Criminal complaints cannot be quashed merely because allegations appear to be of a civil nature
Sau Kamal Shivaji Pokarnekar Vs The State of Maharashtra and Ors
Criminal Appeal No. 255 of 2019 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 7513 of 2014)
About/from the judgment:
"If the ingredients of the offence alleged against the accused are prima facie made out in the complaint, the criminal proceeding shall not be interdicted."
The Supreme Court has observed that criminal complaints cannot be quashed only on the ground that the allegations made therein appear to be of a civil nature.
The bench said that, if the ingredients of the offence alleged against the accused are prima facie made out in the complaint, the criminal proceeding shall not be interdicted by invoking powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In the complaint, the complainant had accused the developers of forgery and preparing false documents on the basis of which a development agreement came into existence. The Magistrate sent the complaint for investigation under Section 156 (3) of the Code. The police submitted a report stating that the matter appeared to be of a civil nature.
The Trial Court issued summons to the accused. Later, the High Court quashed the order issuing summons, holding that the dispute is of a civil nature, and criminal proceedings against the accused would be an abuse of the process of law.
The Apex Court bench, in the appeal filed by the complainant (Kamal Shivaji Pokarnekar vs. State of Maharashtra), observed that, if it appears on a reading of the complaint and consideration of the allegations therein, in the light of the statement made on oath that the ingredients of the offence are disclosed, there would be no justification for the High Court to interfere. The court added that, at this stage, the magistrate is not required to evaluate the merits of the material or evidence in support of the complaint, because the Magistrate must not undertake the exercise to find out whether the materials would lead to a conviction or not. The bench said:
"Defences that may be available, or facts/aspects which when established during the trial, may lead to acquittal, are not grounds for quashing the complaint at the threshold. At that stage, the only question relevant is whether the averments in the complaint spell out the ingredients of a criminal offence or not."
The bench also rejected the submission made by Senior Advocate R. Basant who defended the High Court judgment contending that the dispute is essentially of a civil nature and the ingredients of the offences that are alleged are not made out. The bench, perusing the complaint, said:
"A perusal of the complaint discloses that prima facie, offences that are alleged against the Respondents. The correctness or otherwise of the said allegations has to be decided only in the Trial. At the initial stage of issuance of process it is not open to the Courts to stifle the proceedings by entering into the merits of the contentions made on behalf of the accused. Criminal complaints cannot be quashed only on the ground that the allegations made therein appear to be of a civil nature. If the ingredients of the offence alleged against the accused are prima facie made out in the complaint, the criminal proceeding shall not be interdicted."
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