4 which is further substantiated by the testimony of PW 13 the doctor will point towards the appellant’s conviction. Hence, there is no substance in the case presented by the appellant.

 

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The Court has thoroughly analysed the evidence in this case, and the revelations have been astounding. It has only served to weaken the case of the prosecution. The accused had lived on the ground floor of his house for five years till the tenancy period was over. The deceased used to take the children of Raju’s other daughter to school daily. During that time, the accused used to ask for her hand in marriage and, upon her refusal, threatened to murder her family. Upon further examination of PW 1, 05.07.2000 was corrected to 06.07.2000. This very day, the accused had threatened to pour acid on the deceased and her sisters and murder them. Raju was informed about the accused’s marital status only after the death of his daughter. He was unaware of his whereabouts after he left his house.

Meena, PW 2, is the deceased’s sister residing with her. She stated that she saw her father in the hospital the next day at around 5:00 pm. Additionally, her father resided with some other woman outside marriage. Meena’s testimony contradicts the claims made by her father about living in the same house and reaching the hospital by 1 pm. The behaviour of Raju, whose daughter had been admitted to the hospital because of the consumption of poison, is very abnormal.

According to PW 4, Shantha, the second daughter of Raju, the deceased, had telephoned her and told them that she had consumed poison because of the incident that took place earlier that day. They rushed to her residence and took her to the hospital with the help of neighbours who were already there. This again contradicts PW 1’s statement that he had come home at 10 am and received the news that his daughter had already been taken to the hospital. PW 8 and 9, who were amongst the neighbours who saw the deceased in an unconscious state through the window while the telephone was ringing, turned out to be hostile witnesses. Only PW 8 and 9 were examined among all the neighbours present, and the reasons for not examining the others are unknown. Both the neighbours turned out to be hostile witnesses, stating that they didn’t know the reason behind the girl’s death. They also stated that the police hadn’t recorded their statements. It is also pertinent to note that if the telephone receiver hung, how could it keep ringing? In addition to the inconsistencies and loopholes that have already dented the prosecution case, the court stated that the credibility of the evidence produced cannot be trusted.

The court referred to the case M. Mohan v. State[1] to look into the meaning of suicide. In this case, it was observed that since “Sui” means self and “cide” means killing, a clear inference can be drawn that suicide means self-killing. In the case of Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh[2], it was held that instigation refers to an act of provocation and encouragement. When someone is provoked to perform an act, it is instigation. It is immaterial whether the words are spoken or unspoken. The accused’s act must indicate the resultant circumstance or situation. However, words said in a rage will not be considered as instigation.

Thus, the court, in this case, has laid down essentials that need to be proved to convict an accused for the offence of abetment of suicide. They are as follows:

  • the accused constantly irritates and annoys the deceased with spoken words, actions, deliberate omissions and deliberate silence to provoke and compel the deceased to take action swiftly
  • it is very important to establish mens rea of the accused in doing the aforementioned acts, which goes hand in hand with instigation.

Another point which is pertinent to note is that when a person dies by the consumption of poison, traces of poison must be discovered in such cases. PW 13 testified that there were injection marks on the front of both elbows of the deceased, including a partially healed wound on the wrist of the deceased. When he received the final chemical analysis, he opined that the death was caused by respiratory failure due to the consumption of the compound organophosphate. In the instant case, the doctors who treated the deceased were not called upon by the court for their testimony. It would have been crucial since they could have given information regarding the compound’s amount and way of consumption. No evidence pertaining to the bottle or the container from which the deceased had consumed poison or any syringe or needle used to inject was retrieved by the police.  

The court said that there can be a plethora of reasons as to why a person can commit suicide. It can be due to societal pressures or some mental illness. Hence, suicide is not always abetted. In the present case, the appellant cannot be convicted of abetment to suicide when suicide itself has not been proven. Considering the defaults in the prosecution case, the Hon’ble Court quashed the order given by the trial court and subsequently upheld by the High Court. The appellant’s conviction under section 306 has been set aside, hereby acquitting him of all the charges. The appellant is already out on bail, so the bail bonds shall no longer be in effect.

