Read Judgment: SHAFIYA KHAN @ SHAKUNTALA PRAJAPATI vs. State of U.P & Anr. 

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, February 11, 2022: While hearing an appeal relating to accusations of cheating, criminal intimidation and hiding factum of her previous marriage raised against a widowed wife, the Supreme Court has opined that when no offence of any kind as has been alleged in the FIR filed by the complainant, has been made out against the complainee, then allowing criminal proceedings to continue will be nothing but a clear abuse of the process of law. 

Thus, continuance of such proceedings against Shafiya Khan – a widow (Appellant) who has a small child, will be a mental trauma to her which has been completely overlooked by the High Court while dismissing the petition filed at her instance u/s 482 CrPC, added the Court.   

A Division Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Abhay S. Oka observed that although it was not open for the Court to embark upon any enquiry as to the reliability or genuineness of the allegations made in the FIR, but at least there has to be some factual supporting material for what has been alleged in the FIR. 

Going by the background of the case, Appellant at age of 17 was married to one Shiv Gobind Prajapati with whom she never stayed. In the divorce petition which was filed by Gobind, it was admitted that the marriage was never consummated and this marriage was dissolved through Village Panchayat in 2014 and thereafter he married another woman, Suman Prajapati and this marriage being voidable u/s 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Section 3 of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 was dissolved and annulled by the families of appellant and Shiv Gobind Prajapati.

The appellant treating her marriage to be annulled for all practical purposes, while doing her studies in Lucknow, met Mohd. Shameem Khan and they got married under Sharia law in presence of entire family of her late husband, including second respondent/complainant, against the wishes of her family. From this marriage, the appellant gave birth to a male child. Unfortunately, her husband passed away and after the appellant obtained succession certificate in her name and no objection was given by her mother-in-law to the employer of Mohd. Shameem Khan, she got employment in King George Medical University, Lucknow, as Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (A.N.M.) on compassionate grounds. 

The entire gratuity amount of Rs.4,60,000/- of her late husband was transferred by her to the bank account of her mother-in-law. Later, she was thrown out of her matrimonial home with an eleven months old child. After more than a year, at the instance of second respondent, an FIR came to be registered against the appellant for offences u/s 494, 495, 416, 420, 504 & 506 IPC. Anticipatory bail was granted to the appellant and after charge-sheet came to be filed, the Trial Judge took cognizance of the same and summoned the appellant, who approached the High Court u/s 482 CrPC for quashing of the proceedings, but that came to be dismissed. Hence, present appeal. 

After considering the submissions, the Top Court found that exposition of law on the subject relating to the exercise of the extraordinary power under Article 226 of the Constitution or the inherent power u/s 482 CrPC are well settled and to the possible extent, this Court has defined sufficiently channelized guidelines, to give an exhaustive list of myriad kinds of cases wherein such power should be exercised.

The power of quashing of criminal proceedings should be exercised very sparingly and with circumspection and that too in rarest of the rare cases and such inherent powers do not confer any arbitrary jurisdiction on the Court to act according to its whims and fancies, added the Court. 

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Rastogi found that there was no material placed on record by the complainant to justify the bald allegations which were made in the complaint on the basis of which FIR was registered.

The documentary evidence on record clearly supports that Appellant’s Nikah Nama was duly registered and issued by competent authority and even the charge sheet filed against her does not prima facie discloses how the marriage certificate was forged, added the Bench. 

Hence, the Apex Court allowed the appeal and quashed the criminal proceedings initiated against the appellant in reference to FIR. 

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