Read Order: Ram Bhul v. State of Haryana and Others 

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, June 15,2022: While dealing with two quashing petitions wherein the petitioner was raising arguments on weighing evidence, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the High Court, while exercising its jurisdiction under  Section 482 Cr.P.C., would not ordinarily take upon itself the burden of ascertaining the correctness of respective versions of the parties and to pre judge the investigation on the basis of the probabilities propounded by the respective parties. The Court also held that such an exercise is neither warranted nor desirable under Section 482 CrPC and the correctness of either of the versions is yet to be determined by the Investigating Agency.

The Bench of Justice Vinod S. Bhardwaj held,”The question as to probative value of the defence version or the allegations levelled by the complainant cannot be examined by the Court in exercise of its power under Section 482 Cr.P.C. Such an exercise, if undertaken, would amount to pre-empting an investigation and pre-judging a case. Out of the two versions, which of the two, is a more probable version is a matter of scrutiny of evidence and cannot be looked into by the High Court under Section 482 Cr. P.C.”

It was also held that merely because a dispute has civil overtones as well, it would not be sufficient to invoke the power under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The Court was dealing with two miscellaneous petitions, one seeking the quashing of an FIR registered under Sections 420, 465, 468, 471 and 120-B of IPC, while on the other hand, the second FIR was registered under Sections 323, 452 and 427 of the IPC. 

The first FIR was registered by the complainant Varun Goyal who alleged that he rented out some portions of his land and the ground floor to the petitioner. It was alleged that the original lease deed was registered in 2019 and that one day, he came to know of the fact that the petitioner uprooted old trees and plants in that portion of the complainant’s property which was beyond the boundaries of the rented premises. 

The second FIR was registered at the instance of the above-mentioned complainant’s father alleging the same occurrence but with more elaborate details regarding the lease deed and the rent amount etc. 

The primary issue that was raised by counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner was to the effect that the dispute in question was primarily civil in nature and that the registration of the criminal case was an abuse of process of law. Reliance was placed on the suit filed by the petitioner qua injunction and a declaratory suit filed by the respondent- complainant as also to the eviction proceedings initiated by the respondent- complainant. 

Addressing this argument, the Court was of the considered view that in the case relating to cheating and fraud, there is generally some element of civil nature.  

Further, after considering a plethora of decisions, the Court asserted that merely because a dispute has civil overtones as well, it would not be sufficient to invoke the power under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Next, the Court noted that it was alleged in the second FIR the petitioner connived with the officials of the office of the Sub-Registrar and made some changes in the supplementary agreement and also forged the signatures of the complainant. In response, the petitioner argued that a registered document has to be given  preference as regards its legitimacy and hence, the allegations of the respondent-complainant ought to be disregarded.

Addressing this set of argument, the Court observed that the question as to probative value of the defence version or the allegations levelled by the complainant cannot be examined by the Court in exercise of its power under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and such an exercise, if undertaken, would amount to pre-empting an investigation and pre-judging a case. 

Additionally, it was held that out of the two versions, which of the two, is a more probable version is a matter of scrutiny of evidence and cannot be looked into by the High Court under Section 482 Cr. P.C. 

The admissibility of a document in evidence on account of it being registered would not ipso facto be sufficient to discard the allegations of the respondent-complainant altogether. The probabilities relied upon by the petitioner are at best a probable defence, however, the same cannot be accepted as a gospel truth to disregard the allegations of the complainant even at the stage where the matter is still under investigation.”

Further, on the facet of safeguards to be considered on the exercise of power under Section 482 Cr.P.C., the Court was of the opinion that for the purpose of invoking jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C., it must be shown to the Court that the allegations, even if accepted in its entirety, do not make out a criminal case and that where the petitioner urges a Court to weigh the probative value of the allegations levelled in the version as defence, the same would be an exercise in ascertaining the dispute in 

question of fact. 

The High Court, while exercising its jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C., would not ordinarily enter into the said arena and to take upon itself the burden of ascertaining the correctness of respective versions and to pre judge the investigation on the basis of the probabilities propounded by the respective parties. Such an exercise is neither warranted nor desirable under Section 482 Cr.P.C.”, held Justice Bhardwaj while further asserting that the correctness of either of the versions is yet to be determined by the Investigating Agency and that the objection of the petitioner to the pace of investigation, or to the deficiencies in the investigation or against the direction of the investigation is not sufficient for a Court to quash the FIR and all other proceedings arising therefrom during the process of investigation itself.

Also, elaborating upon this limb of the observation, it was held that such undue haste in culling the criminal proceedings have a greater potential of doing much harm and tend to allure the Court into opining on a case pre-maturely when the investigation has not yet been concluded. 

Thus, it was held, 

It is not for the High Court to ascertain as to what evidence may be collected or ought to be collected by the Investigating Agency during the course of its investigation. Whether an offence is made out or not and whether the power under Section 482 Cr.P.C. in a case of such a nature has to be exercised can only be seen after the investigation is complete and the entire evidence/material sought to be relied upon by the prosecution to prove its case is collected and filed as a part of a report under  Section 173 Cr.P.C.”

Coming to the present case, the Court was of the opinion that a mere allegation that the initiation of the criminal proceedings was perpetuated by an intense desire to pressurise the petitioner would not be fully established and that such a plea of motive has to be accepted with circumspection and greater caution as the same is a double edged sword.

Lastly, while holding that the Court is not required to examine the probative value of  the respective documents and to record a finding discarding one version in preference to the other, as such an exercise should not be ordinarily undertaken by the High Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C. more so when the allegations are still under investigation and have not yet been conclusively determined, the instant petitions were dismissed. 

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