[1] 1 (2011) 3 SCC 626

[2] (2001) 9 SCC 618

Judgement Written by-Rashi Hora

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NON-ADHERENCE TO PROCEDURAL LAWS IS THE PRIMARY REASON BEHIND PENDENCY OF CASES AND JUDICIAL DELAY: SUPREME COURT.

In the present case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court deals with the selection of the legal representative of the deceased Mrs. Urmila Devi. In 1982, a sale deed carried out by Shri Mangal Singh was challenged in court by late Urmila Devi praying to declare the same null and void by asserting ownership of the properties; and an order to possess the property in question with costs. The case was still at its primal stage when Mrs. Urmila Devi died. Hence, Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain filed an application to be the legal heir.

Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain presented a duly registered will before the court executed by Mrs. Urmila Devi and witnessed by the current appellant Mr. Yashpal Jain. He prayed before the court to be substituted as the legal representative of Mrs. Urmila Devi. He also claimed to be her legatee according to the will. The defendants by way of presenting a registered adoption deed stated that Mr. Yashpal is adopted. The trial court ruled in favour of Mr. Manoj Jain. The order was challenged by the legal heirs of Mangal Singh by means of a civil revision petition before the district judge. In the course of the revisional proceedings, Mr. Manoj mentioned that he does not wish to proceed with application filed by him to be the legal representative of Mrs. Urmila Devi. On the basis of the proceedings, the judgement given by the trial court was overruled. The district judge directed the trial court to accept the application of condonation of delay and impleadment of a legal representative by Mr. Yashpal. Mr. Yashpal filed an application for the same as well as to dismiss the abatement of suit. The trial court allowed the same and hence ruled in favour of Mr. Yashpal Jain being the legal representative of the plaintiff. 

The legal representatives of the aggrieved party filed a civil revision application before the district judge. The judge upheld the verdict of the trial court and dismissed the petition. The defendants moved to the high court challenging the orders passed by both, the trial court and the revisional court. The high court overruled the impugned orders and rejected the application by the current appellant, relying on the initial order passed by the trial court which substituted Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain as the legal representative on the strength of the registered will and directed the courts to conclude the proceedings within 9 months. The appellants were aggrieved by the orders of the high court filed the present appeal.

The counsel for the petitioner contended that the high court has made a mistake by overruling the orders of the trial court and revisional court taken after careful consideration. The lower courts have also taken diligence of the fact that Mr. Yashpal Jain is the sole living representative of Mrs. Urmila Jain and the stressed on the aforementioned fact that the defendants had pleaded to substitute the appellant in the suit pertaining to the sale deed of property by Mangal Singh. In the instance case the defendants can be seen contradicting their own stance.

The defendants contend that the appellants had not filed a counter-affidavit. On the basis of the doctrine of non-traversal this would amount to admission. The defendants mention two instances wherein the current appellant had supported Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain and his will. The appellant cannot plead ignorance for the delay.

In response to issue one the court has contended that the application filed by the defendants in regard to the writ proceedings is the very reason that the trial court and revisional court substituted Mr. Yashpal as the legal representative. The defendants cannot contend that the appellant had filed two affidavits admitting and confirming Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain as the legal representative. The affidavits were mere proof of the appellant being a signatory to the will. It did not intend to substantiate or prove any other fact to any effect.

On non-traversal of writ petition claims, the records state that Mr. Manoj himself filed an application along with an affidavit expressing his disinterest in continuing the application of being the legal representative. If the orders of the high court to not implead Yashpal Jain as the legal representative were to be sustained then the then this implies that the estate of the deceased would not be represented and the case would eventually be closed. Hence, the Hon’ble Supreme Court quashed the order of the high court and upheld the verdict given by the trial court and revisional court.

