In Criminal Appeal No. 3618 of 2023 -SC- Courts are empowered to discharge accused if two views are equally possible and Judge is satisfied that the evidence produced gives rise to some suspicion, but not grave suspicion against the accused: Supreme Court
Justice Vikram Nath & Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah [28-11-2023]
New Delhi, November 29, 2023: The Supreme Court has discharged two appellants, a husband and wife, who were accused of locking the door of the complainant's shop, breaking the wall, and looting various items. The Court found that there was no suspicion, let alone strong or grave suspicion, that the appellants were guilty of the alleged offense.
In this appeal, the appellants had challenged the final judgment of the Allahabad High Court, which upheld the decision of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow, denying their request for discharge.
The counsel for the appellants had submitted that the FIR and subsequent legal actions were based on frivolous allegations intended to obstruct the appellants from enjoying their property rights. It was claimed that the allegations made by the complainant, who claimed to be the tenant of the property, were based on a fabricated document and that the police, in collusion with the complainant, submitted a charge sheet against the appellants despite the lack of evidence. The appellants also highlighted that a Court of Law found that an offence of forgery had been committed by the complainant, and despite this, their application for discharge was rejected by the Trial Court.
The division bench of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah observed that the document, which formed the basis of the complainant’s claim of tenancy, had been prima facie found to be forged and fabricated. Additionally, there was no other evidence to support the claim of possession by the complainant.
The bench concluded that, given these circumstances, the criminal case against the appellants, especially under Section 448, IPC, was on shaky ground. The bench expressed the firm view that, as appellant no. 2 was the undisputed landlord, the criminal case filed by the complainant amounted to a clear abuse of the process of the court. The bench also noted that the judgment of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow, was unreasoned as to why discharge was to be denied.
The bench further cited the case of Rumi Dhar v State of West Bengal [LQ/SC/2009/777], where the court had held that the Judge concerned with an application under Section 239, Cr.P.C. has to go into the details of the allegations made against each of the accused persons so as to form an opinion as to whether any case at all has been made out or not, as a strong suspicion in regard thereto shall subserve the requirements of law.
The bench also referred to the judgment rendered in Niranjan Singh Karam Singh Punjabi v Jitendra B Bijjaya [LQ/SC/1990/416], wherein it was acknowledged that, even at the initial stage, the court cannot be expected to accept everything the prosecution states as gospel truth if it goes against common sense or the broad probabilities of the case. It was emphasized that if a view gives rise to suspicion, as opposed to grave suspicion, the court is empowered to discharge the accused.
Regarding strong suspicion, the bench explained that it is the suspicion based on material that convinces the court as sufficient to entertain the prima facie view that the accused has committed the offense.
The bench held that in the present case, there was no suspicion, let alone strong or grave suspicion, that the appellants were guilty of the alleged offense. It was deemed unjustified to subject the appellants to a full-fledged criminal trial in this context.
The bench also emphasized the duty of protection against vexatious and unwarranted criminal prosecution. It was held that such protection was a responsibility placed on the High Courts and stated that the High Court should have intervened and discharged the appellants. However, the Court, acting as a vigilant guardian, decided to intervene and discharge the appellants, fulfilling its role as the sentinel on the qui vive.
Consequently, the appeal was allowed, and the High Court's impugned judgment and the Trial Court's order rejecting the prayer for discharge were set aside.
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