Dr. B.S. Chauhan, J.
2. This appeal has been preferred against the Judgment and Order dated 13.02.2009 of the Punjab & Haryana High Court at Chandigarh in Criminal Misc. No. 4136 of 2003, wherein the First Information Report (for short, "FIR") dated 23.07.2002 lodged by the appellant under Sections 420/423/467/468/471/120-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter called as, "IPC") has been quashed placing reliance on the decree of Civil Court between the same parties in respect of the same subject matter.
3. The only question for our consideration involved in this appeal is as to whether criminal proceedings can be quashed by the High Court relying upon a finding of Civil Court on an issue involved in criminal proceedings in respect of the same subject matter.
4. Facts and circumstances giving rise to this case are that one Kishori Lal executed an Agreement to Sell dated 4.1.1988 in favour of Respondent Nos. 1 to 4 for land measuring 114 Kanals, 2 Marlas situate in the revenue estate of Mauza Jadali, Tehsil Khanna, Punjab, at the rate of Rs. 11000/- per bigha. Kishori Lal had received a sum of Rs. 1 Lakh as Earnest Money from the said respondents. The said land had already been mortgaged with the said respondents for Rs. 52000/-. As per the terms of the said Agreement dated 4.1.1988, the sale deed was to be executed and registered by 10th June, 1989. Kishori Lal entered an Agreement to Sell dated 22.10.1988 with Kishan Singh, predecessor in-interest of the appellants, in respect of the same land at the rate of Rs. 15300/- per bigha and received a sum of Rs. 54000/- as earnest money. As per the said agreement, the sale was to be executed and registered by 15.06.1989.
5. Respondent Nos. 1 to 4 filed suit No. 60 of 1989 against Kishori Lal in Civil Court, Ludhiana for specific performance and got an interim relief restraining Kishori Lal to alienate the suit land in favour of anyone else by any manner. Sh. Kishan Singh, father of the appellants, filed Civil Suit No. 81 of 1996 against Kishori Lal for specific performance on 6.2.1996, however, the suit filed by the respondent Nos. 1 to 4 against Kishori Lal was decreed in their favour vide Judgment and decree dated 8.5.1996 and in pursuance thereof, the sale has been executed by Kishori Lal in favour of the respondent Nos. 1 to 4 on 17.05.1996.
6. Being aggrieved, Kishan Singh, predecessor-in-interest of the appellants, filed suit No. 1075 of 1996 seeking cancellation/setting aside of the decree dated 8.5.1996 passed in favour of respondent Nos. 1 to 4. The said Civil Suit stood dismissed by the Civil Court vide Judgment and decree dated 10.06.2002 against which, the appellants have preferred Regular First Appeal (for short, "RFA") No. 2488 of 2002 before the High Court, which is still pending.
7. Kishan Singh, predecessor-in-interest of the appellants, filed FIR No.144 dated 23.07.2002 under Sections 420 /423/467/ 468/ 120-B IPC at Police Station Division No. 8, Ludhiana alleging forging of the signatures of Kishori Lal on the agreement to sell dated 4.1.1988.
8. The respondents preferred a Criminal Misc. No. 4136-4 of 2003 before the High Court for quashing of the FIR No. 144 dated 23.07.2002 and proceeding subsequent thereto, on the ground that appellants had lodged it after losing the civil case and with inordinate delay. Findings on factual issues recorded in civil proceedings are binding on criminal proceedings. The High Court, vide its Judgment and order dated 13.02.2009, allowed the said application and quashed the FIR on the ground that the appellants could not succeed before the Civil Court and findings have been recorded by the Civil Court to the effect that the document i.e. agreement to sell was not forged or fabricated. Hence, this appeal.
9. Sh. K.T.S. Tulsi, learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants, has submitted that there is no prohibition in law for simultaneously pursuing the civil as well as criminal remedies available in law. Both the proceedings have to take course and to be decided according to the evidence adduced therein. Findings of fact recorded by the Civil Court are not binding on the criminal courts or vice-versa. The High Court committed a grave error in quashing the FIR only on the basis of findings of fact recorded by the Civil Court.
10. Per contra, Sh. Abhinav Ramkrishna, learned counsel appearing for the respondents, has vehemently opposed the appeal contending that Kishan Singh filed the FIR at a much belated stage, i.e. after dismissal of the civil suit by the Trial Court on 10.06.2002. In case, the agreement in their favour provided that sale deed was to be executed by 15th June, 1989, there could be no justification for them to wait and file suit No. 81/1996 for specific performance on 6.2.1996. Thus, FIR has been filed with inordinate delay of about 14 years and even if, it is presumed that they were not aware of pendency of suit No. 60/1989. Kishan Singh had become fully aware of all the relevant facts at the time of filing the suit no. 1075 of 1996. There is no explanation of delay even after 1996. Thus, the Judgment and Order of the High Court does not warrant any interference. The appeal lacks merit and is liable to be dismissed.
11. We have considered the rival submissions made by the learned counsel for the parties and perused the record. The issue as to whether the findings recorded by Civil Court are binding in criminal proceedings between the same parties in respect of the same subject matter, is no more Res Integra.
