Quashing of Matters which are purely Civil Nature and mostly are related to land or money are given the color of criminality, only for the purpose of exerting extra judicial pressure on the party concerned which is nothing but abuse of process of the court- Such matters are liable to be quashed.

In State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, 1992 Supp (1) SCC 335, Supreme Court held:

“102. In the backdrop of the interpretation of the various relevant provisions of the Code under Chapter XIV and of the principles of law enunciated by this Court in a series of decisions relating to the exercise of the extraordinary power under Article 226 or the inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code which we have extracted and reproduced above, we give the following categories of cases by way of illustration wherein such power could be exercised either to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice, though it may not be possible to lay down any precise, clearly defined and sufficiently channelised and inflexible guidelines or rigid formulae and to give an exhaustive list of myriad kinds of cases wherein such power should be exercised.

(1) Where the allegations made in the first information report or 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.

(2) Where the allegations in the first information report and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.

(3) Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.

(4) Where, the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 155(2) of the Code.

(5) Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.

(6) Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.

(7) Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.

103. We also give a note of caution to the effect that the power of quashing a criminal proceeding should be exercised very sparingly and with circumspection and that too in the rarest of rare cases; that the court will not be justified in embarking upon an enquiry as to the reliability or genuineness or otherwise of the allegations made in the FIR or the complaint and that the extraordinary or inherent powers do not confer an arbitrary jurisdiction on the court to act according to its whim or caprice.

Court, in S.W. Palanitkar v. State of Bihar, (2002) 1 SCC 24, held:

“… whereas while exercising power under section 482 CrPC, 1973 the High Court has to look at the object and purpose for which such power is conferred on it under the said provision. Exercise of inherent power is available to the High Court to give effect to any order under CrPC, or to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. This being the position, exercise of power under section 482 CrPC, 1973 should be consistent with the scope and ambit of the same in the light of the decisions aforementioned. In appropriate cases, to prevent judicial process from being an instrument of oppression or harassment in the hands of frustrated or vindictive litigants, exercise of inherent power is not only desirable but necessary also, so that the judicial forum of court may not be allowed to be utilized for any oblique motive. When a person approaches the High Court under section 482 CrPC, 1973 to quash the very issue of process, the High Court on the facts and circumstances of a case has to exercise the powers with circumspection as stated above to really serve the purpose and object for which they are conferred.”

In State of Karnataka v. M. Devendrappa, (2002) 3 SCC 89, it was decided:

“6. Exercise of power under Section 482 of the Code in a case of this nature is the exception and not the rule. The section does not confer any new powers on the High Court. It only saves the inherent power which the Court possessed before the enactment of the Code. It envisages three circumstances under which the inherent jurisdiction may be exercised, namely, (i) to give effect to an order under the Code, (ii) to prevent abuse of the process of court, and (iii) to otherwise secure the ends of justice. It is neither possible nor desirable to lay down any inflexible rule which would govern the exercise of inherent jurisdiction. No legislative enactment dealing with procedure can provide for all cases that may possibly arise. Courts, therefore, have inherent powers apart from express provisions of law which are necessary for proper discharge of functions and duties imposed upon them by law. That is the doctrine which finds expression in the section which merely recognizes and preserves inherent powers of the High Courts. All courts, whether civil or criminal possess, in the absence of any express provision, as inherent in their constitution, all such powers as are necessary to do the right and to undo a wrong in course of administration of justice on the principle quando lex aliquid alicui concedit, concedere videtur et id sine quo res ipsae esse non potest (when the law gives a person anything it gives him that without which it cannot exist). While exercising powers under the section, the court does not function as a court of appeal or revision. Inherent jurisdiction under the section though wide has to be exercised sparingly, carefully and with caution and only when such exercise is justified by the tests specifically laid down in the section itself. It is to be exercised ex debito justitiae to do real and substantial justice for the administration of which alone courts exist. Authority of the court exists for advancement of justice and if any attempt is made to abuse that authority so as to produce injustice, the court has power to prevent abuse. It would be an abuse of process of the court to allow any action which would result in injustice and prevent promotion of justice. In exercise of the powers court would be justified to quash any proceeding if it finds that initiation/continuance of it amounts to abuse of the process of court or quashing of these proceedings would otherwise serve the ends of justice. When no offence is disclosed by the complaint, the court may examine the question of fact. When a complaint is sought to be quashed, it is permissible to look into the materials to assess what the complainant has alleged and whether any offence is made out even if the allegations are accepted in toto.”

