Monday, 29 January 2018

Whether civil court can direct investigation U/S 156 of CRPC against plaintiff?

It is also significant to mention that, the impugned order directing the investigation under section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. came to be passed by the learned Civil Judge against the original plaintiff on bare protest application tendered by defendant (respondent No. 2-herein) on his appearance in the civil proceeding. The very purpose of filing the application by the defendants was to deny or traverse the pleadings of the plaintiffs made in the suit and not to set the criminal law in motion. In general, in each and every civil proceeding there are allegations against each other by the parties to the proceeding. But, it does not mean that in every proceeding the concerned civil court has to exercise the powers of Magistrate as contemplated under the Cr.P.C. for initiating criminal proceeding against the original plaintiffs. In case, after filing civil proceeding for any relief of civil nature against the defendants, the plaintiffs are forced to face criminal proceedings, on the allegations nurtured on behalf of the defendants, it would, create a very unhealthy atmosphere and would open the flood-gates of such type of unscrupulous and unprincipled litigation/complaints to harass the plaintiffs in such civil proceedings, and nobody would dare to come forward to seek reliefs from the civil courts of law. It may also result in cynical disregard of law which would have impact on the society and people may lose faith from the judicial system.

21. The impugned order under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. passed on bare protest application of respondent No. 2 filed in the civil proceedings is not amenable within the purview of legal provisions. The action on the part of the concerned civil court, appears deprecative and unsustainable one. The plaintiff should not be victimized or exploited at any point of time and cost, on his approaching to the civil court for seeking justice. In case, defendant would have any grievance of penal nature he may take recourse of remedy available under Criminal Procedure Code and file separate complaint for penal action against the miscreants. We find force in the submission canvassed on behalf of applicants that the impugned order is erroneous, imperfect, perverse and liable to be quashed and set aside.

IN THE HIGH COURT OF BOMBAY (AURANGABAD BENCH)

Criminal Application No. 3740 of 2014

Decided On: 24.03.2017

 Harischandra and Ors. Vs. The State of Maharashtra and Ors.

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
S.S. Shinde and K.K. Sonawane, JJ.



1. Heard. Rule. Rule made returnable forthwith. Matter is taken up for final hearing with the consent of parties.

This is a unique case where the Civil Judge (J.D.), while exercising jurisdiction of the Civil Court, dealing with the civil proceeding, i.e. R.C.S. No. 61 of 2014, ventured to utilize the powers of a Magistrate as envisaged under the Code of Criminal Procedure, and proceeded to direct investigation under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. barely on the protest application filed on behalf of the defendants in the suit.

2. The applicant moved the present application under section 482 of Cr.P.C. to quash and set aside the impugned order passed under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. as well as consequential proceeding of FIR bearing Crime No. 3/14, registered with Bardapur Police Station, under Section 3(1)(g), 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(z) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (hereinafter referred to as, "the Atrocities Act, 1989" for sake of brevity) and Section 506 r/w. 34 of IPC.

3. It has been contended that the applicants are owner and in possession of agricultural land Gat No. 176, located at village Nandgaon, Tahsil Ambejogai. There was no access for ingress and egress to the land Gat No. 176 of the applicants. Therefore, in the year 2006 the applicants purchased the portion of adjoining land Gat No. 175, from one Prayagabai Chavan. The Mutation entry of the same was also effected in the revenue record. Since purchase of the land applicants were utilizing it for going to their land Gat No. 176. The portion of land Gut No. 175 belonging to respondent No. 2 Ashok Shinde and his brothers was located abutting to the land of applicants. The respondents always used to create obstruction in the path way created from the land of applicants bearing Gut No. 176. Therefore, the applicants instituted the civil proceedings bearing R.C.S. No. 61 of 2014 and claimed the relief of declaration and injunction against the respondent No. 2 and his family members. The learned Civil Judge (Junior Division) Ambejogai, issued the suit summons to the defendants i.e. respondent No. 2-herein and his family members for appearance in the proceeding. Accordingly, on receipt of the summons, respondent No. 2 being defendant No. 1 caused his appearance in the proceedings before the Civil Judge, Junior Division, Ambejogai.

