- The investigation, trial, and procedure for criminal cases are governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), a procedural law in India.
- The HCs can quash a First Information Report (FIR) if it determines it is frivolous, mala fide, or without legal basis, with the exception of serious offenses. It is discretionary and is exercised on a case-by-case basis.
- The procedure of transferring cases involves filing an application, serving notice, hearing, and decision, issuing a transfer order, and transferring the case records.
- Interim relief can include stay on arrest, stay on proceedings, bail, and protection orders to protect victims, witnesses, and other parties.
- The Supreme Court's guidelines limit the High Courts’ power to be used sparingly.
The investigation, trial, and procedure for criminal cases are governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973, a procedural law in India. Except for some states where a different criminal procedure code existed before CrPC, like Jammu and Kashmir (Ranbir Penal Code) until 2019, it is applicable throughout all of India.
The CrPC’s Section 482 discusses the High Court's inherent authority. Because the High Courts occasionally failed to provide full justice, it was incorporated into the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 1923. The HC was granted inherent authority in line with Article 21 of the Indian Constitution
According to this, the High Court has a responsibility to issue orders, guard against abuse of the legal system, and uphold the interests of justice. Additionally, it has the authority to dismiss a First Information Report (FIR), any lower court proceedings, and a police officer's report on the results of the investigation.
It is essential for defending and upholding the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Indian Constitution, including the right to equality, and freedom of speech, and can put an end to pointless or malicious cases.
A First Information Report (FIR) may be dismissed by the High Court of India according to Section 482 of the (CrPC). The criminal cases that were started as a result of the FIR are effectively over when it is quashed (made void). The provisions of Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 govern the court's authority.
An FIR may be quashed by the High Court in the following situations:
1. Absence of Prima Facie Case: The High Court has the authority to throw out the FIR if it determines that the allegations in the FIR, even if taken as true, do not disclose the commission of any crime or do not establish a prima facie case against the accused.
2. Abuse of the legal system: The court may dismiss the FIR if it finds that it was filed with the sole intent of intimidating or harassing the accused, like in the case of-
Geeta Mehrotra v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2012): Geeta Mehrotra filed an FIR against her husband and in-laws under Section 498A IPC, which deals with cruelty towards married women. The Supreme Court decided to use Section 482's inherent authority to stop malicious criminal cases that result from marriage troubles leading to an automatic arrest and criminal proceedings and noted that there is a growing trend of misuse of Section 498A, which has become a weapon rather than a shield for women.
3. Agreement between the Parties: In certain cases, if the parties to a criminal dispute have come to an agreement and continuing the criminal case would be futile. For instance-
State of Punjab v. Gian Singh (2012) 10 SCC 303: The petitioner was convicted under Sections 420 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by a Magistrate. He appealed the conviction and filed an application to compound the offense. He then filed a petition in the High Court to quash the FIR. The HC dismissed the petition and the petitioner re-appealed in the Supreme Court challenging the High Court's order.
The SC noted that allowing the parties to settle the dispute can serve the interests of justice where the offense is not particularly grave or heinous and has little impact on the public interest.
4. Lack of Jurisdiction: If the court determines that the FIR was filed in a court or police station without the authority to hear the case, it may dismiss the FIR and order that the case be transferred to the proper court.
It’s also important to remember that the High Court seldom and in exceptional situations has the power of discretion to quash a FIR.
The court may not overturn the FIR under specific circumstances. Among these exclusions are:
1. Serious Offences: In general, the High Court is reluctant to throw down FIRs in cases involving heinous crimes like murder, rape, dacoity, terrorism, etc. These offenses are regarded as serious ones, necessitating a comprehensive investigation and court case, for example-
State of Rajasthan v. Shambhu Kewat, (2014) 4 SCC 149: The accused, Banwari and Shambhu, had a history of taking goods on credit from the complainant, Abdul Rashid. On the day of the incident, they came to request goods on credit, but due to outstanding dues, Abdul Rashid refused. Later, they returned to the scene armed with an iron rod and a sword-like strip of iron and launched a planned and brutal attack on Abdul Rashid, causing a severe head injury. The accused's intention and purpose were clear, and they cannot claim ignorance or sudden provocation.
A case under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been established against them beyond doubt, The Supreme Court made it clear in several cases that it believes that if the accused is treated leniently, the criminal element in society will be encouraged.
2. Offences against the State: Because offenses against the State have an impact on the security and integrity of the country, FIRs involving the same such as sedition or waging war against the country are less likely to be overturned.
3. Public Interest: In situations when there is a suspicion of corruption, theft of public funds, or abuse of authority, the court may decline to exercise its discretion to quash an FIR.
Transfer of Cases
Under certain conditions, cases may be transferred from one court to another to ensure fair and impartial proceedings, for the convenience of the parties or witnesses, or for other legal reasons:
1. Transfer of Criminal Cases: In India, a criminal case may be transferred from one court to another under Section 406 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) if the High Court considers it necessary for the sake of justice. Undue influence or the need for protection for the accused or witnesses are a few of the reasons for transfers.
2. Transfer of Civil Cases: Under Section 25 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), the court may transfer a civil case if necessary. The location of the parties, the proximity between the courts, and the accessibility of relevant proof are just a few examples of the factors the court may take into account
3. Transfer by Higher Courts: If there are doubts about the lower court's authority, skill, or fairness, to ensure fair and impartial proceedings, the High Courts or the Supreme Court, have the authority to transfer cases from lower courts.
The procedure for transferring a case from one court to another in India typically involves the following steps: filing an application, serving notice to the other party, hearing and decision, issuing a transfer order, and receiving the case records from the transferred court. It is important to note that the specific procedure for transferring a case may vary depending on the jurisdiction and type of court involved.
Interim Relief in Criminal Cases
Interim relief is intended to shield parties from unjustified losses or irreversible harm while legal action is ongoing.
Interim relief under Section 482 of the CrPC can include stay on arrest, stay on proceedings, bail or anticipatory bail, and protection orders. These orders may be issued to protect the safety and well-being of victims, witnesses, or other parties involved in the case, and may prohibit the accused from contacting or approaching the protected individuals.
However, as the Apex Court noted in P. Chidambaram v. Directorate of Enforcement, (2019) 9 SCC 24, this power to issue directions and interfere with the investigation is only used in rare cases where there is an abuse of the legal system or a failure to comply with the CrPC's provisions.
In Saranya v. Bharathi (2021), a Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah set aside a decision of the Madras High Court which had quashed charges against a person who was a co-accused in the murder of a man.
The Supreme Court ruled that the High Court was not exercising its jurisdiction as an appellate court when it considered the application under Section 482 CrPC, as it was not conducting the trial or exercising its jurisdiction as an appellate court.
Because there is little clarity on the circumstances in which these powers should be used, critics claim that this leads to uncertainty and inconsistency in the decisions of the High Courts. The use of these powers may also prolong the court process, resulting in a backlog of cases, which will delay the settlement of cases.
Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure grants the High Courts in India an extensive and inherent power to exercise their jurisdiction for the sake of justice. In order to restrain or limit this power and to prevent Law Practitioners from abusing it, the Supreme Court's guidelines, which were outlined in a number of its judgments, have been crucial.
The purpose of this section is to prevent the filing of malafide complaints as well as to allow the High Courts to administer proper justice. The courts must consider the facts and circumstances of each case and determine whether there is any prima facie case against the accused. This power is to be exercised sparingly, ensuring that it is not used as a substitute for the ordinary process of the law.
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