Quashing of Proceedings and Direction to register F.I.R. – Shakuntala Devi v. State of U.P.

By Anonymous

Editor’s Note: This is a report on one of the most important cases in recent criminal jurisprudence. Shakuntala Devi’s case led to a number of guidelines regarding registration of FIR, which, as a matter of legal right, was not implemented in certainty for the common man’s benefit. It also helped evolve a better understanding of the provisions of CrPC concerning the registration of FIRs.

Facts

The present matter is an application made s. 482 of the Cr.P.C. to set aside orders dated 29-7-2002 passed by VII Additional Sessions Judge, Allahabad and dated 8-11-2000 passed by Chief Judicial Magistrate, Allahabad. Also, an application is preferred to direct the Court below to take cognizance on the application of applicant under Section 156(3) Cr. P.C. to direct the authority concerned to lodge a report.

The applicant applied to the Special Chief Judicial Magistrate, Allahabad under s. 156(3) of Cr.P.C. to direct the police station George Town to register a case against the opposite parties No. 2 to 4 under Sections 419, 420, 467 and 468 of IPC. The applicant claimed that her maternal uncle Jangilal Was, willed an immovable property, a house through will executed on 20-4-1986 in her favor. On the basis of these records, her name was registered in the Nagar Nigam records. The applicant later sold a portion of said house in favor of opposite party No. 4 by executing sale deed dated 29-12-1993. The applicant alleged that opposite parties Nos. 2, 3 and 4 forged a will in the name of Jangilal giving no.2 (mother of No.3) the entire property in question. This forged will had a thumbprint of Jangilala, even though Jangilal was literate therefore able to sign. Also, Jangilal’s father’s name was wrongly written as Lalji, instead of Murli, and his place of residence had also been mentioned wrongly.

The special CJM ruled that allegedly forged will deed had not been declared invalid or forged by any competent Court of law and therefore allegations made by the applicants did not disclose a cognizable offense. Accordingly, he rejected the said application

Aggrieved, the applicants approached the Revisional Court viz. the Court of the VII Additional Sessions Judge, Allahabad. Opposite parties no. 2,3 and 4 filed counter affidavits alleging that applicant sold the house in question to Opposite Party No.4 by executing a registered sale deed but did not deliver its possession to the transferee. Therefore the transferee filed a civil suit for eviction of the applicant which was pending. Also, they claimed that Jangilal had executed a valid will deed in favor of opposite party No.2. The applicant had also filed a civil suit for declaration that she is the exclusive owner of property in dispute and the case between parties was a case of purely civil nature.

The Revisional Court held that when a civil remedy is the available criminal case is barred and thus dismissed the revision application. Finally, the applicants approached the Honourable High Court at Allahabad to seek remedy.

Issues

Issue 1:  Whether the Court can reject the application of the applicant solely on the ground that case is of civil nature, therefore, criminal prosecution cannot be launched.

Issue 2: Whether there are sufficient grounds for the Magistrate to order registration and investigation of the case under section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

 

RULES

Legislations

  1. Sections 156(3) and 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.
  2. Sections 419, 420, 467 and 468 of the Indian Penal Code 1869.

Case Laws

  1. Alpic Finance Ltd. v. P. Sadasivan, 2001 (2) JIC 68: AIR 2001 SC 1226
  2. Lakshaminarayana v. V. Narayana, 1991 Cri LJ 1419
  3. Lalmuni v. State of Bihar, (2001)2 SCC 17 : 2001 AIR SCW 2504
  4. S. Sheriff v. State of Madras, AIR 1954 SC 397
  5. Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar, (1985) 2 SCC 370: AIR 1985 SC 628
  6. Ram Narain v. Mool Chand, AIR 1960 All 296

Analysis

ISSUE 1:

Whether the Court can reject the application of the applicant solely on the ground that case is of civil nature, therefore, criminal prosecution cannot be launched

According to section 482 of the Cr.P.C.-:

482. Saving of inherent power of High Court.

Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

Hence, the orders of the courts of the VII Additional Sessions Judge, Allahabad, and Chief Judicial Magistrate, Allahabad can be set aside if it is to prevent abuse of the process of the courts or to secure the ends of justice. In the case of Ram Narain v. Mool Chand[i] it was said that in order to seek interference by the court under the section, three conditions must be fulfilled, namely-

1) The injustice that comes to light must be of grave nature

2) It should be clear and palpable and not doubtful

3) There exists no other provision of law by which the party aggrieved could have sought relief.

Hence, only if it is shown that the order of the lower courts perpetuated any such injustice to the applicant, can the application for quashing can succeed.

It was argued by the counsel on behalf of the applicant that the Revisional Court rejected the application solely on the grounds that the case was of civil nature and therefore criminal prosecution couldn’t be launched.

The Allahabad High Court, in this case, has strongly disagreed with this opinion of the lower courts, it has cited a number of decisions of the Supreme Court to support the fact the presence of a civil suit does not bar criminal proceedings based on the same fact matrix.

In the case of Lalmuni Devi (Smt) v. State of Bihar[ii], the honorable Supreme Court reported that it is settled law that facts may give rise to a civil claim and also amount to an offense. Merely because a civil claim is maintainable does not mean that the criminal complaint cannot be maintained.

Further, the two remedies are not mutually exclusive but clearly co-extensive and essentially differ in their content and consequence.[iii] The object of the criminal law is to punish an offender who commits an offense against a person, property or the State, this does not, however, affect the civil remedies at all for suing the accused.

