Read Order: Harneet Kaur v. State of Haryana & Another
Chandigarh, April 28, 2022: While dealing with a quashing plea impugning a time barred FIR which was registered against the petitioner under Section 10 of Haryana Development and Regulations of Urban Areas Act, 1975 (HUDA Act) after the expiry of five years since the information of commission of the alleged offence came to the knowledge of the authority, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that since Section 10 of the HUDA Act prescribes maximum sentence of three years, therefore, in terms of Section 468 CrPC the limitation period for taking cognizance of such offence is also three years.
The Bench of Justice Jasjit Singh Bedi held, “Therefore, in the present case the report under Section 173 Cr.PC was submitted… almost after 06 years of the discovery of the offence…. Thus, the court could clearly not have taken cognizance beyond the period of limitation prescribed under Section 468 Cr.P.C.”
In this case, the doors of the Court were knocked by the petitioner with a quahsing plea under Section 482 Cr.PC for quashing of FIR registered against her under Section 10 of HUDA Act at Police Station Sadar, Thanesar, District Kurukshetra along with all consequential proceedings emanating therefrom.
The brief facts of the case are that petitioner was the owner in possession of agricultural land situated within the revenue estate of village Bajidpur, Tehsil Thanesar, District Kurukshetra. He sold this land to 04 persons (Sh. Gagan Chawla, Rakesh Kumar, Sh. Mata Ram and Smt. Renu).
The vendees purchased this land jointly for a total sale consideration of Rs. 28 lacs 75 thousand vide a registered sale deed. Much after the execution of this sale deed, the second respondent allegedly sent a back dated letter to the Superintendent of Police, Kurukshetra requesting therein to register an FIR under Section 10 of the HUDA Act against the petitioner. Acting on this complaint, the said FIR was registered.
As per the petitioner, the police registered the FIR without conducting an enquiry into the matter and further without conducting any fair investigation presented the charge-sheet against the petitioner, based on charges came to be framed against the petitioner.
It was the case of the petitioner’s counsel that the petitioner did not carve out any plot or divide the land into plots for residential/industrial/commercial purposes. That being so, the Counsel argued that no question of obtaining the licence under Section 3 of the HUDA Act would arise. It was further argued that since the petitioner sold the agricultural land in the name of four persons jointly, it could not be said that the land was sold in the shape of plots. Further, it was added that in the sale deed nowhere was it mentioned as to which area was sold to which buyer.
He further contended that there was delay of more than five years in lodging the FIR (registered in 2016) against the petitioner because the sale deed was executed in 2011 and thus the authorities had the knowledge of commission of the offence in 2011 itself. The report under Section 173 Cr.PC came to be submitted in 2017, the Counsel thus contended that the registration of the FIR was barred by limitation and court could not have taken cognizance of the same.
On the other hand, the respondent’s counsel argued that the sale deed was executed in favour of four persons who were not related to each other and, therefore, though ostensibly the land was sold jointly, but in reality the petitioner sold the land/plots to them separately but in a clandestine manner. The sale deed was registered jointly in their names just to circumvent the provisions of the HUDA Act, added the Counsel.
Further, it was contended that the petitioner contravened the provisions of Clause 7(i) of the HUDA Act. It was further contended that it was only when the matter came to the knowledge of the respondent, that information was supplied to the police and, therefore, there was no delay on the part of the second respondent.
After considering rival submissions, the Court, at the very outset, perused the relevant portions of Section 3, Section 7(i) and Section 10 of the HUDA Act. From such perusal of Section 10 of the HUDA Act, the Court inferred that the maximum sentence prescribed in that section is three years and in terms of Section 468 Cr.PC the limitation period for taking cognizance is also three years.
Thus, in order to ascertain whether the FIR was time barred, the Court looked at the important event of the case with their timeline. In this respect, the Court noted that the sale deed in the case was executed on April 28, 2011. From a perusal of the FIR, the Court concluded that a show cause notice was issued to the petitioner on December 01, 2011 or December 13, 2011.
Quite interestingly, it was noted by the Court that a communication dated February 23, 2012 was sent by the DTP, Kurukshetra to Superintendent of Police, Kurukshetra on September 28, 2016 leading to the registration of the FIR on the next day (September 29, 2016). It was also noted that the charge-sheet in the present case was submitted on August 17, 2017.
Thus, from a perusal of the dates as enumerated hereinabove, the Court concluded that the second respondent was aware of the alleged offence, if any, on either December 01 pr on December 13, 2011 and, therefore, the court could have taken cognizance within three years of that date i.e. December 01, 2014 or December 13, 2014.
Therefore, the Court was of the considered opinion that in the present case the report under Section 173 Cr.PC was submitted almost after 6 years (August 17, 2017) of the discovery of the offence. Thus, the High Court concluded that the Lower Court could clearly not have taken cognizance beyond the period of limitation prescribed under Section 468 Cr.P.C.
In view of the aforesaid settled legal position, the present petition was allowed and the FIR and other proceedings were quashed.