Read Order: Bhupinder Singh v. State of Punjab & Another
Chandigarh, February 10, 2022: In a case where the National Lok Adalat, while rejecting a cancellation report filed by the Police against an accused declaring him innocent, directed further probe in the matter, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the National Lok Adalat did not have the jurisdiction to pass such an order directing the further investigation and that the Lok Adalat could only pass an order on the basis of a compromise entered into between the parties.
The Bench of Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill thus adjudged,“The Lok Adalat could have jurisdiction in case any order was to be passed on the basis of a compromise, but once the complainant had expressed his reservations and had specifically recorded that he is not satisfied with the investigation, the proper course for the Lok Adalat would have been to send the matter back to the Court concerned i.e. the Illaqa Magistrate for passing appropriate orders instead of passing an order itself for further investigation.”
The factual matrix of the matter is as such that the complainant along with three others (including petitioner- Bhupinder Singh) constituted a partnership for the purpose of liquor/ wine business. A formal partnership deed was executed between them. A bank account was also opened in the name of the partnership firm, wherein the complainant along with two other partners (including petitioner Bhupinder Singh) agreed to be the authorized signatories and the cheques were required to be signed by all three partners together.
Allegedly, the petitioner- Bhupinder Singh was paid a certain sum from the funds of his partnership, by the other partners of the firm on account of his daughter’s wedding. It was further alleged that the petitioner stole one blank cheque kept in the office of the firm for meeting any urgent financial exigencies and after misusing the same, he allegedly made false complaints under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act against the complainant and one of the partners of the firm. While the other partner compromised the matter, the complainant contested the same and was ultimately acquitted by the Trial Court.
Later, the complainant came to know that an Income Tax Refund Voucher favouring his firm was received at the address of the firm, however, the petitioner got hold of it; he signed on its back and deposited the amount in the bank, Later he withdrew the amount from the bank account of the firm by forging the complainant’s signatures.
Hence, the complainant filed a complaint that led to the registration of an FIR under Sections 406/420 IPC. The investigation began, during the course of which the disputed signatures were examined in the Forensic Science Laboratory and as per its report the disputed signatures, as well as the standard signatures, bore similarities. Thus, pursuant to the conclusion of the investigation, a cancellation report was filed by the police before the Area Magistrate.
However, the matter was put up before the National Lok Adalat which rejected the cancellation report filed by the Police and directed further investigation in the matter. Hence, the present petition was filed for quashing the FIR and the impugned order of the Lok Adalat.
The petitioner’s counsel submitted that the FIR, as well as the impugned order, could not be sustained particularly in view of the report of the FSL as per which the signatures of the complainant on the cheque in question bore similarities with the specimen signatures of the complainant.
The Court after perusing the impugned order opined that the same could not be sustained on the dual ground of the order being a ‘non-speaking’ one and on being passed by the National Lok Adalat without having any jurisdiction to pass a judicial order of this nature.
“The Lok Adalat would be competent to pass only an order based on a compromise amongst the parties”, the Bench asserted.
Thus, considering the fact that the order was ‘non-speaking’ and was passed by the Lok Adalat without any jurisdiction, the Court set aside the impugned order and the matter was remanded back to the Area Magistrate with a direction to consider the cancellation report afresh and to pass an appropriate.