4. However, while putting his appearance in civil proceeding RCS No. 61 of 2014, respondent No. 2 filed an application-cum-memorandum before the Civil Court and ventilated the grievances against the plaintiffs/applicants herein. The learned Civil Judge appreciated the grievance of respondent No. 2-Ashok Shinde and issued directions to the Bardapur Police to investigate under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. Pursuant to the directions of the learned civil Judge (J.D.), Ambejogai, Police of Bardapur Police Station, registered Crime No. 3 of 2014 for the offences under the Atrocities Act, 1989 and set the investigation into motion.

5. Being aggrieved by the impugned order of directing police to investigate under Section 156(3) and resultant registration of Crime No. 3 of 2014, the applicants invoking remedy under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. preferred the present application and put in controversy the legality, validity and propriety of the impugned order, passed under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. and consequential registration of crime No. 3 of 2014, before this Court.

6. The learned counsel for the applicants vehemently submitted that the impugned order passed under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. by the learned Civil Judge is erroneous, illegal and not within the ambit of law. The Civil Judge while exercising the powers of a civil court has no authority to pass such order under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. According to learned counsel the application-cum-complaint of respondent No. 2 came to be filed being the written statement/say of defendant in the civil proceeding i.e. R.C.S. No. 61 of 2014. The application was filed with an intention to traverse the pleadings of the plaintiff. It was not a complaint or petition under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. Therefore, the action of the learned Civil Judge, directing the police of Bardapur police to investigate under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. is perverse, illegal and not within the ambit of law. The applicants/plaintiff filed the suit for the relief of declaration and injunction and in such civil nature of proceedings, without giving opportunity to the plaintiffs, the learned Civil Judge ventured to initiate criminal prosecution by exercising the powers under section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. at the instance of defendants. It would cause injustice and prejudice to the plaintiffs. The action of the concerned civil Judge is against the principles of natural justice. The learned counsel also harped on the circumstance that the concerned civil court did not apply mind to the allegations in the application-cum-complaint. There was no disclosure of commission of crime. The impugned order passed by the concerned civil court is cryptic and slender in nature. The learned counsel described in detail the circumstances on record and submitted that in case the civil courts are allowed to initiate criminal proceedings against the plaintiffs on the allegations made on behalf of defendants, then it would create an anomalous situation and nobody would come forward to seek civil remedy from the court of law. He prayed to quash and set aside the impugned order passed under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. and consequent registration of Crime No. 3 of 2014 with the Bardapur police station for the offences under the Atrocities Act, 1989.

7. Per contra, learned counsel appearing for the respondents opposed the contentions put forth on behalf of applicants. He submitted that the learned civil Judge, has rightly exercised the powers of the Magistrate and passed the impugned order within the ambit of law. There is no error or imperfection in the impugned order. The complaint/application of the defendants/respondent No. 2 herein, prima-facie disclosed commission of a cognizable offence against the applicants. Therefore, the learned civil Judge has dealt with the application and passed the order to register it separately as a Misc. Criminal application, and directed the police of Bardapur police station to investigate under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. and file a report. According to learned counsel for the respondents, there was no illegality or error in the impugned order passed by the Civil Judge, (J.D.) Ambejogai. Therefore, it is prayed not to nod in favour of applicants and dismiss the application.

8. We have considered the rival submissions canvassed on behalf of both sides. We have also perused the relevant documents produced on record. The questions which arise for consideration in this application is, whether the impugned order directing investigation under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. by the Civil Judge (J.D.) while dealing with a civil proceeding, is sustainable and maintainable in the eye of law and whether, taking allegation in the complaint/application at its face value and considered in its entirety, would constitute an offence punishable under Section 3(1)(g), 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(z) of the Atrocities Act, and Section 506 r/w. 34 of IPC.

