Complainant cannot avoid the repercussion of repeated absence, accused should be acquitted

Kothari Enterprises Vs Dharendra Agro Food Industries Ltd

Bombay HC

27/11/2019

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.450 OF 2003

About/from the judgment:

When on several dates of hearing, complainant remained absent, the Magistrate chosen to dismiss the complaint. When the matter reached the High Court, the dismissal order was upehld with following reasons:

 

The ingredients of Section 256 (1) are (I) summons must have been issued on a complaint, (ii) the Magistrate should be of the opinion that for some reasons, it is proper to adjourn the hearing of the case to some other date, and (iii) the date on which the order under Section 256(1) can be passed is the day appointed for appearance of the accused or any day subsequent thereto, to which the hearing of the case has been adjourned. Section 256(1) mandates the Magistrate to acquit the accused unless for some reason he thinks it proper to adjourn the hearing of the case. If an exceptional course is to be adopted, it must be spelt out. The discretion conferred upon the Magistrate, however, must be exercised with great care and caution. The conduct of the complainant for the said purpose is of immense significance. He cannot allow a case to remain pending for an indefinite period. There exists a distinction between a civil case and a criminal case. Speedy trial is a fundamental right of an accused. The orders passed by the competent Court of law as also the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure must be construed having regard to the constitutional scheme and the legal principles in mind....

 

Therefore, if the summons has been issued on complaint and on the date appointed for the appearance of accused or any day subsequent thereto to which the hearing may be adjourned, the complainant does not appear, the Magistrate shall, acquit the accused, unless for some reason the Magistrate thinks it proper to adjourn the hearing of the case to some other day. Therefore, Section 256 mandates that if the complainant does not remain present on the appointed day after summons has been issued on complaint and unless attendance of complainant has been dispensed with, the Magistrate shall acquit the accused. If the Magistrate feels that the order of acquittal should not be passed on that date, the Magistrate has to give reasons. In this case, the Magistrate has acquitted the accused as provided under Section 256 because he did not find any reason to adjourn the hearing of the case to some other day.

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