In Uma Shankar Gopalika v. State of Bihar, (2005) 10 SCC 336, at Para 7 thereof, it was held that when the complaint fails to disclose any criminal offence, the proceeding is liable to be quashed under Section 482 of the Code:

“In our view petition of complaint does not disclose any criminal offence at all much less any offence either under Section 420 or Section 120B IPC and the present case is a case of purely civil dispute between the parties for which remedy lies before a civil court by filing a properly constituted suit. In our opinion, in view of these facts allowing the police investigation to continue would amount to an abuse of the process of court and to prevent the same it was just and expedient for the High Court to quash the same by exercising the powers under Section 482 Code which it has erroneously refused.”

The law on the subject was also examined in Parbatbhai Aahir v. State of Gujarat, (2017) 9 SCC 641. In Habib Abdullah Jeelani, (2017) 2 SCC 779, it was opined:

“inherent power in a matter of quashment of FIR has to be exercised sparingly and with caution and when and only when such exercise is justified by the test specifically laid down in the provision itself There is no denial of the fact that the power under section 482 CrPC, 1973 is very wide but it needs no special emphasis to state that conferment of wide power requires the Court to be more cautious. It casts an onerous and more diligent duty on the Court.”

In Vinod Natesan v. State of Kerala, (2019) 2 SCC 401, Supreme Court took the position outlined hereunder:

“11. … Even otherwise, as observed hereinabove, we are more than satisfied that there was no criminality on part of the accused and a civil dispute is tried to be converted into a criminal dispute. Thus to continue the criminal proceedings against the accused would be an abuse of the process of law. Therefore, the High Court has rightly exercised the powers under section 482 CrPC, 1973 and has rightly quashed the criminal proceedings. In view of the aforesaid and for the reasons stated above, the present appeal fails and deserves to be dismissed and is accordingly dismissed.”

The legal position was also considered in Kamal Shivaji Pokarnekar v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 14 SCC 350. In Mahendra K C v. State of Karnataka, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1021, this Court stated:

“23. … the High Court while exercising its power under section 482 of the CrPC, 1973 to quash the FIR instituted against the second respondent-accused should have applied the following two tests : i) whether the allegations made in the complaint, prima facie constitute an offence; and ii) whether the allegations are so improbable that a prudent man would not arrive at the conclusion that there is sufficient ground to proceed with the complaint.”

Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. State of Maharashtra, (2021) 2 SCC 427, where at Paragraph 68, it was stated that

“… The other end of the spectrum is equally important: the recognition by Section 482 of the power inhering in the High Court to prevent the abuse of process or to secure the ends of justice is a valuable safeguard for protecting liberty.” We are at one with this comment. A detailed exposition of the law is also forthcoming in Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 315, which we have factored into, while adjudicating the instant lis.

Ramawatar v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 966, has held that the mere fact that the offence is covered under a `special statute’ would not inhibit this Court or the High Court from exercising their respective powers under Article 142 of the Constitution or Section 482 of the Code, in the terms below:

“15. Ordinarily, when dealing with offences arising out of special statutes such as the SC/ST Act, the Court will be extremely circumspect in its approach. The SC/ST Act has been specifically enacted to deter acts of indignity, humiliation and harassment against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The SC/ST Act is also a recognition of the depressing reality that despite undertaking several measures, the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes continue to be subjected to various atrocities at the hands of upper-castes. The Courts have to be mindful of the fact that the SC/ST Act has been enacted keeping in view the express constitutional safeguards enumerated in Articles 15, 17 and 21 of the Constitution, with a twin-fold objective of protecting the members of these vulnerable communities as well as to provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims of caste-based atrocities.

16. On the other hand, where it appears to the Court that the offence in question, although covered under the SC/ST Act, is primarily civil or private where the alleged offence has not been committed on account of the caste of the victim, or where the continuation of the legal proceedings would be an abuse of the process of law, the Court can exercise its powers to quash the proceedings. On similar lines, when considering a prayer for quashing on the basis of a compromise/settlement, if the Court is satisfied that the underlying objective of the SC/ST Act would not be contravened or diminished even if the felony in question goes unpunished, the mere fact that the offence is covered under a `special statute’ would not refrain this Court or the High Court, from exercising their respective powers under Article 142 of the Constitution or Section 482 Cr.P.C., 1973″

Verma Law Associates

Advocate Anoop Verma