The Supreme Court on 31 January, 2020 asked the magistrates to check the abuse of law in cases where purely civil disputes are given the guise of a criminal one. The bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah while citing Section 202of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 gave the judgment.
Section 202 Cr.P.C provides for enquiry by magistrate. A magistrate before summoning the accused residing beyond its jurisdiction, shall enquire into the case or direct the investigation to be made by a police officer or such other person as he thinks fit for finding out whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
The judgment came in the case of Govind Prasad v. State of Bihar & Anr., where appellants went in appeal against a High Court order which refused to quash criminal proceedings in a complaint case. The bench while hearing the case said that the criminal allegations were mere abuse of power.
The court said, “It cannot be disputed that while holding the inquiry under Section 202 Cr.P.C. the Magistrate is required to take a broad view and a prima facie case. However, even while conducting/holding an inquiry under Section 202 Cr.P.C., the Magistrate is required to consider whether even a prima facie case is made out or not and whether the criminal proceedings initiated are an abuse of process of law or the Court or not and/or whether the dispute is purely of a civil nature or not and/or whether the civil dispute is tried to be given a colour of criminal dispute or not. As observed hereinabove, the dispute between the parties can be said to be purely of a civil nature. Therefore, this is a fit case to quash and set aside the impugned criminal proceedings.”
The court sought reliance on its judgment in National Bank of Oman v. Barakara Abdul Aziz, (2013) 2 SCC 488, where it was contended that at the time of inquiry under Section 202 and at the time of taking cognizance, the trial court is required to hold a limited inquiry to satisfy itself whether there is any prima facie case.
The order passed by the learned Magistrate taking cognizance against the accused and issuing the summons against the accused for the offences under Section 341, 323and 379of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were therefore quashed in light of the findings of the Supreme Court.
Author: Nandini Gandhi