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The State Of Maharashtra-vs-Philip Andrew D’Souza & Others on 3 September, 1997

Bombay High Court The State Of Maharashtra-vs-Philip Andrew D’Souza & Others on 3 September, 1997
Equivalent citations:1998 BomCR Cri
Author: A Savant
Bench: A Savant, S Radhakrishnan

ORDER

A.V. Savant, J.

1. Heard both the learned Counsel; Shri Galeria, Asstt. Public Prosecutor appearing for the appellant State and Shri Desai for the respondents original accused Nos. 1 to 4.

2. This is a Revision Application filed by the State of Maharashtra challenging the order dated 8th of August 1991 passed by the learned Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, 24th Court, Borivli, Bombay, discharging all the four respondents-accused in circumstances which, appear to us, to be rather unusual.

3. The 4th accused Cyril D’Souza is the husband of the deceased Anni Cyril D’Souza. The first accused Philip is the brother of the 4th accused Cyril, the 2nd accused Philomina is the sister of the 4th accused Cyril and the 3rd accused John is the husband of accused No. 2 Philomina. In respect of the incident which occurred on 10th June 1990, the First Information Report was lodged with the Malvani Police Station, Malad Sub-Division, Bombay under C.R. 163/90 on the basis of the dying declaration of the deceased Anni. It appears that there was a dispute between the deceased and her husband Cyril on the one hand and the other members of the family of Cyril viz. respondent Nos. 1 to 3. The dispute related to the property of Cyril and his family members. Pursuant to the said First Information Report, the police submitted a charge-sheet in the Court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, 24th Court, Bcrivli, wherein offences punishable under sections 498A, 114 and 306 of the Indian Penal Code were disclosed. The charge-sheet was submitted on the 21st June 1990 and Criminal Case No. 706/P/91 was registered by the learned Magistrate for the offences punishable under sections 498A, 114 and 306 I.P.C. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code deals with the offence of cruelty by husband or relatives of the husband where the punishment can be for a term which may extend to three years and also fine. The word “cruelty” appearing in section 498A has been defined in the Explanation to the said section to mean any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health, whether mental or physical, of the woman. “Cruelty” also means harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand. It is true that this offence is triable by a Magistrate of the First Class- Section 114 of the Indian Penal Code deals with abetment by a person, who is present when the act or ofience is committed. In such a case, the abettor shall be deemed to have committed the offence and the punishment is the same as the offence committed. Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the offence of abetment of suicide and if any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine as per section 306 I.P.C. There is no dispute before us that the offence punishable under section 306 I.P.C. is exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions.

4. On the 10th June 1990 there was a quarrel between the deceased on the one hand and the other members of her husband’s family. The deceased is alleged to have been abused by her sister-in-law Philomina and by Phitomina’s husband John, respondents No. 2 and 3. It is thereafter that the incident of the deceased pouring kerosene on her person and setting herself on fire occurred. Her husband, respondent No. 4, is alleged to have tried to save her. She was admitted to the Bhagwati Hospital where she expired on the 21st June 1990. However, as stated earlier, her dying declaration and the first information were already recorded. On these facts, the prosecution case is that the respondents accused had caused mental and physical ill-treatment and cruelty to the deceased, as a result of which she was driven to commit suicide. We are only summarising the facts as stated in the petition, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the matter, lest it may prejudice the respondents accused.

5. On 8th July 1991 the respondents preferred an application for discharge before the learned Magistrate. On the same day, an order was passed directing the Asst. Police Prosecutor to file his say and the matter was adjourned to 19th July, 1991. Thereafter, on 8th August 1991, the A.P.P. filed his written say contending that the application was wholly untenable since there was sufficient material to attract the provisions of sections 498A and 306 I.P.C. The State contended that since the offence under section 306 I.P.C. was exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions, the learned Magistrate could not entertain the application for discharge and the case ought to be committed to the Court of Sessions. Obviously, reliance was placed on the provisions of section 209 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which reads as under :-

“209. Commitment of case to Court of Session when offence is triable exclusively by it –

When in a case instituted on police report or otherwise, the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate and it appears to the Magistrate that the offence is triable exclusively by the Court of Session, he shall –

(a) commit, after complying with the provisions of section 207 or section 208, as the case may be, the case to the Court of Session, and subject to the provisions of this Code relating to bail, remand the accused to custody until such commitment has been made;

(b) subject to the provisions of this Code relating to bail, remand the accused to custody during and until the conclusion of the trial;

(c) send to that Court the record of the case and the documents and articles, if any, which are to be produced in evidence;

(d) notify the Public Prosecutor of the commitment of the case to the Court of Session.”

6. The learned Magistrate, however, went into the merits of the material that was placed before him, referred to the disputes between the deceased and her husband on the one hand and the other members of the husband’s family on the other. In para 5 of the order, the learned Magistrate records a finding as under :—

“5 Now real cause for committing suicide is that accused Nos. 1, 2 & 3 used to quarrel with her and her husband accused No. 4 over their ancestral property. On 10-6-90 accused Nos. 2 & 3 were abusing her from the morning and as she could not tolerate the abuses she was disturbed and was attempted to commit suicide. The statements of other witnesses recorded also show that deceased and her husband were having smooth and happy matrimonial life.”

