Last week, on 2nd September, the Supreme Court held that a private complaint would not be maintainable for offences of giving or fabricating false evidence. This is even if the creation of the false evidence was outside the Court premises i.e. before the Court considered it as evidence.
Background of the Case
Criminal complaints were filed by the appellants against the respondents for giving false evidence, forging debit notes and making false entries in books of accounts. The said complaints were originally under Section 340 read with Section 195 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (“CrPC”) in respect of offences alleged under Sections 191 and 192 of the Indian Penal Code (“IPC”).
The appellants prayed to convert the said complaints to private complaints. They relied on the Supreme Court judgment in Iqbal Singh Marwah and Anr. v. Meenakshi Marwah and Anr. (2005) for their reasoning. Judicial Magistrate converted the said complaints into private complaints. Thereafter, he issued process under Sections 191, 192 and 193 of the IPC.
The Respondents, however, filed revision applications against the said Orders. They stated that the same attracted the bar under Section 195(1)(b)(i) of the CrPC. They further stated that the provisions under Section 340 had to be mandatorily followed. The Sessions Court allowed the revision petitions and quashed the complaints. The reasoning adopted was that Iqbal Singh Marwah (supra) concerned itself with Section 195(1)(b)(ii) and not Section 195(1)(b)(i) of the CrPC, and therefore, would have no application in the facts of this case.
The Appellant’s counsel pleaded that the offences under the “forgery” Sections of the IPC would be the subject matter of a private complaint. Hence, the procedure set out by Section 340 CrPC was not mandatory. Moreover, the documents were subsequently forged before taken in as evidence in the Court proceedings. A private complaint, therefore, would be maintainable.
It was wrong to say that the precedent was only confined to Section 195(1)(b)(ii). Its reasoning would apply to cases which fall within both Section 195(1)(b)(i) as well as Section 195(1)(b)(ii) of the CrPC. The complaints were correctly registered as private complaints.
The Respondent’s counsel pleaded that the forgery sections under the IPC do not get attracted to the complaints. They were correctly filed under Section 195 read with Section 340 of the CrPC which pertains to giving false evidence. Section 195 of the CrPC states that in the offences covered by it, no Court shall take cognizance except upon the complaint in writing of a public servant concerned. Cognizance of a private complaint is therefore barred under the Section.
Moreover, Iqbal Singh Marwah (supra) was a case which arose only under Section 195(1)(b)(ii) of the CrPC. The complaints filed in the present case disclose offences which would fall within Section 195(1)(b)(i) of the CrPC.
The Bench comprising of Justices RF Nariman and Navin Sinha dissected several judgments and made the following observations:
a) The basic ingredient of forgery itself is not made out in the present case.
b) When considering Section 195(1)(b)(i) of the CrPC, the ratio of Iqbal Singh Marwah (supra) is not attracted. Creation of false evidence outside the Court premises attracting Sections 191/192 of the IPC, would not attract the aforesaid ratio. It would not validate a private complaint filed for offences made out under these Sections.
c) Iqbal Singh Marwah is a clear authority for the cases which fall under Section 195(1)(b)(ii) of the CrPC. The document alleged as a forged one should be custodia legis after which the forgery takes place.
d) Where the facts mentioned in a complaint attracts the provisions of Section 191 to 193 of the IPC, Section 195(1)(b)(i) of the CrPC applies. The offence punishable under these provisions does not have to be necessarily committed only in any proceeding in any Court but can also be an offence allegedly committed concerning any proceeding in any Court.
e) What is conspicuous by its absence in Section 195(1)(b)(ii) are the words “or in relation to”. It makes it clear that on the attraction of the provisions of Section 195(1)(b)(ii), the offence allegedly committed must be therefore committed in respect of a document that is custodia legis, and not an offence that may have occurred before the introduction of the document in Court proceedings. It is this distinction that is vital in understanding the judgment in Iqbal Singh Marwah.
The Court disposed of the appeals. It reinstated the two complaints in their original form to proceed following the drill of Sections 195 and 340 of the CrPC.
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