No Law Empowers A Criminal Court To Pass An Order Of Injunction Having Purely Civil Consequence: Meghalaya HC

The Meghalaya High Court has, in a significant ruling, reinforced the delineation between criminal and civil jurisdictions ruling that “There is no law which empowers a criminal court to pass an order of injunction having purely civil consequence.”

The court, presided over by Justice B. Bhattacharjee, made the observation while quashing of proceedings and setting aside prior orders by the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) and Sessions Judge of Nongpoh. The case began with a complaint filed by the respondent, Brening Agitok Sangma, alleging the petitioner, Dinesh Kumar Mittal, committed several offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The CJM of Nongpoh issued an interim order on February 10, 2014, restraining financial institutions from releasing original documents deposited by the petitioner. Attempts by the petitioner to vacate this order were unsuccessful, with the CJM declining the request on September 13, 2019, and the Sessions Judge upholding this decision on February 28, 2023.

The petitioner, represented by Advocate L. Talukdar contended that the criminal court does not have the power to pass any order of injunction in a matter purely civil in nature. It was argued that the initiation of the criminal proceedings by the CJM was flawed, as the provisions of Section 200 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) were not followed before issuing the process. Additionally, it was highlighted that the CJM did not record the complainant’s statement before ordering the issuance of summons to the petitioner, amounting to a gross violation of legal provisions. It was further contended that the Sessions Judge failed to appreciate that an injunction order, purely civil in nature, could not have been passed in a criminal proceeding initiated under the CrPC for alleged offences under the IPC.

Contrarily, Advocate L.M. Sangma, appearing for the respondent, maintained that the orders were justified based on the case’s facts and circumstances, asserting that the material evidence had been appropriately considered and that interference by the High Court was unnecessary.

The court noted “the learned CJM did not bother to adhere to the provisions of Section 200 Cr.PC before deciding to issue summon to the accused/petitioner. It is not reflected anywhere that the complainant was examined prior to the issuance of the process. There is no order of recording of prima facie satisfaction of the court in the matter prior to the order of issuance of process.”

The court identified significant procedural lapses by the CJM, violating Sections 200, 202, and 204 of the CrPC, noting that “the entire order sheet of C.R. Case No. 5 of 2013 brought into record by the petitioner, do not show compliance of any of the provisions of Section 200/202/204 CrPC.”

Given these findings, the court concluded that the “proceeding initiated cannot be sustained in law.” Consequently, the orders dated February 10, 2014, and September 13, 2019, by the CJM, as well as the February 28, 2023, order by the Sessions Judge, were quashed.

Read More