9. Sections 3(1)(g), 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(z) of the Atrocities Act, 1989 read as under:-

"3(1)(g) wrongfully dispossesses a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe from his land or premises or interferes with the enjoyment of his rights, including forest rights, over any land or premises or water or irrigation facilities or destroys the crops or takes away the produce therefrom

3(1)(r) intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view;

3(1)(z) forces or causes a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to leave his house, village or other place of residence"

10. At the threshold it would be apposite to spell out the factual scenario of the matter, which made the learned Civil Judge Ambejogai to pass the impugned order directing investigation under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. by exercising powers of a Magistrate, who is empowered to take cognizance of offence under Section 190 of Cr.P.C. Undisputedly, the applicant Harishchandra Chavan initiated the civil proceeding bearing R.C.S. No. 61 of 2014, before the Civil Judge Junior Division, Ambejogai for the relief of declaration of ownership and perpetual injunction restraining the defendants to cause obstruction in the possession and enjoyment of the portion of 0.6 Aar land of Gat No. 175, belonging to him. The respondent No. 2 Ashok Shinde and his family members were impleaded in the array of defendants of the said civil suit bearing R.C.S. No. 61 of 2014. The learned Civil Judge (J.D.), Ambejogai issued summons to the defendants to appear and answer the claim and to file written statement, if any, within the stipulated time. In response to the summons, the defendant i.e. respondent No. 2 herein, appeared in the civil proceeding before the civil Judge (J.D.)., Ambejogai and filed one application-cum-memorandum, which is reproduced as under:-



11. After perusal of the aforesaid application-cum-memorandum filed in the civil proceeding R.C.S. No. 61 of 2014 by the defendant No. 1, the learned Civil Judge considered the allegation and directed to register it separately as a Misc. Criminal Application as well as simultaneously ventured to pass the impugned order under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. as follows:-

ORDER

Perusing complaint/application it be registered separately as Misc. Criminal Application and Bardapur Police Station A.P.I. Is directed to investigate U/Sec. 156 III of Cr.P.C. and report within one month to this Court.

Copy of this application be retained on record.

Sd/-
2/5/2014.

12. Pursuant to the aforesaid impugned order of the learned Civil Judge, the police of Bardapur police station, registered Crime No. 3 of 2014 under Section 3(1)(g), 3(2)(r) and 3(2)(z) of the Atrocities Act as well as Section 506 r/w. 34 of IPC and set the investigation in motion. The aforesaid impugned order and consequential registration of FIR bearing Crime No. 3 of 2014 are the subject matter of present application.

13. The factual scenario mentioned above categorically indicate that the present application/complainant of respondent No. 2 herein was filed in the civil proceeding bearing RCS No. 61 of 2014. The defendant No. 1 Ashok Shinde caused his appearance in the civil proceeding and filed the present application. It is to be noted that there was no prayer or verification appended to the said application. The recitals of the application reflect that it was not submitted in the court in lieu of say/written statement of the defendant under order VIII of Civil Procedure Code in the suit. The application was not duly verified by the defendants as contemplated under Order VI Rule 15 of C.P.C. Therefore, it cannot partake the character of pleadings at all. When the defendants appeared and did not file the written statement in consonance with the provisions prescribed under the CPC, it was incumbent on the part of concerned Civil Judge to proceed further for adjudication of matter in issue without written statement and pass a decree in the suit, as envisaged under Order VIII, Rule 5 of CPC. But, instead of taking recourse of the provisions of Civil Procedure Code, the concerned Civil Judge appreciated the allegations nurtured on behalf of defendants against the plaintiff and exceeded his jurisdiction by exercising powers of a Magistrate. He ventured to pass the impugned order directing the police to investigate under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. The action of the concerned civil Judge (J.D.) diverting civil proceeding to criminal complaint, for initiating penal action against the plaintiffs at the behest of defendant, appears somewhat strange and not amenable within the ambit of procedural law. The concerned presiding officer of the Civil Court could not avail the liberty to exercise the powers of Magistrate in the civil proceeding, as per his whims and caprices. There are guidelines laid down under the procedural law in regard to jurisdiction of civil and criminal court and judicial powers to be exercised while presiding over such courts.

