CRIMINAL COMPLAINTS CANNOT BE QUASHED MERELY BECAUSE ALLEGATIONS APPEAR TO BE OF A CIVIL NATURE
The Supreme Court on 12-02-2019 in Kamal Shivaji Pokarnekar vs. State of Maharashtra held that criminal complaints cannot be quashed only on the ground that the allegations made in the complaint appear to be of civil nature.
In the present case, the complainant had accused the developers of forgery and preparing false documents on the basis of which a development agreement was formulated. It was alleged that the respondents were liable to be punished for offences under Sections 420, 465, 467, 468, and 471 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Magistrate sent the complaint for investigation under Section 156 (3) of the Code. Thereafter, the police submitted a report stating that the matter appeared to be of a civil nature. The Trial Court issued summons to the accused. Later, when the respondents filed for Revision of this order, the Hon’ble High Court quashed the order issuing summons and held that the dispute in present case appears to be civil in nature. The criminal proceedings, if initiated against the accused would be an abuse of the process of law.
The complainant, thus, approached the Supreme Court in appeal.
Allowing the appeal, the Supreme Court, categorically stated that the Magistrate at the stage of taking cognizance, is not required to look into the merits of the evidence advanced or examine whether the same would lead to a conviction or not. The only time a criminal proceeding can be quashed is if a complaint prima facie does not disclose any offence or is found to be “frivolous, vexatious, or oppressive”. If allegations made do not constitute an offence, only then the High Court has the power to quash the complaint.
Pre-trial procedure does not require a “meticulous analysis” of the case or evaluation of whether the complaint would lead to conviction or acquittal. The High Court would not be right to interfere if, on a reading of the complaint and statements made, ingredients of an offence are made out.
Further, the Court noted that the complaint in the present, prima facie disclosed offences that were alleged against the Respondents. The veracity of the allegations has to be decided only in Trial. At the initial stage of issuance of process, it is not open to the courts to stifle the proceedings by entering into the merits of the contentions made on behalf of the accused.
The Court further clarified that criminal complaints cannot be quashed merely on the ground that the allegations made in the complaint appear to be civil in nature.
If the ingredients of an offence alleged against the accused are prima facie made out in the complaint, the criminal proceeding shall not be interdicted.
The Indian Lawyer
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