The hon’ble supreme court took cognizance of the fact that the case is ancient and long standing. In addition to the property suit, the death of Mrs Urmila devi brought in a plethora of suits to determine her legal representative. The current stage of the property suit is unknown but it is said to have been moving at a “snail’s pace” since her death. There are numerous causes for the delay. The hon’ble court mentioned that it is due this very reason that the general public becomes cynical of the justice delivery system. The court delves deeper into the numerous reasons for delay in delivering justice. Inconsistencies in the law, hefty paperwork, leniency in granting adjournments for no justifiable reason, misuse of the provisions of the CPC and CrPC are some of the reasons. The government has taken steps, formulated policies and amended laws to clear the backlog but it has only resulted in poor results. The amendments of the statutory laws have been unsatisfactory.  The court stresses on the fact that it is the responsibility of all the stakeholders to restrict the practices that delays the justice delivery process. The courts must introspect and come up with solutions to serve the public with an effective justice delivery system. The growth of a nation, in all aspects, depends on the strength of the judicial system. The Hon’ble court revisited the findings of various law commissions instituted over the years to find out the cause and remedies to the perpetual problem of huge pendency of cases and inefficient judicial administration. The various reports by law commissions talk about setting a time limit for both civil and criminal cases to be strictly followed by each of the courts and a plea to increase the manpower and immediate replacement in when there’s vacancy. In furtherance to the 77th report by the law commission, the 79th report provides an all- comprehensive guide for managerial judging, time bound trial procedures by trial courts, high courts and other appellate courts.

The court also mentions delays arising due to non-adherence of procedural laws majorly in civil trials. The courts have been frivolous with the grants of adjournment without ay justifiable reason. This is the primary contributory issue that leads to delays and ultimately losing confidence of the public in the justice delivery system. The court relied upon the case of T. Arivandandam vs. T.V. Satyapal & Another AIR (1977) 4 SCC 467 which held that the answer to an irresponsible suit or litigation would be a vigilant judge. The court acknowledges the importance of maintaining cordial relationship with judges and gives a stark remark to the lawyers to refrain from frequent adjournment requests especially while dealing with cases that have been pending since decades. Under order viii rule 1(a) of CPC a defendant must submit and present the written statement within 30 or 90 days and if he fails to do so without any genuine reason then costs must be awarded to the opposite party payable by the defendant. This rule is seldom followed.

Adjournments should be given only when the request is honest and with a bonafide intention expressed by way of affidavit. Frequent grants of adjournments defeat the purpose of the legislation. It is pertinent for all the presiding officers to strictly adhere to the time schedule provided under sub-rule 1 of rule 1 of order viii. It is the responsibility of the stakeholders to ensure the same. In the case of M. Mahalingam vs. Shashikala the intention behind the legislation was duly stated. The legislation has curbed the power of the courts to grant frequent adjournments because when a case has begun the evidence must be recorded on a daily basis and only, if necessary, adjournments should be given to the following day. This ensures that only bonfide reasons should be entertained by the court and it should be strict in it dispense of adjournments.

Innumerable legislations can be enacted to ensure speedy disposal of cases but it would be of no use until it is strictly implemented by the courts and constantly monitored by committees established for the very reason. The fundamental duties mentioned in article 51 A of the constitution must be given utmost importance in light of any problems faced by the stakeholders. The citizens must always strive towards excellency for the growth of the nation. It is important for the judiciary to regain the confidence of the public in litigation a be a ‘beacon of hope”. The Hon’ble supreme court thus directs all the lower courts to strictly adhere to the rules laid down in the procedural laws ensuring the proceedings take place as scheduled. Some courts shall be controlled by Principal District Judges who, after compiling all the statistics, shall present it before the constituted committee of the high court.

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Judgement Analysis written by- Rashi Hora.

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Prosecution of Public Officials Under Section 197 Crpc Can Be Done Without Government’s Sanction: Supreme Court

Case title: Shadakshari Vs. State of Karnataka & Anr.

Case no.: Criminal Appeal No. 256 of 2024

Decided on: 17.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Abhay S. Oka, Hon’ble Justice Ujjal Bhuyan.

FACTS OF THE CASE:

This appeal is based on the order of the High Court of Karnataka, dated 19.12.2016, which dismissed the appellant’s complaint; the chargesheet in C.C. No.116 of 2018, and the order issued by the learned Judicial Magistrate First Class, Belur, dated 28.03.2018.

As the complainant, the appellant filed a first information report on December 19, 2016, alleging that respondent No. 2 and another were forging property documents, such as a death certificate, a family tree of the appellant’s original successor to land, and so forth, irregularly and illegally in the name of a deceased person, knowing full well that they were fake documents.

Respondent No. 2 is an accountant for the village. In order to have the FIR quashed, he filed a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure with the High Court.

