2015 ALL MR (Cri) JOURNAL 408
(ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT)
KARUNA NAND BAJPAYEE, J.
Avneesh Bansal Vs. State of U.P. & Anr.
Application u/S.482 No.1214 of 2015
23rd January, 2015.
Petitioner Counsel: ARVIND AGRAWAL
Negotiable Instruments Act (1881), S.138 - Criminal P.C. (1973), S.482 - Dishonour of cheque - Prayer for quashing of proceedings - Perusal of the complaint and also material available on record making out prima facie case against accused - Sufficient ground for proceeding against accused - Case not falling in any of the categories recognized by Apex Court justifying their quashing - Prayer for quashing, rejected. (Para 11)
Smt. Neeta Jain Vs. Sanjeev Kumar & Anr., Complaint Case/265/2014 [Para 1]
Chandra Deo Singh Vs. Prokash Chandra Bose, AIR 1963 SC 1430 [Para 6]
Vadilal Panchal Vs. Dattatraya Dulaji Ghadigaonker, AIR 1960 SC 1113 [Para 7]
Smt. Nagawwa Vs. Veeranna Shivalingappa Konjalgi, 1976 3 SCC 736 [Para 8,9]
R.P. Kapur Vs. State of Punjab, AIR 1960 SC 866 [Para 9]
State of Haryana Vs. Bhajan Lal, 1992 SCC(Cr.) 426 [Para 9]
Damodar S. Prabhu Vs. Sayed Babalal H., 2010(5) SCC 663 [Para 13,14,16]
JUDGMENT :- This application under Section 482 Cr.P.C. has been filed seeking the quashing of entire proceeding in Complaint Case No. 265 of 2014 (Smt. Neeta Jain vs. Sanjeev Kumar & anor) under Section 138 of N.I. Act, & Section 420 IPC., Police Station North, District Firozabad pending in the court of Addl. Chief Judicial Magistrate, Firozabad.
4. All the contentions raised by the applicants' counsel relate to disputed questions of fact. The court has also been called upon to adjudge the testimonial worth of prosecution evidence and evaluate the same on the basis of various intricacies of factual details which have been touched upon by the learned counsel. The veracity and credibility of material furnished on behalf of the prosecution has been questioned and false implication has been pleaded. The submissions made by the applicants' counsel call for adjudication on pure questions of fact which may be adequately adjudicated upon only by the trial court and while doing so even the submissions made on points of law can also be more appropriately gone into by the trial court in this case. This Court does not deem it proper, and therefore cannot be persuaded to have a pre-trial before the actual trial begins.
5. The law regarding sufficiency of material which may justify the summoning of accused and also the court's decision to proceed against him in a given case is well settled. The court has to eschew itself from embarking upon a roving enquiry into the last details of the case. It is also not advisable to adjudge whether the case shall ultimately end in conviction or not. Only a prima facie satisfaction of the court about the existence of sufficient ground to proceed in the matter is required.
6. Through a catena of decisions given by Hon'ble Apex Court this legal aspect has been expatiated upon at length and the law that has evolved over a period of several decades is too well settled. In the case of Chandra Deo Singh Vs. Prokash Chandra Bose AIR 1963 SC 1430 the Apex Court had observed as follows:
"The courts have also pointed out in these cases that what the magistrate has to see is whether there is evidence in support of the allegations of the complainant and not whether the evidence is sufficient to warrant a conviction. The learned Judges is some of these cases have been at pains to observe that an enquiry under Section 202 is not to be likened to a trial which can only take place after process is issued, and that there can be only one trial. No doubt, as stated in sub-section (1) of Section 202 itself, the object of the enquiry is to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the complaint, but the magistrate making the enquiry has to do this only with reference to the intrinsic quality of the statements made before him at the enquiry which would naturally mean the complaint itself, the statement on oath made by the complainant and the statements made before him by persons examined at the instance of the complainant."
"Section 202 says that the magistrate may, if he things fit, for reasons to be recorded in writing, postpone the issue of process for compelling the attendance of the person complained against and direct an inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining the truth or falsehood of the complaint; in other words, the scope of an inquiry under the section is limited to find out the truth or falsehood of the complaint in order to determine the question of the issue of process. The inquiry is for the purpose of ascertaining the truth or falsehood of the complaint; that is, for ascertaining whether there is evidence in support of the complaint so as to justify the issue of process and commencement of proceedings against the person concerned. The section does not say that a regular trial for adjudging the guilt or otherwise of the person complained against should take place at the stage; for the person complained against can be legally called upon to answer the accusation made against him only when a process has issued and he is put on trial."
"The magistrate has been given an undoubted discretion in the matter and the discretion has to be judicially exercised by him. Once the magistrate has exercised his discretion it is not for the High Court, or even this Court, to substitute its own discretion for that of the magistrate or to examine the case on merits with a view to find out whether or not the allegations in the complaint, if proved, would ultimately end in conviction of the accused. These considerations, in our opinion, are totally foreign to the scope and ambit of an inquiry under Section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which culminates into an order under Section 204 of the Code. Thus it may be safely held that in the following cases an order of the magistrate issuing process against the accused can be quashed or set aside:
(1) where the allegations made in the complaint or the statements of the witnesses recorded in support of the same taken at their face value make out absolutely no case against the accused or the complaint does not disclose the essential ingredients of an offence which is alleged against the accused;
(2) where the allegations made in the complaint are patently absurd and inherently improbable so that no prudent person can ever reach a conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused;
(3) Where the discretion exercised by the magistrate in issuing process is capricious and arbitrary having been based either on no evidence or on materials which are wholly irrelevant or inadmissible; and
(4) where the complaint suffers from fundamental legal defects, such as, want of sanction, or absence of a complaint by legally competent authority and the like.
