Neither criminal breach of trust nor cheating by impersonation: Apex Court quashes FIR registered against School Principal accused of siphoning & embezzling money received as fee
Justices B.V. Nagarathna & Augustine George Masih [24-01-2024]




Tulip Kanth


New Delhi, February 9, 2024: While observing that the allegations of embezzling fees of the students amounting to Rs13 crorehad been made with a malafide intent, the Supreme Court has quashed a case registered against the Principal of the Bishop Johnson School and College, Lucknow.


The facts of the case suggested that the Complainant-Respondent No.2 registered an FIRunder Sections 406, 419, 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code registered against the the accused-Appellant, Vishal Noble Singh, Principal of the Bishop Johnson School and College, a minority educational institution governed by the Diocese Education Board, Lucknow (DEB) he Accused-Appellant, Vinod Bihari Lal, is the Secretary of DEB. Another Accused-Appellant was the Secretary of DEB, Vinod Bihari Lal.


The Secretaries and other officers of CNI and DEB, in collusion with the Accused-Appellants, were fraudulently running the institution by fabricating matriculation and other documents.The institution was functioning without affiliation from the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) Board.The Accused-Appellants and the co-accused persons were embezzling fees paid by many girl students to the extent of Rs.13 crores.


Upon registration of the FIR, the Accused-Appellant, Vishal Noble Singh, filed a petition before the Allahabad High Court which granted interim relief against his arrest. The Investigating Officer registered a charge sheet under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on concluding that sufficient grounds were present to prosecute the Accused-Appellants and other co-accused. Therefore, the Officer requested for summoning the witnesses and evidence. The High Court dismissed the Writ Petition for want of prosecution. In view of the chargesheet, the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Allahabad passed an order whereby it took cognizance of the offences and summoned the Accused- Appellants. The appeals, before the Top Court, were filed challenging the High Court’s Order dismissing the applications preferred by the Accused-Appellants under Section 482.


The accused-appellants contended that the chargesheet was nothing but a replica of the FIR and even on a combined reading of the said documents, no offence whatsoever had been made out as against the Accused-Appellants. It was submitted that this is a case where on account of total prejudice and with a mala fide intent the complaint was registered against the Accused-Appellants herein; the FIR, the chargesheet and the subsequent proceedings may be quashed.


On the contrary, the State Counsel submitted that the school is being run without any recognition or affiliation as an independent school and therefore, the second respondent rightly initiated criminal proceedings against the Accused-Appellants herein.


It was alleged that the Secretary of DEB Vinod Bihari Lal and other office bearers of the DEP have, in collusion with the Principal of the School Vishal Singh and another, conspired and on the affiliation of Bishop Johnson College, Civil Lines Bishop Johnson Girls Wing, Katra is being run fraudulently by preparing fabricated documents and by illegally making Srimati Yojna Lal, Principal of Girls Wing while playing with the future of thousands of girl students who have taken admission and siphoned of all the money received in fee and are distributing it among themselves and embezzling it.


The final report also echoed the very same allegations to the effect that the accused, on the basis of fabricated and forged documents, had operated this School since 2014 and had collected fees from girl students and distributed the same among themselves. The Investigating Officer had stated that he found “sufficient evidence”.


The Division Bench of Justice B.V. Nagarathna & Justice Augustine George Masih opined that on a reading of the FIR as well as the charge-sheet, itdid not find that the offences aforestatedwas made out at all. The Top Court did not find any criminal breach of trust nor any cheating by impersonation. There was also no cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, nor any documents referred to any forgery or security or any forgery for the purpose of cheating.


The Bench failed to understand as to how the allegations against the appellants herein could be brought within the scope and ambit of Sections 406, 419, 420, 467, 468, 471 and Section 120B of the IPC.


Noting that the allegations of criminal intent and other allegations against the Accused-Appellants herein had been made with a malafide intent, the Bench opined that the judgment in the case of State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lalwould squarely apply to the facts of the cases. It is neither expedient nor in the interest of justice to permit the present prosecution to continue, the Bench added.


“We find that in recent years the machinery of criminal justice is being misused by certain persons for their vested interests and for achieving their oblique motives and agenda. Courts have therefore to be vigilant against such tendencies and ensure that acts of omission and commission having an adverse impact on the fabric of our society must be nipped in the bud”, the Bench said while also adding, “…while the second respondent-complainant has made grave allegations against the appellants herein and on whose behalf a charge-sheet has also been filed against such allegations has failed to appear before this Court to justify the same. Such acts would not only cause deep fissures and mistrust between people and also unnecessarily burden the law courts and the criminal justice system.”


The Top Court was also of the view that the respondent-complainant having made the allegations against the appellants and others had failed to appear before the Court to justify the same. “The non-appearance of the second respondent before this Court is indicative of his prejudicial attitude and temperament and his inability to justify any of the allegations against the appellants herein and therefore his absence in this proceeding.”


Observing that the High Court ought not to have relied upon Neeharika Infrastructure (P) Ltd. vs. State of Maharashtra,to deny the relief to the present Accused-Appellants, the Bench quashed the FIR, the chargesheet and all consequent proceedings initiated pursuant thereto.


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