'False charge' in section 211 IPC refers to initial accusation & not false depositions/evidence adduced during trial

'False charge' in section 211 IPC refers to initial accusation & not false depositions/evidence adduced during trial

Himanshu Kumar And Ors Vs State of Chhattisgarh And Ors

Supreme Court

14/07/2022

Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 103 of 2009

About/from the judgment:

The Supreme Court opined that the expression 'falsely charges' in Section 211 of the Indian Penal Code refers to the initial accusation which puts the criminal investigation in motion and not false depositions or false evidence adduced during the course of a criminal trial. The Apex Court emphasised that the statement which is made with the intention and object of setting criminal law in motion would constitute 'charges' under the provision.

Section 211 reads as under -

"Section 211. False charge of offence made with intent to injure.—Whoever, with intent to cause injury to any person, institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceeding against that person, or falsely charges any person with having committed an offence, knowing that there is no just or lawful ground for such proceeding or charge against that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both; and if such criminal proceeding be instituted on a false charge of an offence punishable with death, [imprisonment for life], or imprisonment for seven years or upwards, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine."

In an application filed by the Union Government seeking initiation of proceedings for perjury against the petitioners who had filed a plea in 2009 seeking independent probe into alleged extra-judicial killing of Adivasis in Chhattisgarh by security force, a court refrained from initiating such proceedings. In the alternative it suggested the State Government or the CBI take appropriate actions against the petitioners under Section 211 IPC and other relevant provisions of the law.

On perusal of Section 211 IPC (false charge of offence made with intent to injure) and as elucidated in Santokh Singh And Ors. v. Izhar Hussan And Anr. (1973) 2 SCC 406, the Bench pointed out the essential ingredients of the provision as under -

1. complaint must have falsely charged a person with having committed an offence;
2. complainant at the time of lodging the complaint must have had known that there is no just or lawful ground for making such a charge
3. complaint must have been filed with intention to cause inquiry to a person

Though Cr.P.C. does not define "charge" or "criminal proceedings", the Bench was of the opinion that false 'charge' in Section 211 should be construed in terms of its origin meaning and not in a restricted or technical sense. According to the Bench, it would include -

"false accusation made to any authority bound by law to investigate it or to take any steps in regard to it, such as giving information of it to the superior authorities with a view to investigation or other proceedings, and the institution of criminal proceedings includes the setting of the criminal law in motion."

It further noted -

"The words "falsely charges" have to be, read along with the expression "institution of criminal proceeding". Both these expressions, being susceptible of analogous meaning should be understood to have been used in their cognate sense. They get as it were their colour and content from each other."

Court also deals with perjury

Referring to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure dealing with false evidence, particularly, Sections 191, 192 and 193 IPC and Sections 195 and 340 Cr.P.C., the Court pointed out the two conditions which are to be satisfied before filing a complaint against a person who has adduced false affidavit or evidence before a court -

1. person has given a false affidavit in a proceeding before the court; and
2. in the opinion of the court it is expedient in the interests of justice to make an inquiry against such a person.

It noted that the affidavit being a 'evidence' within the meaning of Section 191 IPC, one swearing to a false affidavit would be guilty of perjury. However, before initiating proceedings for perjury, the concerned court ought to consider whether making the inquiry would be in the interest of justice. The concerned court is required to see whether there is evidence in support of the allegation of perjury and not whether the evidence is sufficient to warrant conviction. There ought to be a prime facie case of deliberate falsehood and the concerned court is to be satisfied that there is reasonable foundation of the charge as was held by the Apex Court in S.P. Kohli v. High Court of Punjab and Harayana and Mauthu Karuppan, Commissioner of Police, Chennai v. Parithi Ilmavazhuthi And Anr. Apart from this, as observed in Aarish Asgar Qureshi v. Fareed Ahmed Qureshi And Anr. the concerned court is also required to see if the false statement so made was deliberate and conscious and the conviction is reasonably probable or likely.

The Bench cited the judgment in Pritish v. State of Maharashtra wherein it was held by the Apex Court that even without a preliminary enquiry under Section 340 CrPC or without hearing the person against whom proceedings are to be initiated, the Court can form an opinion that it is expedient in the interest of justice that an inquiry ought to be made when it appears to it that an offence has been committed in relation to a proceeding in that court. But, a conflicting opinion was expressed by a Co-ordinate Bench in Sharad Pawar v. Jagmohan Dalmiya. The issue had been subsequently referred to a larger bench and at present, pending adjudication.

It was further taken note of that in M.S. Sheriff And Anr. v. State of Madras And Ors., the Constitution Bench of the Apex Court had held that no expression on the guilt or innocence of persons should be made by the concerned court while passing an order under Section 340 of CrPC.

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