Read Order: Syed Yaseer Ibrahim vs. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr. 

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, March 7, 2022:  Finding that none of the ingredients of the offence punishable u/s 420 of IPC existed after the completion of investigation, and neither the FIR nor the charge-sheet contained any reference to the essential requirements underlying Section 420, the Supreme Court has opined that the continuation of prosecution against Syed Ibrahim (Appellant) would amount to an abuse of the process where a civil dispute is sought to be given the colour of a criminal wrongdoing.

A Division Bench of Justice Dr. Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant observed that execution of a sale deed, during the pendency of the suit, might attract the doctrine of lis pendens, but, from reading the charge-sheet as it stood, it was evident that there was no element of criminality which could stand attracted in a matter which essentially involved a civil dispute. 

Going by the background of the case, Appellant claimed title to certain immovable property on the basis of a gift deed dated January 2, 2002. In 2008, a person by the name of Azim Wasif instituted a suit against the appellant seeking a declaration of title and possession of the suit property. The plaintiff in that suit founded his claim on the basis of a Will alleged to have been executed by the brother of the appellant’s maternal grandfather. Initially, in 2009, the First Additional Civil Judge allowed the application under Order XXXIX Rules 1 and 2 of the CPC, 1908 and directed the parties to maintain status quo over the disputed property. Later, in 2010, the appellant entered into an agreement to sell the property with Mohd Naeem and Nitin Gupta, which was to take effect after the disposal of the suit in favour of the appellant. 

In 2014, the appellant was alleged to have executed a sale deed in respect of the suit property. Later, in 2020, an FIR was registered by the second respondent claiming as holder of a Special Power of Attorney executed by Wasif, who had instituted the declaratory suit, who alleged that the appellant committed an offence punishable u/s 420 of IPC. The matter reached the High Court which dismissed the petition on the ground that disputed questions of facts arise which could not be adjudicated in the proceedings u/s 482 of CrPC

After considering the submissions, the Top Court found that both the FIR and the charge-sheet, which has been submitted after investigation, would leave no manner of doubt that there are rival contentions of the appellant, on the one hand, and the second respondent, who is the complainant, on the other, which form the subject of a pending suit. 

The contesting parties laid a claim to the immovable property, which was in dispute, and the appellant founded his claim on the strength of an alleged deed of gift, and on the other hand, the second respondent had claimed on the basis of a Will alleged to have been executed in his favour, added the Court. 

The Top Court further found that the second respondent had instituted a suit for declaration and possession which was pending. 

The suit was dismissed in default on 13 October 2014. The sale deed was executed by the appellant on 24 November 2014. The suit has been restored to file on 21 April 2016. Each of the rival claims would be tested in the course of the evidence adduced at the trial of the suit. Mr Sanjay Singh submitted that since the sale took place during the pendency of the suit, doctrine of lis pendens will apply. This itself is an indicator of the position that it is essentially a dispute of a civil nature”, added the Court. 

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal. 

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