14. It is worth to mention that the impugned order directing investigation under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. was passed by the concerned presiding officer of the civil court, when he was dealing with a civil matter by exercising jurisdiction of civil court assigned to him. The tenor and mode of application-cum-complaint filed on behalf of defendants, indicates that the application was filed to traverse the claim of the plaintiffs in the suit. It was not a petition under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. or complaint against the plaintiff but the defendant was intending to deny the pleadings propounded on behalf of plaintiffs, who sought the relief of injunction in the suit. However, the learned Civil Judge, on receipt of the application, suo-motu took the decision unilaterally and passed the impugned order under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. The learned presiding officer of the civil court overlooked or glossed over the procedural law while exercising the powers of Magistrate when he was dealing with the civil proceedings and not criminal complaint. The protest application filed by the defendant to traverse the claim of plaintiffs/other side in the suit would not be considered as a "complaint" as defined under section 2(d) of the Cr.P.C. It would not be a complaint to the Magistrate with a view to take action under the Cr.P.C. Therefore, it would be fallacious to appreciate the bare protest application filed before Civil Judge, while dealing with civil proceedings, as a petition under section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. It is true that there is no specific format of complaint. But, it must contain particular kind of information and is more or less formally made with the definite object that the person to whom the complaint is made will take action under the Cr.P.C. In the instant case, the circumstances would show that the defendant appeared in the civil proceedings and filed the protest application to resist the claim of the plaintiffs. There was no object of defendant for penal action against the plaintiffs, nor he made any request or prayer to take action under Cr.P.C. The protest application was not in the nature of complaint under section 2(d) of Cr.P.C. But, it was filed to raise objection to the relief claimed on behalf of plaintiffs/applicants-herein.

15. There was no compliance of mandatory provisions of section 154 of Cr.P.C. prior to remedy under section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. nor there are any complaints to superior officer of the Police as contemplated U/Sec. 154(3) of the Cr.P.C. It is true that learned Civil Judge bade for separate registration of application/complaint as a Miscellaneous Criminal Application for exercise of powers of Magistrate. Albeit, it emerges from the impugned order that the learned Civil Judge, instead of awaiting for separate registration of proceeding as Miscellaneous Criminal Application, contemporaneously proceeded to pass the impugned order under section 156 of Cr.P.C. in most hasty manner and appended his signature as a Presiding Officer of civil court. The manner in which the learned Civil Judge dealt with the civil proceeding and passed the impugned order of criminal in nature is indefensible and incomprehensible one within the purview of procedural law.

16. Now, dealing with the another spectrum of the matter, it appears that while passing impugned order, the learned Judge did not apply his mind. The impugned order is cryptic and slender in nature. At this juncture, it is gainful to refer to the observations of the Apex Court in the case of Pepsi Foods Ltd. and another vs. Special Judicial Magistrate and others reported in MANU/SC/1090/1998 : (1998) 5 SCC 749 wherein the Apex Court, in unequivocal terms, delineated that summoning of an accused in a criminal case is a serious matter. The criminal law cannot be set into motion as a matter of course. It is essential for the Magistrate to apply his mind to find out the truthfulness of the allegations. Atleast he is to verify from the averments of the complaint as to whether the ingredients to constitute the offence complained of have been made out or not. The Observations of the Apex Court are as under:-

"Summoning of an accused in a criminal case is a serious matter. Criminal law cannot be set into motion as a matter of course. It is not that the complainant has to bring only two witnesses to support his allegations in the complaint to have the criminal law set into motion. The order of the Magistrate summoning the accused must reflect that he has applied his mind to the facts of the case and the law applicable thereto. He has to examine the nature of allegations made in the complaint and the evidence both oral and documentary in support thereof and would that be sufficient for the complainant to succeed in bringing charge home to the accused. It is not that the Magistrate is a silent spectator at the time of recording of preliminary evidence before summoning of the accused. The Magistrate has to carefully scrutinize the evidence brought on record and may even himself put the questions to the complainant and his witnesses to elicit answers to find out the truthfulness of the allegations or otherwise and then examine if any offence is prima facie committed by all or any of the accused."
17. The Apex Court in the case of Maqsood Syed Vs. State of Gujarat MANU/SC/7923/2007 : (2008) 5 SCC 668, in paragraph No. 13 has held that where a jurisdiction is exercised on a complaint petition filed in terms of section 156(3) or section 200 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Magistrate is required to apply the mind. It is obligatory on the part of the complainant to make requisite allegations which would attract the provisions constituting criminal liability.

