Quashing of F.I.R – Inherent Powers of High court

INTRODUCTION:

Inherent powers of the High Courts are the powers which are not additional to the powers conferred upon the High Courts. The most important aspect of such power is the Quashing of FIR by the court .

The state high courts in India have been given supervisory and regulatory powers over the conduct of the lower criminal courts within their respective territorial jurisdiction, including inherent powers under section 482 of CrPC. Section 482 confers inherent powers on the state high courts to intervene in any criminal proceedings, to prevent abuse of the process of the court and to secure the ends of justice. Faced with a false criminal complaint, a person can file a petition under section 482 of the CrPC with the state high court and seek quashing of the criminal complaint.

Section 482 reads:
“Saving of inherent power of High Court- Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.”
Section 482 is what used to be Section 561A in the old Code. This paper throws light over the exercise of this inherent power of the High Court in quashing of a Complaint in various instances.

Section 482 CrPC talks about the inherent powers of the high courts. This section reproduces section 561-A of the code of 1898 without any change. It does not confer any new powers on the high courts but saves such inherent powers which the court possessed before the enactment of CrPC.

Though the jurisdiction exists and is wide in its scope it is a rule of practice that it will only be exercised in exceptional cases. The section was added by the Code of Criminal Procedure(amendment) Act,1923 , as the high courts were unable to render complete justice even if in a given case the illegality was palpable and apparent. The section is a sort of reminder to the high courts that they are not merely courts n law, but also courts of justice and possess inherent powers to remove injustice. The inherent power in the high is an inalienable attribute of the position it holds with respect to the courts subordinate to it. These powers are partly administrative and partly judicial . They are  necessarily judicial when they are exercisable with respect to a judicial order and for securing the ends of justice. The expression ‘ends of justice’ is not used to comprise within it any vague or nebulous concept of justice, nor even justice in philosophical sense , but justice according to law, statute law and the common law. Inherent powers are in the nature of etxtraordinary powers available only where no  express power is available to the high courts to do a particular thing , and where the express power does not negativate the existence of such inherent power. The jurisdiction under section 482 is discretionary , the high court may refuse to exercise the discretion if a party has not approached it with clean hands.
Scope of the provision

The scope of the report is limited only to the quashing of FIR and highlighting some judgements delivered by the Supreme Court and the high courts in this context.

As per the scope of this section is concerned , it has a very wide scope. The inherent powers are only with the high courts and no other court can exercise these powers. The high courts are bound to exercise such powers whenever there is injustice done by the court below. Some of the inherent powers of the high courts are:

a)    quashing of  FIR
b)    quashing of complaint
c)    quashing of any order passed by the court below in revision etc.

In this report we are mainly concerned with quashing of FIR and criminal complaints.
Section 561A was added to the Code in 1923 and it purported to save the inherent power of the High Courts. It provides that nothing in the Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent power of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under the Code or to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. This inherent power cannot naturally be invoked in respect of any matter covered by the specific provisions of the Code. It cannot also be invoked if its exercise would be inconsistent with any of the specific provisions of the Code. It is only if the matter in question is not covered by any specific provisions of the Code that Section 561A can come into operation, subject further to the requirement that the exercise of such power must serve either of the three purposes mentioned in the said section.

It is only the High Courts whose inherent powers were recognized by Section 561 A; and even in this regard, definite salutary safeguards have been laid down as to its exercise. It is only where the High Court is satisfied either that an order passed under the Code would be rendered ineffective or that the process of any court would be abused or that the ends of justice would not be secured that the High Court can and must exercise its inherent power under Section 561 A. There can thus be no dispute about the scope and nature of the inherent power of the High Courts and the extent of its exercise.1 The section confers no new powers on the High Court. It merely safeguards existing inherent powers possessed by a High Court (among other purposes) to secure the ends of justice. The section provides that these powers which the court inherently possesses shall be preserved lest it be considered that the only power possessed by the Court are those expressly conferred by Code and that no inherent power had survived the passing of Code.

Quashing of criminal complaints

In the landmark case State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal2, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India considered in detail the provisions of section 482 and the power of the high court to quash criminal proceedings. The Supreme Court summarized the legal position by laying the following guidelines to be followed by high courts in exercise of their inherent powers to quash a criminal complaint:

1. The criminal complaint can be quashed when allegations made in the complaint,even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, do not,prima facie, constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused person.