According to the High Court’s order, it was premature to intervene in a FIR of this nature because a reading of the FIR established a case for investigation. The High Court did not step in, but it did permit respondent No. 2 to file a lawsuit in the event that an adverse report had been issued.

Filing a final report under Section 173 of the Cr.PC, the investigating officer registered chargesheet No.12/2018 with the Court of the Additional Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate First Class. Three people are named accused on the charge sheet.

They were charged under the IPC’s Sections 471, 468, 467, 465, 420, 409, 466, and 423, as well as Section 34. The chargesheet also includes the names of thirty-one witnesses.

Respondent No.2 petitioned in the High Court again under Section 482 Cr.PC to have the complaint and charge sheet quashed.

Respondent No. 2 was a public servant, the High Court observed. The prosecution claims that he committed the crime against him while carrying out his official responsibilities. After requesting sanction, the investigating officer was unable to proceed with respondent No. 2’s prosecution. The High Court determined that in these situations, the prosecution of a criminal offence against a public servant could not proceed due to the denial of sanction. It was the High Court that dismissed the charge sheet and complaint.

ISSUES:

Whether sanction is required to prosecute a public servant who faces accusation of creating fake documents by misusing his official position as a Village Accountant?

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

Judges and public officials are subject to prosecution under Section 197 Cr.PC. Subsection (1) of Section 197 states that no court shall take cognizance of an offence unless the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be, has previously sanctioned it. This applies to anyone who is or was a judge, magistrate, or public servant and who is not removable from office without the approval of the government.

 APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

The appellant contends that the High Court erred in quashing the complaint, chargesheet, and cognizance order. He contends that no sanction to prosecute respondent No. 2 was required because the creation of a false document cannot be considered part of respondent No. 2’s official duties. In support of his contention, he has relied on this Court’s decision in Shambhoo Nath Misra Vs State of Uttar Pradesh, (1997), which held that it is not the official duty to fabricate records or misappropriate public funds.

RESPONDANTS CONTENTION:

The respondent contended that the High Court’s order was correct in quashing the complaint and chargesheet. Without the authority to prosecute a public servant, the latter cannot be prosecuted. This is a well-established proposition, and it has relied on a decision of this Court in D. Devaraja vs. Obais Sanders Hussain.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT:

The court stated in the D. Devaraja case, on which the respondent relied, that this court has consistently held that Section 197 Cr.PC does not extend its protective cover to every act or omission of a public servant while in service. It only applies to acts or omissions committed by public servants in the course of their official duties.

The court held that producing such documents or fabricating records cannot be considered part of a public servant’s official duties. If that is the case, the High Court was not justified in dismissing the complaint and chargesheet in their entirety, especially since there are two other accused persons besides respondent No. 2. As a result, the court overturned the high court’s order quashing the complaint and charge sheet.

 

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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

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THE SUPREME COURT UPHELD AN ORDER SUMMONING POLICE OFFICERS IN A CORRUPTION CASE

Case title: Gurdev Singh Bhalla vs State of Punjab & Ors.

Case no.: SPL(Crl.) appeal no. 11654 of 2013

Decided on: 05.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Vikram Nath

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The appellant has filed a criminal appeal with the Supreme Court of India, contesting the decision made by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Chandigarh on March 23, 2023, which dismissed the Criminal Revision the appellant had filed in opposition to the Special Judge’s Bathinda order of March 5, 2018, which had allowed the application under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, summoning the appellant and three other police department officials.

Punjab Agro Food grains Corporation Ltd. of Bathinda filed a complaint against Devraj Miglani at the Phul Police Station in the District of Bathinda, which was registered as a FIR. The complaint alleged that Devraj had misappropriated paddy. The investigation of the said FIR was transferred to the Vigilance Bureau in Bathinda, where the appellant was posted as an Inspector and tasked with investigating the crime. The accused, Devraj, was arrested. He was granted police remand and then transferred to judicial custody.

And the informant in this case, Puneet Kumar Miglani, is the accused Devraj’s son. According to the informant in this case, on September 6, 2013, Head Constable Kikkar Singh approached Ms. Ritu, the accused Devraj’s niece, at her workplace, the Bathinda branch of the SBI, demanding a sum of Rs.50,000/- by handing over a slip purportedly written by the accused Devraj, indicating that the holder of the slip may be provided with the said amount. Devraj and his niece Ritu allegedly conversed on Head Constable Kikkar Singh’s mobile phone. The informant came to know of the said demand by Kikkar Singh. He went to the bank, took the slip, and after recording a conversation between his wife and his father, he presented it to the learned Magistrate, along with a complaint.

