The Supreme Court observed that multiple complaints by the same party against the same accused in respect of the same incident is impermissible.
Permitting multiple complaints by the same party in respect of the same incident, whether it involves a cognizable or private complaint offence, will lead to the accused being entangled in numerous criminal proceedings, the bench comprising Justices Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and R. Subhash Reddy observed.
On 5.08.2012, the complainant filed a Non- Cognizable Report alleging offences under Sections 323, 504 and 506, Indian Penal Code. Six years later, he filed a fresh private complaint before the Magistrate against the accused under Section 200 of CrPC in in respect of the very incident that took place on 5.08.2012. This private complaint for the first time mentioned commission of offences under Section 429, IPC and Sections 10 and 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Magistrate issued process in this complaint. Session Judge and later the Allahabad High Court confirmed this order of the Magistrate.
Before the Apex Court, the accused challenged the validity of the private complaint after an earlier information filed as NCR No. 158/2012 – both of which were filed by the same party, against the same accused, and in relation to the same incident.
While considering the appeal, the bench referred to observations made in Upkar Singh v. Ved Prakash (2004) 13 SCC 292 that any further complaint by the same complainant or others against the same accused, subsequent to the registration of a case, is prohibited under the Code because an investigation in this regard would have already started and further complaint against the same accused will amount to an improvement on the facts mentioned in the original complaint, hence will be prohibited under Section 162 of the Code. The court observed thus:
“Though Upkar Singh was rendered in the context of a case involving cognizable offences, the same principle would also apply where a person gives information of a noncognizable offence and subsequently lodges a private complaint with respect to the same offence against the same accused person. Even in a noncognizable case, the police officer after the order of the Magistrate, is empowered to investigate the offence in the same manner as a cognizable case, except the power to arrest without a warrant. Therefore, the complainant cannot subject the accused to a double whammy of investigation by the police and inquiry before the Magistrate.”
“Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees that the right to life and liberty shall not be taken away except by due process of law. Permitting multiple complaints by the same party in respect of the same incident, whether it involves a cognizable or private complaint offence, will lead to the accused being entangled in numerous criminal proceedings. As such, he would be forced to keep surrendering his liberty and precious time before the police and the Courts, as and when required in each case. As this Court has held in Amitbhai Anilchandra Shah (supra), such an absurd and mischievous interpretation of the provisions of the CrPC will not stand the test of constitutional scrutiny, and therefore cannot be adopted by us. “
The bench observed that it was incumbent on the Magistrate to examine any possibility of abuse of process of the court, make further enquiries, and dismiss the frivolous complaint at the outset after judicial application of mind. The court said that if the complainant was aggrieved by lack of speedy investigation in the earlier case filed by him, the appropriate remedy would have been to apply to the Magistrate under Section 155(2), CrPC for directions to the police in this regard.
Litigant’s bounden duty to make a full and true disclosure of facts.
The court also noted that the complainant deliberately suppressed the material fact that a charge sheet was already filed in relation to the same incident, against him and his wife, pursuant to NCR No.160/2012 filed by his son. In this context, the bench observed:
It is the litigant’s bounden duty to make a full and true disclosure of facts. It is a matter of trite law, and yet bears repetition, that suppression of material facts before a court amounts to abuse of the process of the court, and shall be dealt with a heavy hand
The sword of Damocles cannot be allowed to forever hang on their heads
Taking notice of the fact that one of the accused is aged 76, and others are suffering from diseases, the bench observed:
There is no equity in allowing them to be dragged into criminal proceedings pertaining to a petty offence, instituted 6 years after the alleged incident. The sword of Damocles cannot be allowed to forever hang on their heads, falling unpredictably at the whims of a litigant seeking to harass and persecute at will. We gain strength in our conclusions from Article 21 of the Constitution, which encapsulates the right to a speedy trial. This right has been interpreted to include not only the actual trial before the Court, but also the preceding stages of inquiry and police investigation as well
Invoking its powers under Article 142, the bench then quashed both proceedings in Complaint Case and proceedings pursuant to NCR. Any other criminal cases between the parties initiated by them in relation to the incident dated 5.08.2012, including the criminal proceedings arising from NCR No.160/2012 (Crime No. 283/2017) instituted by the Appellants, are quashed in exercise of our powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, in the interests of giving quietus to these criminal proceedings arising out of a petty incident 9 years ago, the bench said.
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