2. The criminal complaint can be quashed when allegations made in the complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable that on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a conclusion that there are sufficient grounds for continuing the proceedings against the accused person.

3. The criminal complaint can be quashed when the allegations made in the complaint and evidence collected in support of the complaint does not disclose the commission of any offence against the accused person.

4. The criminal complaint can be quashed when the complaint is manifestly attended with mala fide or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused person and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.

5. The criminal complaint can be quashed when there is an express legal bar under any of the provisions of the CrPC or any other legislation (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of criminal complaint.

Thus, if the high court is convinced that the criminal complaint does not disclose a cognizable offence and the continuation of an investigation is not based on sound foundations and would amount to an abuse of power of the police necessitating interference to secure the ends of justice, the high court will exercise its inherent power to quash the proceedings.
In Pepsi Foods Ltd. v. Special Judicial Magistrate the Supreme Court of India observed that:

“Though the magistrate can discharge the accused at any stage of the trial if he considers the charges to be groundless, this does not mean that the accused cannot approach the high court under section 482 to have the complaint quashed if the complaint does disclose the commission of a cognizable offence against the accused person. In this case the Supreme Court held that the order of the high court refusing to quash the complaint on the ground that alternate remedy was available under the CrpC to the accused person was not proper.”

However it has been held by the Supreme Court of India in Om Prakash Singh v. State of UP4 that if a complaint discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, it would not be a sound exercise of discretion to quash the criminal complaint.
In the recent case of Indian Oil Corporation v. NEPC India Ltd. and Others5 a petition under section 482 was filed to quash two criminal complaints. The high court by common judgments allowed the petition and quashed the two complaints. The order was  challenged in appeal to Supreme Court of India.

It reads as follows :

“Saving of inherent power of High Court- Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.”

The section was added by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 1923. The section envisages 3 circumstances in which the inherent jurisdiction may be exercised, namely:
1.    
to give effect to an order under CrPC,
to prevent abuse of the process of the court,
to secure the ends of justice.

The jurisdiction of the high court is confined to the courts subordinate to it in the state for which the high court has been constituted. An application under section 482 cannot be entertained by any court other than the high court. The inherent jurisdiction possessed by the high court under this section is not confined to cases pending before it, but extends to all the cases which may come to its notice whether in appeal revision or otherwise. Inherent powers under section 482 can be invoked only in the event when there is no other remedy open to the aggrieved party.

 
2. INHERENT JURISDICTION VESTED IN THE HIGH COURTS :

The inherent jurisdiction of the high court preserved under this section is vested in it by law within the meaning of article 21 of the constitution . The procedure for invoking the inherent powers may be regulated by rules which may have been or be framed by the high courts. The power to make such rules is conferred on the high court by the constitution. Where the rules were previously framed , they continue in force by virtue of article 372 of the constitution.

3. HIGH COURT NOT TO FUNCTION AS A COURT OF APPEAL OR REVISION :

While exercising powers under section 482 the court does not function as a court of appeal or revision. It also would not enter into the appreciation of evidence . Inherent powers are to be very sparingly exercised for compelling reasons, when where there has been any abuse of process of law or any glaring injustice.
4. NO INHERENT POWERS OF SUBORDINATE COURTS : 

Under CrPC , inherent powers are vested only in the high courtsand the courts subordinate to the high courts have no inherent powers. In bindeshwari Prasad singh  v  kali singh , the supreme court held that a magistrate has no inherent power to restore a complaint dismissed in default.

5. INHERENT POWER NOT TO BE INVOKED IN MATTERS COVERED BY SPECIFIC PROVISIONS :   

The inherent power of the high court under this section cannot be invoked in regard to matters which are directly covered by specific provisions of CrPC. Eg. the petitioner who has a remedy under s. 397 cannot be permitted to invoke s 482. The powers of high court under this section are indeed very wide . However, they can only be exercised in cases where there is such a palpable want of jurisdiction in the proceedings initiated, as would result in unnecessary harassment and oppression to the accused concerned. The section cannot be invoked to supplant the normal processes and inquiries by a tribunal prescribed in CrPC.

 
6. WHETHER A PERSON WHO HAS NOT APPLIED UNDER SECTION 482 CAN BE GIVEN RELIEF :

When the matter comes before the high court , it can exercise its power under s.482 irrespective of the consideration as to which of the parties has come before it. The high court can give relief even to the other accused who did not file any petition under this section.