The court also cited the case of Alpic Finance Ltd. v. P. Sadasivan[iv] stating that when somebody suffers an injury to person, property or reputation, he may have remedies both under civil and criminal law. The injury alleged may from a basis of civil claim and may also constitute the ingredients of some crime punishable under criminal law. When there is dispute between them, the aggrieved person may have right to sue for damages or compensation and at the same time law permits the victim to proceed against the wrongdoer for having committed an offense of criminal breach of trust or cheating.

At this point, it should be noted that civil and criminal proceedings do not interfere with the progression of each other. In M.S. Sheriff v. State of Madras[v], it was observed that the possibility of conflicting decisions in the Civil and Criminal courts was not a relevant consideration. It was also stated that the factor to be taken into consideration was that a civil suit often drags on for years and it is undesirable that a criminal prosecution should wait till everybody concerned has forgotten all about the crime so criminal matters should have precedence.

The above case law is in agreement with the opinion of the court and all the other case that the High Court relied upon. Therefore it is concluded that the same set of facts can give rise to both civil and criminal proceedings and both can carry on simultaneously.

ISSUE 2:

Whether there are sufficient grounds for the Magistrate to order registration and investigation of the case under section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

Section 156 of Cr.P.C. reads as the following:

(1) Any officer in charge of a police station may, without the order of a Magistrate, investigate any cognizable case which a court having jurisdiction over the local area within the limits of such station would have power to inquire into or try under the provisions of Chapter XIII.

(2) No proceeding of a police officer in any such case shall at any stage be called in question on the ground that the case was one, which such officer was not empowered under this section to investigate.

(3) Any Magistrate empowered under section 190 may order such an investigation as above mentioned.

It is well settled that when a Magistrate receives a complaint, he is not bound to take cognizance of the facts alleged in the complaint, disclose the commission of an offense.[vi]

In the matter at hand, the applicants contended that prima facie, the offense under Section 419, 420, 467 and 468 of IPC were made out in this case and thus the High Court should order the lower court to direct the police to investigate into the matter under section 156(3).

The allegation of the applicant was that the opposite parties No. 2 to 4 committed forgery and cheating by preparing a forged will allegedly be executed by Jangilal in respect of the entire area of the plot in question. The allegations regarding forgery and cheating were that father’s name of Jangilal was Lalji while it was mentioned as Murali in the will deed. The High Court observed that if Jangilal was literate, it couldn’t be said that the will deed was not bearing his thumb impression as there is nothing in the complaint to show that Jangilal had not put his thumb impression. Mentioning wrong parentage and residence also would not constitute offenses punishable under contended Sections.

Section 419 is the punishment for personating an individual. Personation according to s. 416 involves cheating by pretending to be some other person, or by knowingly substituting one person for another, or representing that he or any other person is a person other than he or such other person really is. The facts do not constitute the occurrence of this offense even prima facie.

Section 420 involves cheating and dishonestly inducing someone to deliver property. In the matter at hand, the applicant willing sold a portion of the house in question to the opposite party No. 4 through a registered sale deed. No information regarding any dishonest means has been indicated. In fact, it was alleged by the opposite parties that the applicant even despite executing a registered sale deed, refused to deliver possession of the portion of the property to No. 4, for which there were ongoing civil proceedings. Hence charges on account of s. 420 are also not made out.

Section 467 and Section 468 requires the forgery of the will, but in the current matter, as earlier mentioned, there is no true suspicion of forgery. Errors in the will can lead to cancellation of the will in a civil suit but do not even prima facie make out the offense of forgery.

It was noted by the High Court, the on the allegations, the applicant has not even included the time, date or place of where the above-alleged offenses occurred. Hence there existed nothing truly to indicate the occurrence of a cognizable offense that the Magistrate can order an investigation into.

Therefore it is concluded that the High Court should not direct the Magistrate to take action  under s.156(3) of Cr.P.C

Conclusion

The Allahabad High Court after discussing the above issues finally concluded that there was no necessity to quash the orders given by the lower courts, or order them to apply section 156(3). The court disagreed with the Revisional Court in as much that a fact matrix could lead to both civil and criminal proceedings at the same time, but also agreed that the lower courts they were right in rejecting the application where no prima facie offenses were observable

The Honourable High Court has done a commendable job in clarifying the settled point in law that the presence of a civil suit does not bar criminal proceedings arising from the same facts. While it is true that determining the value of prima facie evidence when it comes to criminal offenses is the job of the trial court and in the current matter even in allegations were not accurately made, but the complete disregard to the suspicious will is a little troubling.

It is true that the thumbprint on the will of a literate man, who is able to sign his name does not constitute an offense, along with the other errors in the will, they do give a suspicious tinge to the document. Such suspicions could merit an investigation by the police even though the errors lead to a civil suit for cancellation of the will deed.

But owing to the allegations from sides, affidavits and counter-affidavits filed, the matter was observed to be one that would be resolved through civil proceedings such as for non-delivery of possession or cancellation of the deed. There is not enough evidence as per the given facts to actually make out the charge of forgery and the High Court of Allahabad by summarily rejecting the application has avoided an acrimonious and long drawn criminal proceeding which would not address the grievance of the parties.

-Edited by Naman Jain

Formatted on 26th February 2019.

Footnotes

[i] Ram Narain v. Mool Chand, AIR 1960 All 296

[ii] Lalmuni Devi v. State of Bihar, (2001)2 SCC 17

[iii] Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar, (1985) 2 SCC 370

[iv] Alpic Finance Ltd. v. P. Sadasivan, AIR 2001 SC 1226

[v] M.S. Sheriff v. State of Madras, AIR 1954 SC 397

[vi] D. Lakshaminarayana v. V. Narayana, 1991 Cri LJ 1419

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