12. In M/s Karamchand Ganga Pershad & Anr. Vs. Union of India & Ors., AIR 1971 SC 1244, this Court, while dealing with the same issue, held as under :-
"It is well established principle of law that the decisions of the civil courts are binding on the criminal courts. he converse is not true."
13. The said Judgment was delivered by a three-Judge Bench of this Court without taking note of the Constitution Bench Judgment in M.S. Sherrif Vs. The State of Madras & Ors., AIR 1954 SC 397 on the same issue, wherein this Court has held as under :-
"As between the civil and the criminal proceedings we are of the opinion that the criminal matters should be given precedence. There is some difference of opinion in the High Courts of India on this point. No hard and fast rule can be laid down but we do not consider that the possibility of conflicting decisions in the civil and criminal courts is a relevant consideration. The law envisages such an eventuality when it expressly refrains from making the decision of one court binding on the other, or even relevant, except for certain limited purposes, such as sentence or damages. The only relevant consideration here is the likelihood of embarrassment. Another factor which weighs with us is that a civil suit often drags on for years and it is undesirable that a criminal prosecution should wait till everybody concerned has forgotten all about the crime. The public interests demand that criminal justice should be swift and sure; that the guilty should be punished while the events are still fresh in the public mind and that the innocent should be absolved as early as is consistent with a fair and impartial trial. Another reason is that it is undesirable to let things slide till memories have grown too dim to trust. This, however, is not a hard and fast rule. Special considerations obtaining in any particular case might make some other course more expedient and just."
14. In V.M. Shah Vs. State of Maharashtra & Anr., (1995) 5 SCC 767, this Court has held as under :-
"As seen that the civil court after full-dressed trial recorded the finding that the appellant had not come into possession through the Company but had independent tenancy rights from the principal landlord and, therefore, the decree for eviction was negatived. Until that finding is duly considered by the appellate court after weighing the evidence afresh and if it so warranted reversed, the findings bind the parties. The findings, recorded by the criminal court, stand superseded by the findings recorded by the civil court. Thereby, the findings of the civil court get precedence over the findings recorded by the trial court, in particular, in summary trial for offences like Section 630. The mere pendency of the appeal does not have the effect of suspending the operation of the decree of the trial Court and neither the finding of the civil court gets disturbed nor the decree becomes inoperative."
15. The correctness of the aforesaid judgment in V.M. Shah (supra) was doubted by this Court and the case was referred to a larger Bench in K.G. Premshankar Vs. Inspector of Police & Anr., AIR 2002 SC 3372. In the said case, the Judgment in V.M. Shah (supra) was not approved. While deciding the case, this Court placed reliance upon the Judgment of the Privy Council in Emperor Vs. Khwaja Nazair Ahmad, AIR 1945 PC 18 wherein it has been held as under :-
"It is conceded that the findings in a civil proceeding are not binding in a subsequent prosecution founded upon the same or similar allegations. Moreover, the police investigation was stopped and it cannot be said with certainty that no more information could be obtained. But even if it were not, it is the duty of a criminal court when a prosecution for a crime takes place before it to form its own view and not to reach its conclusion by reference to any previous decision which is not binding upon it." (Emphasis added)
16 While deciding the said case, reliance has been placed by this Court on Iqbal Singh Marwah & Anr. Vs. Meenakshi Marwah & Anr., (2005) 4 SCC 370, wherein this Court held as under :-
"Coming to the last contention that an effort should be made to avoid conflict of findings between the civil and criminal courts, it is necessary to point out that the standard of proof required in the two proceedings are entirely different. Civil cases are decided on the basis of preponderance of evidence while in a criminal case the entire burden lies on the prosecution and proof beyond reasonable doubt has to be given. There is neither any statutory provision nor any legal principle that the findings recorded in one proceeding may be treated as final or binding in the other, as both the cases have to be decided on the basis of the evidence adduced therein."
17. In P. Swaroopa Rani Vs. M. Hari Narayana alias Hari Babu, AIR 2008 SC 1884, this Court has held as under :-
"It is, however, well settled that in a given case, civil proceedings and criminal proceedings can proceed simultaneously. Whether civil proceedings or criminal proceedings shall be stayed depends upon the fact and circumstances of each case...... Filing of an independent criminal proceeding, although initiated in terms of some observations made by the civil court, is not barred under any statute......It goes without saying that the respondent shall be at liberty to take recourse to such a remedy which is available to him in law. We have interfered with the impugned order only because in law simultaneous proceedings of a civil and a criminal case is permissible."
18. In Syed Aksari Hadi Ali Augustine Imam & Anr. Vs. State (Delhi Admn) & Anr., (2009) 5 SCC 528, this Court considered all the earlier Judgments on the issue and held that while deciding the case in Karam Chand (supra), this Court failed to take note of the Constitution Bench Judgment in M.S. Sherrif (supra) and, therefore, it remains per incuriam and does not lay down the correct law. A similar view has been reiterated by this Court in Vishnu Dutt Sharma Vs. Daya Prasad, (2009) 13 SCC 729, wherein it has been held by this Court that the decision in Karamchand (supra) stood overruled in K.G. Premshankar (supra).