Orders Refusing Discharge or Framing Charges Are neither Interlocutory nor Final In Nature: Supreme Court

Facts

A complaint was filed by Respondent No.2, who claimed to be a newspaper correspondent working for ‘The Pioneer’. It was alleged that he had investigated for malpractices against ‘Kalpana Indane Service’. He had also applied for information under the Right to Information Act 2005 to conduct an investigation on alleged black marketing of gas cylinders by the aforesaid agency. The Court directed the investigation and ordered the local police to submit the report. A charge sheet was filed on 21.07.2012 against the appellant under S. 504 and 506 IPC based on the statements of the complainant and the affidavits of two witnesses. The appellant sought his discharge under Section 239 of Cr.P.C. contending that the complainant has falsely implicated him and that the allegation of telephonic threats does not constitute an offence Sections 504 and 506 of IPC. The CJM did not agree with the appellant’s plea and rejected his discharge application. The appellant approached the High Court through a Criminal Revision Petition, seeking reversal of CJM’s order. The High Court observed that the interference in the order of framing charges or refusing to discharge is called for in the rarest of rare cases to correct the patent error of the jurisdiction. Finding no such jurisdictional error in the CJM’s order the Criminal Revision Petition was dismissed. Dissatisfied with the impugned order, the appellant had approached the Supreme Court through Special Leave Petition. 

Arguments before the Court

Counsel for the appellant urged that the story of the complainant seemed dubious, he himself initiated the phone call and put it on speaker. It was contended that no call records had been sought by the police, affidavits of the witnesses were blindly accepted and no attempt was made to record their statements under S. 161 of CrPC. The Investigating Officer casually overlooked the credentials of the complainant who was involved in seven criminal cases including under Sections 323, 504 and 506 of IPC. A letter from the Resident Editor of ‘The Pioneer’ was also produced, showing that the complainant was not employed with their newspaper around the time of the alleged incident.

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The Counsel for the State contended that the allegations were made for a clear case under Sections 504 and 506 of IPC and that there was no error committed by the High Court or the CJM. He also cited the State of Karnataka v. M.R. Hiremath case where it was held that the Court ought not to enter into questions of the evidentiary value of the materials cited at the stage of considering discharge. 

Court’s Observation

Based on the facts and contentions the Supreme Court observed that the High Court had dismissed the Criminal Revision on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction under Section 397 of Cr.P.C. The High Court didn’t examine the issue in detail to find out whether the continuation of proceedings would amount to an abuse of process of law in this case. The court found that while limiting the scope of a criminal revision to jurisdictional errors alone, the High Court under-appreciated the Judgment in Asian Resurfacing. The discretion vested in the High Court has to be invoked carefully and judiciously for effective and timely administration of the criminal justice system. There should be interference in exceptional cases, failing which is a serious prejudice to the rights of a citizen. The Court has to sift through the evidence to find out whether there are sufficient grounds to try the suspect. The Court has also, to consider the total effect of evidence, broad probabilities and documents produced and the basic infirmities appearing in the case. It was observed that the High Court in the present case had not gone into the merits of the case and had not analyzed the case in light of the settled law. 

Court’s Decision

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The Supreme Court found that the High Court had committed a jurisdictional error by overlooking the fact that ‘discharge’ is a valuable right provided to the accused and not entertaining the revision petition on merits. Considering the fact that the High Court and the court below had not examined the fairness of criminal investigation in the present case and other related aspects concerning the improvement of witness statements, the Supreme Court decided that it is essential for the High Court to reconsider the whole matter and decide the revision petition afresh. The case was remanded back to the High Court for its reconsideration as per the law.

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