Read Judgment: Ramveer Upadhyay & Anr v. State of U.P. & Anr

Tulip Kanth

New Delhi, April 22, 2022: The Supreme Court has held that criminal proceedings cannot be nipped in the bud by exercise of jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. only because the complaint has been lodged by a political rival.

The Division Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice A.S.Bopanna observed this while dismissing a special leave petition against a final judgment and order dated March 7, 2022 passed by the Allahabad High Court dismissing the application filed by the Petitioner under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Therein, the Petitioner had challenged the order of the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Hathras taking cognizance of the complaint filed by the second Respondent under Section 365 r/w Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 3(1)(Dha) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989.

In the year 2010, wife of the second Respondent had filed a complaint before the District Magistrate stating that her husband had been abducted by the brothers of the first Petitioner to forcibly make him vote in favor of their party, in the MLC election of 2010. In the said complaint it was alleged that the Petitioner had abused the second-Respondent by his caste, using filthy language. After investigation, the Police opined that no incident of abduction, as alleged had taken place, and the complaint had been filed out of political animosity.

After this, a case was registered against the Ex-MLA for the alleged killing of a supporter of the first Petitioner. It was alleged that the police didn’t take much action in this case. Thereafter, the second respondent filed an application under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C alleging that the first Petitioner along with 6­7 other persons had abused him in filthy language .In 2021, the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Hathras took cognizance of the charges against the Petitioners and issued summons to the Petitioners. But, the High Court later rejected the application filed by the Petitioners for quashing the proceedings under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C .Aggrieved, the petitioners filed this appeal.

The main contention of the petitioners was that the present case was a classic example of malicious prosecution of the petitioners, who had been embroiled in a false criminal case, due to political animosity as the complaint under the Atrocities Act had been filed by the second Respondent at the instance of an  Ex­-MLA  and a political opponent of the first Petitioner.

The Bench accepted the fact that there was apparently political rivalry between the first Petitioner and the Ex-MLA but also noted that the complaint had been lodged against the Petitioners, not by the Ex- MLA but by the second Respondent who is a Dhobi by caste, which is a scheduled caste. As per the Bench, it could not be said that the allegations in the complaint did not make out an offence under the Atrocities Act as it was specifically alleged that the Petitioners had abused the second Respondent in filthy language by making reference to his caste. The allegations if established, could result in conviction, added the Bench.

However, the Bench also considered the aspect that it was possible that Complaint Case may have been prompted by political vendetta against the first Petitioner as the second Respondent was an employee of the Ex-MLA. But, it was also noted that the allegations in the complaint case made out an offence under Section 3 of the Atrocities Act and so it would not be proper to nip the complaint in the bud, more so, when there were statements recorded in Court under Section 200 of the Cr.P.C.

“Even though, the inherent power of the High Court under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C., to interfere with criminal proceedings is wide, such power has to be exercised with circumspection, in exceptional cases. Jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C is not to be exercised for the asking”, remarked the Bench.

Affirming that the possibility of retaliation on the part of the petitioners by the acts alleged, after closure of the earlier criminal case couldnot be ruled out, the Top Court, however, noted that the allegations in the complaint constituted offence under the Attrocities Act.  It was also opined by the Court that the question of the allegations being true or untrue would have to be decided in the trial. 

The Bench referred to the opinion of Justice Bhagwati in Sheonandan Paswan v. State of Bihar and Others  which said that the complaint may have been initiated by reason of political vendetta, but that in itself is not a ground for quashing the criminal proceedings. It is a well established proposition of law that a criminal prosecution, if otherwise justified and based upon adequate evidence, does not become vitiated on account of mala fides or political vendetta of the first informant or complainant. The Bench acknowledged that the view of Justice Bhagawti, in Sheonandan Paswan’s Case (supra) was the minority view but there was no difference of opinion with regard to this finding.

The Division Bench said, “In our considered opinion criminal proceedings cannot be nipped in the bud by exercise of jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. only because the complaint has been lodged by a political rival.”

Clarifying that in exercise of power under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C., the Court does not examine the correctness of the allegations in a complaint except in exceptionally rare cases where it is patently clear that the allegations are frivolous or do not disclose any offence, the Bench held that the Complaint Case was not one which should be quashed at the inception itself without further Trial. 

Dismissing the Special Leave Petition, the Division Bench emphasized that the High Court had rightly dismissed the application under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. Considering that the first Petitioner is a patient of lung cancer and is on strong medication, the Apex Court mentioned that the the Trial Court may consider exempting the personal appearance of the first Petitioner if such an application is made to the Trial Court.

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