When the matter is pending before the supreme court and that court has ordered the session judge to issue non bailable warrant for the arrest of the petitioners, the high court cannot exercise its power under this section.
7. WHEN ALTERNATIVE REMEDY AVAILABLE :

If an effective alternative remedy is available , the high court will not exercise its powers under this section, specially when the applicant may not have availed of that remedy. The powers of this section are not usually invoked when there is another remedy available.

8. APPRECIATION OF EVIDENCE :

In a proceeding under section 482, the high court will not enter into any finding of facts , particularly when the matter has been concluded by concurrent finding of facts of two courts below.

When the high court quashed a criminal complaint on consideration of certain documents produced by the petitioner , it was held by the supreme court that the order of the high court was illegal, as only when the high court comes to a conclusion that no prima facie case is made out , based on the complaint and the documents accompanying it, that the court could quash the complaint.

VIEW OF THE SUPREME COURT:

 
The Supreme Court has recently ruled that the High Courts can quash an FIR against a person if it did not prima facie disclose any offence.

A two judge bench said that ordinarily criminal proceedings instituted against an accused must be tried and taken to logical conclusions under the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) and the High Courts should be reluctant to interfere into the proceedings at an interlocutory stage.

“However, if upon the admitted facts and the documents relied upon by the complainant or the prosecution and without weighing or sifting evidence, no case is made out, the criminal proceedings instituted against the accused are required to be dropped or quashed”, the bench said. Where the allegations in the FIR or the complaint or the accompanying documents taken at their face value, do not constitute the offence alleged, the person proceeded against in such a frivolous criminal litigation has to be saved, ruled the bench.

While deciding the appeal, the Supreme Court of India laid down following principles:

1. The high courts should not exercise their inherent powers to stifle or scuttle a legitimate prosecution. The power to quash criminal complaints should be used sparingly and with abundant caution.

2. The criminal complaint is not required to verbatim reproduce the legal ingredients of the alleged offence. If the necessary factual foundation is laid in the criminal complaint, merely on the ground that a few ingredients have not been stated in detail, the criminal proceedings should not be quashed.
Quashing of the complaint is warranted only where the complaint is bereft of even the basic facts which are absolutely necessary for making out the alleged offence.

3. It was held that a given set of facts may make out (a) purely a civil wrong, or (b) purely a criminal offence, or (c) a civil wrong as also a criminal offence. A commercial transaction or a contractual dispute, apart from furnishing a cause of action for seeking remedy in civil law, may also involve a criminal offence.
As the nature and scope of civil proceedings are different from a criminal proceeding, the mere fact that the complaint relates to a commercial transaction or breach of contract, for which a civil remedy is available or has been availed, is not by itself a ground to quash the criminal proceedings. The test is whether the allegations in the complaint disclose a criminal offence or not.
While it may be difficult to prevent a people from filing false criminal cases, by mounting an aggressive defense such criminal prosecution can not only be quashed but the person indulging in such practice can be subject to both penal punishment and damages for malicious prosecution.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) provides for criminal prosecution against persons making baseless complaints leading to the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) by the police. Section 182 of the IPC provides for punitive measures against a person who makes baseless complaints by making false representations to a public servant.
Section 182 of the IPC serves as a basis for punishing a person by imprisonment up to six months and/or a fine for giving a public servant any information which he knows or believes to be false or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause such public servant (i) to do or omit to do anything which such public servant ought not to do, or (ii) to use the lawful power of such public servant ought not to do, or (ii) to use the lawful power of such public servant to the injury or annoyance of any person.

The Calcutta High Court in Pasupati Banerji v. King has observed “that in order to attract the provisions of section 182 of the IPC, it must be established that the person gave information to a public servant which he knew or believed to be false and that he intended thereby to cause the public servant to use his lawful power to the injury or annoyance of any person. It is not sufficient that the person had reasons to believe it was false or that he did not believe it to be true; what is necessary that the person must have positive knowledge or belief that it was false.”

Author Unknown – From group Mail

One thought on “Quashing of F.I.R – Inherent Powers of High court

  1. Times of India Mumbai Edition has reported that S.C. bench on 15.7.2010
    has laid down the rule and discretion that High court can use in respect of quashing of FIR under Sec 482

    Does anyone have the details?
    Advocate Bhupen Dalal

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