The cases mentioned by us are purely illustrative and provide sufficient guidelines to indicate contingencies where the High Court can quash proceedings."
9. The Apex Court decisions given in the case of R.P. Kapur Vs. State of Punjab AIR 1960 SC 866 and in the case of State of Haryana Vs. Bhajan Lal 1992 SCC(Cr.) 426 have also recognized certain categories by way of illustration which may justify the quashing of a complaint or charge sheet. Some of them are akin to the illustrative examples given in the above referred case of Smt. Nagawwa Vs. Veeranna Shivalingappa Konjalgi 1976 3 SCC 736. It was observed by the Hon'ble Apex Court in Bhajan Lal's case as follows:-
"The following categories can be stated by way of illustration wherein the extra-ordinary power under Article 226 or the inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure can be exercised by the High Court either to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice, though it may not be possible to lay down any precise, clearly defined and sufficiently channelised and inflexible guidelines or rigid formulae and to give an exhaustive list of myriad kinds of cases wherein such power should be exercised:
(1) where the allegations made in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
(2) where the allegations in the First Information Report and other materials, if any, accompanying the F.I.R. do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.
(3) where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.
(4) where the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 155(2) of the Code.
(5) where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
(6) where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
(7) where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge."
11. A threadbare discussion of various facts and circumstances, as they emerge from the allegations made against the accused, is being purposely avoided by the Court for the reason, lest the same might cause any prejudice to either side during trial. But it shall suffice to observe that the perusal of the complaint, and also the material available on record make out a prima facie case against the accused at this stage and there appear to be sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused. I do not find any justification to quash the complaint or the summoning order or the proceedings against the applicant arising out of them as the case does not fall in any of the categories recognized by the Apex Court which may justify their quashing.
13. In the last, the counsel has urged before the Court that the facts and circumstances of the case and the nature of offence involved are such in which the litigating parties should be given a chance to settle this matter amicably and for this purpose some protective direction may be given by this Court so that adequate steps may be taken in furtherance of the same object. The counsel has also placed reliance on the Apex Court decision given in the case of Damodar S. Prabhu Vs. Sayed Babalal H., 2010(5) SCC 663 in this regard. Submission is that the Apex Court decision has taken cognizance of the heavy pendency of the cases in the courts which may result ultimately in the chocking of criminal justice system. It has been urged that with the laudable object of providing the rival parties, who have hitherto locked their horns in litigation, an opportunity to arrive at a mutually agreeable settlement and put an end to the escalating litigations the compounding of the offence has not only been encouraged but in order to given incentive to do so at the earliest stage, certain directions have also been issued by the Hon'ble Supreme Court.
14. I have considered the last submission made by the counsel in the light of the aforesaid case law. It may be relevant to quote the observation made by the Hon'ble Apex Court in the case of Damodar S. Prabhu (supra) which read as follows :-
"17. In a recently published commentary, the following observations have been made with regard to the offence punishable under Section 138 of the Act [Cited from: Arun Mohan, Some thoughts towards law reforms on the topic of Section 138, Negotiable Instruments Act-Tackling an avalanche of cases (New Delhi: Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 2009) at p. 5] :
"... Unlike that for other forms of crime, the punishment here (in so far as the complainant is concerned) is not a means of seeking retribution, but is more a means to ensure payment of money. The complainant's interest lies primarily in recovering the money rather than seeing the drawer of the cheque in jail. The threat of jail is only a mode to ensure recovery. As against the accused who is willing to undergo a jail term, there is little available as remedy for the holder of the cheque.
If we were to examine the number of complaints filed which were 'compromised' or 'settled' before the final judgment on one side and the cases which proceeded to judgment and conviction on the other, we will find that the bulk was settled and only a miniscule number continued."
18. It is quite obvious that with respect to the offence of dishonour of cheques, it is the compensatory aspect of the remedy which should be given priority over the punitive aspect. There is also some support for the apprehensions raised by the learned Attorney General that a majority of cheque bounce cases are indeed being compromised or settled by way of compounding, albeit during the later stages of litigation thereby contributing to undue delay in justice delivery. The problem herein is with the tendency of litigants to belatedly choose compounding as a means to resolve their dispute. .......................
19. As mentioned earlier, the learned Attorney General's submission is that in the absence of statutory guidance, parties are choosing compounding as a method of last resort instead of opting for it as soon as the Magistrates take cognizance of the complaints. One explanation for such behaviour could be that the accused persons are willing to take the chance of progressing through the various stages of litigation and then choose the route of settlement only when no other route remains. While such behaviour may be viewed as rational from the viewpoint of litigants, the hard facts are that the undue delay in opting for compounding contributes to the arrears pending before the courts at various levels. If the accused is willing to settle or compromise by way of compounding of the offence at a later stage of litigation, it is generally indicative of some merit in the complainant's case. In such cases it would be desirable if parties choose compounding during the earlier stages of litigation. If however, the accused has a valid defence such as a mistake, forgery or coercion among other grounds, then the matter can be litigated through the specified forums."
16. As requested by the counsel, it is directed that the accused may appear before the court below within a period of one month from today through the representing counsel and move an application seeking compounding of offence through compromise. On such application being moved the concerned court may take adequate steps in accordance with law in this regard and shall provide further opportunity to the accused which shall not exceed a maximum period of four months from today to make an endeavour in this direction. Thereafter, the court shall pass necessary orders specifically keeping in view the law laid down by the Apex Court in the case of Damodar S. Prabhu (supra) within a period of five months from today.
17. If the decision of the Court given in the light of the application does not conclude the proceedings against the accused and he is further required to apper and face the trial, the court shall be at liberty to proceed in accordance with law against the accused and take all necessary steps and measures to procure his attendance as the law permits.