Order framing charges or refusing discharge not interlocutory order, not affected by bar under Section 397(2) CrPC

Order framing charges or refusing discharge not interlocutory order, not affected by bar under Section 397(2) CrPC

Sanjay Kumar Rai Vs State of UP and Anr

Supreme Court

07/05/2021

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.472 OF 2021

About/from the judgment:

The Supreme Court observed that the framing charge or denying discharge order are not interlocutory or final and so , not affected by the bar as per Section 397(2) , Criminal Procedure Code.

The court directed the High Court to consider the matter afresh and remanded the case back to High Court while setting aside the order of High Court as well as disposed of the application.

Facts of the Case

The second respondent had filed a complaint with the police wherein it was alleged that in the journalistic investigation done by him , he found that alleged malpractices done by a gas agency and even sought Right To Information about certain details so as to do further investigation regarding the alleged black marketing by that gas agency. The appellant is a partner of that gas agency while second respondent is alleged to be a newspaper correspondent. It was further alleged that appellants had threatened to kill second respondent.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate denied to discharge the appellant under Section 504 as well as Section 506 , IPC.

A criminal revision petition was filed before the High Court whereby the court dismissed the same. Therefore this criminal appeal was filed before the top court.

Contention of the Parties

Learned Counsel for the appellant urged that prima facie, the story of the complainant seems dubious, for he initiated the phone call, put it on speaker, and had two witnesses ready to listen to the conversation. No call records had been sought by the police, affidavits of the witnesses were blindly accepted and no attempt was made to record their statements under Section 161 of CrPC. The Investigating Officer proceeded with a closed mind and casually overlooked the credentials of the complainant who is involved in seven criminal cases including under Sections 323, 504, and 506 of IPC. A letter from the Resident Editor of 'The Pioneer' was also produced, showing that the complainant was not employed with their newspaper around the time of the alleged incident.

On the other hand, Learned State Counsel urged that the allegations make for a clear case under Sections 504 and 506 of IPC and that no error was committed by the High Court of the CMJ.

Courts Observation & Judgment

The bench observed that the High Court committed jurisdictional error by not entertaining the revision petition on merits and overlooked the fact that 'discharge' is a valuable right provided to the accused. The Court on Asian Resurfacing Judgment said:

13... It appears to us that while limiting the scope of a criminal revision to jurisdictional errors alone, the High Court apparently under­appreciated the Judgment in Asian Resurfacing (supra). We say so at least for two reasons. First, 9 the material facts in the above­cited case dealt with a challenge to the charges framed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 ("POCA"). The cited judgment itself enlightens that not only is POCA a special legislation, but also contains a specific bar under Section 19 against routine exercise of revisional jurisdiction. Second, This Court in Asian Resurfacing (Supra) while expressing concern regarding the need to tackle rampant pendency and delays in our criminal law system, followed the ratio laid down in an earlier decision in Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra.

The Court observed that orders framing charges or refusing discharge are neither interlocutory nor final in nature.

The bench added that the High Court is imbued with inherent jurisdiction to prevent abuse of process or to secure ends of justice having regard to the facts and circumstance of individual cases. Referring to Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra (1977) 4 SCC 551, the bench observed:

15...The correct position of law as laid down in Madhu Limaye (supra), thus, is that orders framing charges or refusing discharge are neither interlocutory nor final in nature and are therefore not affected by the bar of Section 397 (2) of CrPC. That apart, this Court in the above­cited cases has unequivocally acknowledged that the High Court is imbued with inherent jurisdiction to prevent abuse of process or to secure ends of justice having regard to the facts and circumstance of individual cases. As a caveat it may be stated that the High Court, while exercising its afore­stated jurisdiction ought to be circumspect. The discretion vested in the High Court is to be invoked carefully and judiciously for effective and timely administration of criminal justice system. This Court, nonetheless, does not recommend a complete hands off approach. Albeit, there should be interference, may be, in exceptional cases, failing which there is likelihood of serious prejudice to the rights of a citizen. For example, when the contents of a complaint or the other purported material on record is a brazen attempt to persecute an 12 innocent person, it becomes imperative upon the Court to prevent the abuse of process of law.

The court remarked that the trial court while considering the discharge application is not to act as a mere post office.

"16... The Court has to sift through the evidence in order to find out whether there are sufficient grounds to try the suspect. The court has to consider the broad probabilities, total effect of evidence and documents produced and the basic infirmities appearing in the case and so on. [Union of India v. Prafulla Kumar Samal ]. Likewise, the Court has sufficient discretion to order further investigation in appropriate cases, if need be.

The bench taking note of the facts of the case proceeded to set aside the High Court order and remanded the case back for its reconsideration in accordance with law.

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