Magistrates should apply mind before passing orders, says HC

Bombay High Court has cautioned magistrates against passing orders in criminal cases without a proper reason to it, before asking the police to investigate cognizable offences.

Nagpur: The Bombay High Court has cautioned magistrates against passing orders in criminal cases without a proper reason to it, before asking the police to investigate cognizable offences.
A Nagpur bench of the High Court also deplored the tendency among people to misuse provisions of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, to settle personal scores.

Coming down heavily upon persons putting criminal justice into motion for frivolous reasons, a bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice P N Deshmukh rapped a top police officer, Shashikant Shinde, who had charged his superiors with denying him promotion due to ill-will and bias.

"This is nothing else but a glaring example of harassment and humiliation to the officers of the State Government, at the instance of another government employee, so as to settle scores with them on account of his grievances of denial of promotion," the Judges observed.

Shinde, an IPS officer, currently posted as Deputy Inspector General of Prison, Eastern Region (Nagpur), had filed a case against his superiors in police department and Mantralaya alleging that he was denied promotion due to bias and caste considerations.

Before parting with the matter the Judges observed, "We find that various complaints are filed immediately after the Gram Panchayat Elections, alleging offences under the Atrocities Act.

We have no hesitation in saying that in many of the instances, it was found that the complaints were filed only to settle score with their opponents, after defeat in the Gram Panchayat elections.

The court expressed displeasure over a number of orders passed by Magistrates under section 156(3) of Cr.Pc, directing Investigating Officer to register offence "without recording any reasons and without verifying as to whether the complaint discloses the ingredients to constitute an offence or not."

The judges noted with deep concern gross abuse of process of law by vested interests, saying "We have come across various cases where private civil disputes arising out of property, monetary matters, disputes between the members and office bearers of cooperative societies and disputes between trustees of Charitable Trusts are made penal in nature and filed either under Section 190 Cr.Pc read with section 200 or under Section 156(3) of CrPC."

Under section 190 of Cr.Pc, a Magistrate can take cognisance of an offence and under section 156(3) Cr.Pc, a Magistrate can order police to probe a cognisable offence.

"Needless to say that least that is expected of the learned magistrate before passing order under Section 156(3) of CrPC is to satisfy himself, that taking the allegations to be true in entirety, as to whether the ingredients to constitute the offence alleged have been made out or not," said the Judges.

It was also expected of a learned Magistrate, while passing an order to direct investigation, to give some reasons as to why he finds substance in the complaint and as to how the complaint discloses ingredients to constitute the offence alleged," the High Court bench noted.

The Magistrates should also take into consideration that passing such orders mechanically in complaints which do not have any criminal element, causes great hardships, humiliation, inconvenience and harassment to the citizens, the Judges noted.

"For no reasons, the reputation of the citizens is put to stake as immediately after said orders are passed, innocent citizens are termed as accused", the High Court noted while taking judicial notice of this disturbing trend.

In the instant case, the High Court unequivocally held the complaint made by Shinde against Maharashtra Director General of Police and senior Home department officials and subsequent order passed by magistrate under Section 156(3) of CrPC, as "nothing else but an abuse of process of the court."

We have no hesitation to hold that continuance of the proceedings would amount to humiliation, harassment and persecution of the officers of the state against whom allegations have been made in the complaint and would perpetuate injustice, the High Court stated while quashing order passed by magistrate and subsequent FIR lodged at Dhantoli Police Station.