The above observations may, at the most, persuade one to take a view that there was no case against the husband of the deceased viz. respondent No. 4 since the learned Magistrate recorded a prima facie finding that the deceased was living happily with her husband, but it was the other three respondents viz. accused Nos. 1 to 3 who were quarrelling with her and in the morning of 10th June 1990 respondents No. 2 and 3 had abused her. Then the learned Magistrate has referred to the decision ot a learned Single Judge of this Court in Dr. Dattatraya Samant and etc. etc. v. State of Maharashtra, reported at 1981 Bom.C.R. 193 : 1981 Criminal Law Journal, pg. 1819. He relied upon some stray observations from that judgment. In para 7 of the judgment, the learned Magistrate referred to some observations of the Supreme Court in the case of State (Delhi Administration) v. Laxman Kumar and others, reported at 1986, Criminal Law Journal, pg. 155.

7. As far as the first case, viz. the decision of a learned Single Judge of this Court in Dr. Dattatraya Samant’s case is concerned, we will demonstrate how the observations have been taken out of their context without referring to the Supreme Court decision in Sanjay Gandhi v. Union of India and others, reported at 1978, Criminal Law Journal, pg. 642, to which the learned Single Judge had referred. As far as the Supreme Court decision in Laxman Kumar’s case (supra) is concerned, the learned Magistrate referred to the observations in para 49 of the judgment in Laxman Kumar’s case de hors the context and the circumstances of the case before him and the stage at which he was called upon to apply his mind. In the result, the learned Sessions Judge observed in para 9 as under :—

“9 Merely because the suicide is committed provision of section 306 and/or 498A do not automatically apply. Facts must come with two exceptions of section 498A of I.P.C. As such I hold that prima facie no case has been made out, by the prosecution which is exclusively triable by Court of Sessions or no case also has been made out which can be tried before this Court under section 498A of I.P.C. also.

Holding that no case was made out, either under section 306 or even under section 498A I.P.C., the learned Magistrate discharged all the four accused. It is this order which has been challenged before us by the State.

8. Mr. Galena, the learned Asstt. Public Prosecutor for the State has contended that the order of the learned Magistrate is totally without jurisdiction. Since there was prima facie material for submitting the charge-sheet for the offences punishable under sections 498A, 114 and 306 of the Indian Penal Code, the provisions of section 209 of the Code of Criminal Procedure were squarely attracted. The offence punishable under section 306 I.P.C. is exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions and this objection was taken in writing before the learned Magistrate. The deceased was driven to commit suicide as a result of the harassment and cruelty at the hands of the relatives of her husband viz. respondents No. 1 to 3. It is contended that this was not a case of a wrong label of section 306 I.P.C. being affixed to a set of facts which did not attract the provisions of section 306 I.P.C. On the facts which emerge from the police papers, a prima facie case for a charge under section 306 I.P.C. was made out, says Mr. Galeria. In this view of the matter, it is contended that the learned Magistrate ought to have committed the case to the Court of Sessions after complying with the provisions of section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as provided in Clause (a) of section 209 of the said Code. On the other hand, Mr. Desai for the accused contends that having regard to the view expressed by a learned Single Judge in the case of Dr. Dattatraya Samant (1981 Bom.C.R. 193), the learned Magistrate was entitled to go into the merits and come to a prima facie conclusion that no case was made out even in respect of the offence punishable under section 306 I.P.C. and hence, despite the said offence being triable exclusively by the Court of Sessions, it is contended that the Magistrate had jurisdiction to pass the impugned order of discharge.

9. Section 209 of the 1973 Code, which we have reproduced above, categorically lays down that if it appears to the Magistrate that the offence is triable exclusively by the Court of Sessions, he shall commit the case to the Court of Sessions after complying with the provisions of section 207 or section 208 of the Code, as the case may be. Section 207 deals with the supply of copies of the police report and other statements to other accused where the proceedings have been instituted on a police report, as is the case here, where the police have submitted the charge-sheet. Section 208 of the Code deals with supply of copies of the police report and the statements to the accused where the case is instituted otherwise than on a police report viz. on a private complaint. We are not concerned with section 208 here. Clause (a) of section 209 read with section 207 of the Code was squarely attracted in the facts of the present case. Our attention has been invited to the First Information Report and the police statements, but we do not think it proper to make any observations on the merits of the case, lest it may prejudice the case of the accused in the Sessions Court. Suffice it to say that, this is not a case where, on the facts disclosed in the police papers, a wrong label of section 306 was affixed and that we could, therefore, conclude that the provisions of section 306 were not at ail attracted and hence, there was no offence which was exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions.