The local police were directed to register the complaint and investigate it further. Following a thorough investigation by Deputy Superintendent of Police Janak Singh, it was determined that the allegations against Head Constable Kikkar Singh were prima facie true, and a First Information Report was filed at the police station Vigilance Bureau in Bathinda. During the investigation of the aforementioned FIR, the informant, informant’s wife, Devraj, and others provided statements. Following the investigation, a police report against Head Constable Kikkar Singh only.

The date of both trials, the trial arising out of the FIR against Devraj and the trial arising out of the FIR against Head Constable Kikkar Singh, coincided on September 29, 2014. The appellant went on to depose, supporting both the prosecution’s case and his own investigation of Devraj. On that date, in the trial against Head Constable Kikkar Singh, informant Puneet Miglani provided additional evidence as PW 1. On the specified date, he completed both his chief and cross examinations. In addition, he prepared and filed an application under Section 319 Cr.P.C. to summon the appellant and three other police officials.

The trial court dismissed the application due to a lack of sanction under both the PC Act and the Cr.P.C. The said order was successfully challenged before the High Court, and the High Court, in an order dated 23.01.2018, remanded the matter to the Trial Court for a fresh order, ignoring the issue of sanction. The High Court believed that no sanction was required. The Trial Court granted the application under Section 319 Cr.P.C. and summoned the four police officials in accordance with the remand. The appellant challenged the 05.03.2018 order in the High Court.

The high court dismissed the said revision in the impugned order dated March 23, 2023. Aggrieved, and it is now being appealed to the Supreme Court.

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

Section 319 of the Cr.P.C. deals with “Power to proceed against other persons appearing to be guilty of offence”,

406 of IPC deals with “Punishment for criminal breach of trust”,

409 of IPC deals with “Criminal breach of trust by public, servant. or by banker, merchant or agent”,

420 of IPC deals with “Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property”,

457 of IPC deals with “Lurking house-trespass or house-breaking by night in order to commit offence punishable with imprisonment” and

Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act read with Section 13(2) of PC Act deals with “Criminal misconduct by a public servant”.

APPELLANTS CONTENTIONS:

He claimed that it was a pressure tactic on the part of the informant to browbeat the appellant because he had deposed against his father Devraj. The informant, was convicted in another case, so his statement should not have been relied on.

The complaint dated 06.09.2013 made no allegations against the appellant. The complaint was filed on September 6, 2013, for a demand of only Rs.50,000/-. Subsequently, in a statement issued on September 29, 2014, the four officials, one Deputy Superintendent of Police, the appellant, and two other Head Constables, allegedly demanded Rs.24 lakhs.

RESPONDANTS CONTENTIONS:

They claimed that the appellant and other police officers had not only harassed and tortured Devraj while he was in custody, but also threatened and tortured family members both mentally and physically in order to extract a large sum of money. They submitted the relevant witnesses’ statements recorded under Section 161 Cr.P.C. both during the investigation and before the Trial Court.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT:

After considering the submissions, the court concluded that it is clear that the informant, in his statement under section 161 Cr.P.C. recorded on 22.09.2013, narrated complete facts regarding the conduct of police officials immediately following his father’s surrender on 30.08.2013 in the case registered against him for misappropriation. The informant has consistently supported the statement under section 161 Cr.P.C. from that point forward, including during the trial.

Even Devraj and Eshaa Miglani, in statements recorded during the investigation on 15.10.2013 and 22.10.2013, respectively, provided the same information as narrated by informant Puneet Miglani on 22.09.2013. Furthermore, their statements during the trial support and align with their previous statements. All of these witnesses have unequivocally described incidents that occurred at various locations, including threats, demands for large sums of money, torture of Devraj.

The Informant gave the same statement under Section 161 Cr.P.C. and before the Trial Court on May 26, 2014, which was continued on September 29, 2014. There appears to be prima facie evidence on record to establish a triable case against the appellant. As a result, we are unlikely to challenge the contested order. Therefore, the appeal is dismissed.

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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

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