A two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Datta passed a Judgment dated 19.05.2023 in Ramesh Chandra Vaishya v The State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr., Criminal Appeal No. 617 / 2023 and reiterated the essential ingredients of the offence of intentional insult under Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and held that a complaint filed / F.I.R. registered with certain ulterior motives deserves to be quashed.
i) In the present case, one, Rajaram Bhartiya, the Complainant –Respondent 2 herein lodged a Complaint on 20.01.2016 at Police Station Tharwai, District Allahabad, against the Appellant, Ramesh Chandra Vaishya about the altercation between the Parties regarding issue of drainage water and further stated that on 14.01.2016, the Appellant verbally hurled caste related abuses at the Complainant and his family members and physically assaulted the Complainant, thereby, causing multiple injuries to him. Thus, the Police registered an F.I.R. (“First F.I.R.”) against the Appellant in Crime No. 23 of 2016 under Sections 323 IPC (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 504 IPC (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and Section 3 (1)(x) of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities ) Act (SC/ST Act) (Punishments for offences of atrocities).
ii) Thereafter, the Investigation Officer (I.O.) completed the investigation within one day and filed a Charge Sheet on 21.01.2016 before the Ld. Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate at Allahabad (Trial Court) in Criminal Case No. 376 of 2016 against the Appellant under Sections 323 IPC and 504 IPC, and Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act. The Trial Court took cognizance of the offence on 03.05.2016.
iii) Meanwhile, the Appellant also filed a Complaint on 15.01.2016 against the Complainant regarding the aforementioned altercation. However, the Police failed to register F.I.R. against the Complainant.
iv) Aggrieved, the Appellant filed an Application under Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (Cr.PC.) (Police officer’s power to investigate cognizable case) before the Trial Court. The Trial Court passed an Order dated 18.02.2016 thereby directing the Police to register F.I.R.
v) Accordingly, the Police registered an F.I.R. (“Second F.I.R.”) against the Complainant for the offences under Sections 323 IPC, 325 IPC (Punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 392 IPC (Punishment for robbery), 452 IPC (House-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 504 IPC (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 IPC (Punishment for criminal intimidation).
vi) Thereafter, the Appellant filed a Civil Suit bearing No. O.S. No. 07 of 2017 before the Ld. Civil Judge Junior Division, Allahabad (Civil Court) on 03.01.2017, and sought permanent injunction against the Complainant’s continued encroachment upon the Appellant’s land. The said dispute is pending for consideration before the Civil Court.
vii) Meanwhile, in respect of the First F.I.R., aggrieved by the Charge Sheet filed by I.O. before the Ld. Trial Court, the Appellant filed an Application on 05.10.2018 under Section 482 CrPC (Saving of inherent power of High Court) before the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad seeking quashing of Criminal Case No. 376 of 2016, on the grounds that the said Charge Sheet does not disclose any offence and that the criminal case has been instituted with mala fide intention for the purposes of harassment.
viii) The High Court, vide Order dated 23.05.2022, dismissed the Appellant’s Application on the ground that there was no material irregularity in the Charge Sheet or the procedure followed by the Trial Court in taking cognizance of the same.
Supreme Court Analysis
Aggrieved by the High Court Order dated 23.05.2022, the Appellant filed Criminal Appeal No. 617 / 2023 before the Supreme Court. The Apex Court passed a Judgment dated 19.05.2023, and made the following observations:
1) That as per the Appellant the First F.I.R., which was registered after a delay of six days, is an afterthought and creates serious doubts over the allegations of the Complainant.
2) That the Charge Sheet was filed on the very next day of registration of the First F.I.R. without conducting a proper investigation. Further, the said Charge Sheet failed to take note of the Second F.I.R. as well.
3) That the Complainant maliciously initiated criminal proceedings against the Appellant with an ulterior motive to settle the already-pending civil dispute in Civil Court.
4) That the Apex Court observed that in the case of State of Haryana and Ors. vs. Bhajan Lal and Ors., 1992 Supp. (1) SCC 335, it was held that “if the contents of the F.I.R., taken on their face value, do not make out any case against the appellant, such an F.I.R. registered with an ulterior motive deserves to be quashed.”
5) That the Supreme Court observed that in the case of Hitesh Verma vs. The State of Uttarakhand & Anr. (2020) 10 SCC 710, it was held that “neither the contents of the first F.I.R. nor the charge sheet disclose the precise content of abusive language employed by the appellant so as to attract the provisions of Section 3(1)(x) of the SC/ST Act.”
6) That the Apex Court observed that in the present case, a reading of the Second F.I.R. registered at the behest of the Appellant reveals that the incident took place at the house of the Appellant, however, the First F.I.R., registered against the Appellant, is silent about the place of occurrence and details of any witness present at the time when the Appellant is alleged to have hurled caste-related abuses at the Complainant.
7) Further, the three Prosecution Witnesses submitted by I.O. in the Charge Sheet in respect of the First F.I.R. were not eyewitness but the Complainant himself and his wife and son. Further, the Prosecution failed to produce any medical report in respect of the alleged injuries suffered by the Complainant.
8) That in the present case, the main offence alleged against the Appellant was intentional insult under Section 504 IPC. The Supreme Court in Fiona Shrikhande and Anr. vs. State of Maharashtra (2013), 14 SCC 44, held that “Section 504 IPC comprises the following ingredients: (a) intentional insult; (b) the insult must be such as to give provocation to the person insulted; and (c) the accused must intend or know that such provocation would cause another to break the public peace or to commit any other offence. The intentional insult must be of such a degree that it should provoke a person to break the public peace or to commit any other offence. In a situation where the person who intentionally insults intends or knows it to be likely that it will give provocation to any other person and such provocation will cause to break the public peace or to commit any other offence, the ingredients of Section 504 are satisfied. One of the essential elements constituting the offence is that there should have been an act or conduct amounting to intentional insult, and the mere fact that the accused abused the complainant, as such, is not sufficient by itself to warrant a conviction under Section 504 IPC.”
9) However, in the present case, the Bench held that the Prosecution failed to establish all the aforementioned ingredients of Section 504 IPC, etc against the Appellant and that the Complainant had filed the Complaint with certain ulterior motives. Hence, the First F.I.R. deserves to be quashed.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Apex Court held that as the Prosecution failed to establish the offence against the Appellant, hence, the Appellant was acquitted and as a result, the Appeal was allowed and the High Court Order dated 23.05.2022 was quashed.
The Indian Lawyer