10. The law in this behalf is settled by the decision of the Supreme Court in Sanjay Gandhi v. Union of India and others, reported at . In para 2 of the said decision, at page 514, the

Supreme Court has made it clear that under the 1973 Code the scheme of the provisions makes it clear that where the offence is triable exclusively by the Court of Sessions, the committing Magistrate in such a case has no power to discharge the accused, nor has he the power to take oral evidence, save where the specific provision like section 306 Cr.P.C. enjoins. Then, in para 3 of the judgment it has been observed that it is not open to the committal Court to iaunch on a process of satisfying itself that a prima facie case has been made out on the merits. The jurisdiction once vested in him under the earlier Code of 1898 has been eliminated under the Code of 1973. The Parliament brought about the change with a view to expediting the trials of criminal cases. The Supreme Court observed was that the narrow inspection hole through which the Committing Magistrate has to look at the case limits him merely to ascertain whether the case, as disclosed by the police report, appears to the Magistrate to show an offence triable solely by the Court of Sessions. Assuming the facts as stated in the police report to be correct, if the offence is one which is triable exclusively by the Court of Sessions, the Magistrate has simply to commit the case for trial before the Court of Sessions. It is only if, by an error, a wrong section of the Penal Code is quoted that he may look into that aspect. It is then further observed that if made-up facts, unsupported by any material are reported by the police and a sessions offence is made to appear, it is perfectly open to the Sessions Court under section 227 of the 1973 Code to discharge the accused. These observations were referred to by the learned Single Judge in the Dr. Dattatraya Samant’s case (1981 Bom.C.R. 193) and a view was expressed that if a wrong label or a wrong section was quoted, which, on the face of the record, was not applicable to the facts of the case, the Magistrate may consider such a situation, even when the offence is exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions and he may, in such a case, not commit the case to the Court of Sessions. We need not examine this situation here since no such case was made out before us. Unfortunately, the learned Magistrate has not appreciated the ratio of the Supreme Court decision in Sanjay Gandhi’s case, as also the ratio of the decision of the learned Single Judge of this Court in Dattatraya Samant’s case (1981 Bom.C.R. 193) and has quoted some stray observations out of context in support of his conclusion that no case was made out either under section 306 or under section 498A I.P.C., which necessitated the passing of an order of discharge.

11. As indicated earlier, in para 5 of his order, the learned Magistrate himself has observed that the real cause for the deceased committing suicide was that accused Nos. 1, 2 and 3 used to quarrel with her and her husband – accused No. 4 over their ancestral property. On 10th June 1990 accused Nos. 2 and 3 were abusing her since morning and as she could not tolerate the abuses she was disturbed and attempted to commit suicide. The learned Magistrate then observed in para 9 of his order that merely because suicide was committed, the provisions of sections 306 and 498A I.P.C. do not automatically apply. While we wish to make no observations on the merits of the prosecution case made out in the police report, we must unhesitatingly say that this is not a case where the police have applied a wrong section or given a wrong label of section 306 I.P.C. to the facts as disclosed in the police papers. The accused may have their own remedy before the Court of Sessions after the case is committed. We express no opinion on the possible course of action that the accused may adopt once the case is committed to the Court of Sessions. Bearing in mind the ratio of the Supreme Court decision in Sanjay Gandhi’s case and the scheme of the 1973 Code, we have no doubt in our mind that on the material that was placed before him, the learned Magistrate had no jurisdiction whatsoever to pass the order of discharge. The order is based on mis-quoting the observations of the Supreme Court and of the learned Single Judge of this Court totally out of context without appreciating the ratio, laid down by the Supreme Court in Sanjay Gandhi’s case. As indicated earlier, the observations of the Supreme Court in Laxman Kumar’s case about the Court not being influenced by the publicity given by the media in a case and by emotions and sentiments aroused in a case, had no application whatsoever to the facts before the learned Magistrate.

12. In the light of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Sanjay Gandhi’s case and on the findings recorded by the learned Magistrate himself in paragraphs 5 & 9 of his order, the only course which the Magistrate could have adopted in the facts of the present case was to commit the case to the Court of Sessions since one of the offences was the offence punishable under section 306 I.P.C. which is exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions.

13. In the circumstances, it is not possible for us to uphold the order passed by the learned Magistrate. The said order is hereby quashed and set aside. The learned Magistrate is directed to follow the procedure of law laid down in section 209 of the Code in the light of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Sanjay Gandhi’s case (supra) and pass necessary orders in accordance with law.

14. We wish to make it clear that we have limited our observations only for the purpose of recording a finding that the order of the learned Magistrate was wholly without jurisdiction. We, however, wish to make it clear that we are not expressing any opinion on the merits of the prosecution case and in the event of the accused raising appropriate pleas, we have no doubt that the Sessions Court will consider same in accordance with law.

15. Rule is accordingly made absolute. The order dated 8th August 1991 is hereby quashed and set aside. Since the matter relates to the incident of 10th June 1990, the learned Magistrate is directed to pass further orders in accordance with law within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of the papers by him.

16. Rule made absolute.

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