SUPREME COURT HOLDS THAT IT IS THE DUTY OF THE HIGH COURTS TO QUASH THE UNWANTED AND VEXATIOUS CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS
A two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah passed a judgement dated 29.11.2023 in Vishnu Kumar Shukla & Anr Vs. The State Of Uttar Pradesh & Anr. where the Supreme Court observed that it is the duty of the High Court to give protection against vexatious and unwanted prosecution and from being unnecessarily dragged through a trial. The Apex Court was deciding an appeal against the judgement of the Allahabad High Court that upheld the Order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow rejecting the prayer for discharge of the Accused/Appellant in a theft case.
The Complainant/Respondent no. 2 named Ram Kumar Garg was a tenant of a shop situated in the house of one Hari Narayan Shukla. On 29.06.2011, the Appellants i.e., husband and wife, along with others, locked the door of the Complainant’s shop from inside, broke the wall and looted wheat, kerosene oil worth of about Rs. 21,000, goods in stock, all the registers of the shop, sale money and documents and a two-wheeler. This led to the filing of an FIR under Sections 448 (Punishment for House Trespass), 454 (Lurking House Trespass or House Breaking punishable with imprisonment) and 380 (Theft in dwelling House) under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).
The Appellants submitted that the allegations were frivolous and were only imposed with a view to frustrate and trouble the Appellants from enjoying their property. The Appellants also submitted that the Respondent No.2 also filed a regular suit for permanent injunction on the same property before the Civil Judge, South Lucknow. The abovementioned suit was based on a so called “Memorandum of Agreement of Tenancy” dated 24.11.2005 in which the present symbol of the Indian National Rupee i.e.,” ₹”, was shown but the said symbol came into being only in the year 2010 and thus, could not have been reflected in a ‘Memorandum’ in the year 2005, which clearly exposes the falsity of the document and the claim by the Respondent No.2.
The Appellants also filed an application under Section 340 (Procedure in cases mentioned in Section 195) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) before the concerned court. However, the police still submitted the charge-sheet under Section 448 IPC. That on the application filed by the Appellants under Section 340 CrPC, the Civil Judge held the Respondent No. 2 guilty of forgery under Section 463 (Forgery) IPC by Order dated 18.12.2014.
Counsel for the Appellant contended that as per the Order dated 18.12.2014, the Trial Court gave a clear-cut finding that the entire suit was premised on forged and fabricated documents. He submitted that once the same has been established, the Respondent No.2’s contention to be in possession of the property does not arise and clearly the FIR itself was a misuse and abuse of the process of law.
Despite there being sufficient evidence for discharge, the Trial Court rejected the application of the Appellants on vague grounds.
The Appellants thus moved to High Court under Section 482 CrPC (Saving of Inherent powers of High Court) which was also dismissed by the High Court of Allahabad (Lucknow Bench).
I) Whether the views of the Trial and High Court were maintainable as the Memorandum filed by the Respondent No. 2 was found to be forged.
II) Whether the High Court was right in dismissing the application to discharge the Appellants.
Decision by the Supreme Court:
The Apex Court was of the view that the entire claim of tenancy by the Respondent No. 2 was found to be forged and fabricated and there was no claim by the Respondent No. 2 to show that he was in possession of the property. Also, the Respondent never appeared before the Apex Court and it held that their case was on the shakier ground and thus the facts and circumstances filed by the Respondent No. 2 amounts to clear abuse of process of Court. Moreover, the police did not find any relevant proof of theft and lurking house trespass and to which Respondent No.2 neither objected nor filed any protest.
The Supreme Court was of the view that it would be irrelevant to make the Appellants face a full-fledged criminal trial because of lack of proof and suspicion. The Court relied on the judgement of Priyanka Mishra v State of Uttar Pradesh where it was held that ‘…the Appellants are to be protected against vexatious and unwarranted criminal prosecution, and from unnecessarily being put through the rigours of an eventual trial.’
The Apex Court also held that the Impugned Judgment of High Court and the Judgment dated 02.06.2017 of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow were unreasoned as to why discharge was denied to the Appellants. Hence the appeal was allowed and the Appellants were discharged from the criminal case.
Under the Indian Legal System filing a criminal complaint is very easy. It is because of this, many people file bogus and meaningless complaints to frustrate and pressurize the alleged accused to accepting their demands. The truth of the complaint can only be tested at the time of trial which under the Indian Legal System can take years. This obviously takes a toll on an innocent alleged accused depriving him/her of their peace of mind. Our legal system ought to have stringent punishment and penalties for filing false criminal complaint in an over-burdened judicial system. Such penalties will save the time and resources of the judiciary as well as hapless victims of such complaints.
The Indian Lawyer and Allied Services
Sushila Ram Varma
The Indian Lawyer and Allied Services
 Criminal Appeal No.3618 Of 2023
Section 195- Prosecution for contempt of lawful authority of public servants, for offences against public justice and for offences relating to documents given in evidence.
 2023 SCC Online SC 978