18. It is a settled principles of law that if the petition or complaint does not disclose commission of a cognizable offence, the learned Magistrate cannot pass the order under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. It has also been held that the disclosure of commission of offence is a Sine Qua Non for issuing the order under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C.

19. In view of the aforesaid legal principles of law, if we scrutinize the allegations nurtured on behalf of the defendants in the impugned application-cum-complaint, it reveals that there are no circumstances on record sufficient to prove the charges against the plaintiffs/applicants. The respondent No. 2 made reference in his complaint about the atrocities which were continued since last 21 years. He has made reference about castiest allegations and threats of dire consequences on the part of the plaintiffs. But, all these are sweeping allegations, vague and omnibus in nature. The respondent No. 2 made general allegations against the plaintiffs/applicants in this application he has not given details about the incidents or any specific overt act to point out the commission of crime on the part of the applicants. In case, the entire aspersions made in the application/complaint of respondent No. 2 if taken at its face value and considered in its entirety, prima facie circumstances, do not constitute the cognizable offence. No question of wrongful dispossession of the defendant/respondent No. 2 from the suit land being member of the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe is involved in this matter. Therefore, in view of legal guidelines delineated in the case of "State of Haryana Vs. Bhajanlal" MANU/SC/0115/1992 : AIR 1992 SC 604, we have no hesitation to arrive at a conclusion that the circumstances on record in the complaint/application do not disclose any commission of crime to bring home guilt of the applicant. In such circumstances, we have no alternative but to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. to quash and set aside the impugned order and consequential registration of FIR No. 61 of 2014 by Bardapur Police Station.

20. It is also significant to mention that, the impugned order directing the investigation under section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. came to be passed by the learned Civil Judge against the original plaintiff on bare protest application tendered by defendant (respondent No. 2-herein) on his appearance in the civil proceeding. The very purpose of filing the application by the defendants was to deny or traverse the pleadings of the plaintiffs made in the suit and not to set the criminal law in motion. In general, in each and every civil proceeding there are allegations against each other by the parties to the proceeding. But, it does not mean that in every proceeding the concerned civil court has to exercise the powers of Magistrate as contemplated under the Cr.P.C. for initiating criminal proceeding against the original plaintiffs. In case, after filing civil proceeding for any relief of civil nature against the defendants, the plaintiffs are forced to face criminal proceedings, on the allegations nurtured on behalf of the defendants, it would, create a very unhealthy atmosphere and would open the flood-gates of such type of unscrupulous and unprincipled litigation/complaints to harass the plaintiffs in such civil proceedings, and nobody would dare to come forward to seek reliefs from the civil courts of law. It may also result in cynical disregard of law which would have impact on the society and people may lose faith from the judicial system.

21. The impugned order under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. passed on bare protest application of respondent No. 2 filed in the civil proceedings is not amenable within the purview of legal provisions. The action on the part of the concerned civil court, appears deprecative and unsustainable one. The plaintiff should not be victimized or exploited at any point of time and cost, on his approaching to the civil court for seeking justice. In case, defendant would have any grievance of penal nature he may take recourse of remedy available under Criminal Procedure Code and file separate complaint for penal action against the miscreants. We find force in the submission canvassed on behalf of applicants that the impugned order is erroneous, imperfect, perverse and liable to be quashed and set aside. Moreover, there was no prima facie case made out against the applicants as discussed above to constitute offences under the Atrocities Act, 1989 as well as the offence of criminal intimidation. The impugned order is cryptic and slender in nature. It came to be passed in post-haste manner, without application of mind to the attending circumstances on record. Therefore, we are not inclined to uphold the impugned order passed by the learned Civil Judge Junior Division, Ambejogai for initiating criminal action against the applicants.

23. In the result, the application stands allowed. The impugned order dated 02-05-2014 passed by the learned Civil Judge (J.D.) Ambejogai in RCS No. 61 of 2014, under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. and resultant FIR bearing Crime No. 3 of 2014, registered with Bardapur Police Station, Tq. Ambejogai, Dist. Beed for the offences punishable under Sections 3(1)(g), 3(1)(r) and 3(1)(z) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and under Section 506 r/w. 34 of IPC against the applicants is hereby quashed and set aside. Rule made absolute in above terms. There shall be no orders as to costs.




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