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SC interprets S.482 Cr.P.C for High Courts

In the judgment of the case - State of Uttar Pradesh v. Aman Mittal & Another, Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta have reiterated the Supreme Court's view for the benefit of the High Courts on September 4, 2019 that while exercising jurisdiction under section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, HCs cannot interfere with the manner of the investigation of a case. (Supreme Court's judgment of the case - M.C.Abraham and Another v. State of Maharashtra and Others - (2003) 2 SCC 649).

The Supreme Court has quashed the directions given by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court in paragraph 11 of the impugned judgment on October 4, 2017, while partly allowing the appeals in this case.

Besides other directions, the HC had directed that the Investigating Officer assigned the duty of investigation in the case shall stand changed forthwith.

The SC upheld the impugned order of the HC that the offences under sections 265 and 267 of the IPC are liable to be quashed. The directions of the HC in the proceedings under section 482of the Cr.P.C. against the interests of the accused in a petition filed by the accused are beyond the jurisdiction of the HC and, thus, all such observations and directions have been quashed.

The directions issued by the HC that the erring officers/ officials named in the supplementary report shall be subject to disciplinary action is also beyond the scope of the HC in a petition under section 482 of the Cr.P.C. seeking quashing of the charge-sheet and are, thus, quashed.

The Supreme Court has pointed out that it is open to the investigating agency to charge the accused for such offences or any other offence by way of a supplementary report or at a subsequent stage during trial as considered appropriate by the investigating agency.

An FIR No.30 was lodged on April 28, 2017 with the Police Station Lucknow Cantt. For the offences punishable under sections 265, 267, 420, 34, 1209-Bof the IPC and sections 3/7 of the Essential Commodities Act 1955 in respect of short delivery of petrol and diesel by 200-220 ml. on each sale of 5 litres.

The Special Task Force of the State Police raided the premises of the retail outlets. The team found that 15 nozzles connected to four machines - dispensing units with seals intact were operative and functional .As per the inspection memo recorded on April 27, 2017, out of 15 nozzles , 10 nozzles were used for sale of petrol and the remaining five nozzles were used for sale of diesel . 13 nozzles were involved in malpractice of short delivery. For the short delivery of 5 ml. per 5 litres, FIR was lodged.

The dispensing machines were sealed by the inspection team and the sale was immediately stopped. The accused were arrested on April 28, 2017. On the basis of the investigation carried out, the charge-sheet of July 25, 2017 came to be filed before the court.

Two applications were filed under sections 167(2) and 190(1) of the Cr.P.C. on the ground that the prosecution has no material to make out the case of alleged offences mentioned in the charge-sheet, therefore, the cognizance may not be taken. The Magistrate rejected both the applications on July 27, 2017. This led to the filing of the petition under section 482 of the Cr.P.C. before the HC ,which was decided by the order impugned in this appeal before the SC.

The HC passed a detailed order holding that the IPC and Cr.P.C. are applicable so long as a different procedure is not prescribed under the special law ( Legal Metrology Act, 2009 in the present case) with respect to the cognizable or non-cognizable offences but application of the IPC has to be understood within the broader scope of special law in the light of exclusionary provision embodied therein.

The State as well as one of the accused were in appeal before the Supreme Court. At the outset, the appellants' counsel stated that the directions issued by the HC cannot be sustained in law, therefore, they have no objection if such directions were set aside.

The Supreme Court has stated that such directions were liable to be set aside in view of the fact that the HC, while exercising jurisdiction under section 482 of the of the Cr.P.C., cannot interfere in the manner of investigation, in terms of the Sc's decision in the case of M.C. Abraham (supra),wherein it was held as under :

'13. This Court held in the case of J.A.C. Saldanha-(1980) 1 SCC 554, that there is a clear-cut and well-demarcated sphere of activity in the field of crime detection and crime punishment. Investigation of an offence is the field exclusively reserved by the executive through the police department, the superintendence over which vests in the State Government. It is the bounden duty of the executive to investigate, if an offence is alleged, and bring the offender to book.

'Once the executive investigates and finds an offence having been committed, it is its duty to collect evidence for the purpose of proving the offence. Once that is completed and the Investigating Officer submits report to the court requesting the court to take cognizance of the offence under section 190 of the Cr.P.C., its duty comes to an end.

'On cognizance of the offence being taken, by the court, the police function of investigation ends subject to the provision contained in section 173(8) and then commences the adjudicatory function of the judiciary to determine whether an offence has been committed and if so, whether by the person or persons charged with the crime. In the circumstances, the judgment and order of the HC was set aside by this Court.”

Therefore, the directions issued including in respect of change in Investigating Officer and that the District Judge to be associated with various action, falling exclusively in the domain of the Investigating Agency were patently beyond the scope of the petition under section 482 of the Code and were therefore, liable to be set aside.

The Supreme Court has set aside the entire impugned order passed by the HC, except the order which relates to the quashing of the charges under sections 265 and 267 of the IPC, keeping it open to the investigating agency to take such steps as are required to complete the investigation in accordance with law.


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R.S.Agrawal Online
on 09 October 2019
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