Criminal Appeal No. 335/2020
Jasbir Singh vs State of Punjab
Date of Order:
September 15, 2022
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul
Justice Abhay S. Oka
Justice Vikram Nath
Appellant- State of Punjab
Respondents- Jasbir Singh
This appeal was challenging an order passed by the High Court which granted relief to the respondent in a case relating to forgery in a civil case. The reason for which he was granted relief was that it was found that he was not given an opportunity to be heard, as the FIR was filed without proper inquiry made into it. It was also found that the FIR did not comply with provisions of Section 340.The Supreme Court defined the differences between an order and a judgement as a misunderstanding on this aspect would cause confusions regarding existing legal principles. The Court judged that it was not necessary to give an opportunity of hearing to a would be accused before a complaint was made under Section 340 of the CrPC.
- Section 340, CrPC- If the Court is of the opinion that it is expedient in the interests of justice that an inquiry should be made into any offence referred to in Section 195, CrPC, which appears to have been committed in relation to a proceeding taken place in that Court or, with respect to any document produced or given as evidence in a proceeding in that Court, the Court may conduct a preliminary inquiry into the same.
- The respondent was granted relief by the High Court in a case including forgery in a civil case. This was on the grounds that the FIR registered against him had not complied with provisions under Section 340, CrPC. And also that the respondent was not given a chance to be heard as no inquiry was conducted on the matter.
- This order referred to two judgements, the first being Pritish vs State of Maharashtra and Ors[(2002) 1 SCC 253] and the second was Sharad Pawar vs. Jagmohan Dalmiya [(2010) 15 SCC 290] along with the judgement of a Constitution Bench of this Court.
- In the first case it was ruled that the purpose of preliminary inquiry in a case was not to determine whether the accused was guilty or not but to know whether justice allowed an inquiry as necessary in that case. In this judgement it was ruled that though it was not necessary from the part of the Court to conduct such inquiry, if conducted, the Court shoul be able to come up with a set of facts which proves that the offence involved necessitates further inquiry.
- In the second citation the Court pronounced that by means of preliminary inquire it was necessary to give the defendants an opportunity to be heard.
- The observations of the Court in Iqbal Singh Marwah vs. Meenakshi Marwah[(2005) 4 SCC 370] was further noted. In this judgement delivered by a Constitution Bnech it was stated that a preliminary inquiry needs to be conducted not on the basis of the magnitude of injury the person affected by forgery suffers from, but by the effect that the act had on the administration of justice. If the evidence submitted is not enough to prove the latter, the Court may not initiate a preliminary inquiry.
- Whether Section 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 mandates a preliminary inquiry and an opportunity of hearing to the would-be accused before a complaint is made under Section 195 of the Code by a Court?
- What is the scope and ambit of such preliminary inquiry?
- The Court observed that the findings cited from the Sharad Pawar case werenot a judgement as they were, but only an order. The difference between the two was that an order is pronounced only based on the given factual scenario in a particular case while a judgement was based on the legal principles of law. When orders pronounced by a Court lead to further legal issues, it creates a situation of misunderstandings regarding prevalent legal principles.
- The Court said that a question of opportunity to be heard not being given to the respondent, in this case, does not rise, on par with the observations referred to in the judgement of the Constitution Bench in the case of Iqbal Singh Marwah.
- The Court clarified that as far as the first issue raised in this case was concerned, that is whether Section 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 mandates a preliminary inquiry and an opportunity of hearing being given to the would-be accused before a complaint is made under Section 195 of the Code by a Court, it does not stand valid.
- The scope and ambit of preliminary inquiry of the Court were also answered in the judgement given in the Iqbal Singh Marwah case, which said that unless there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove that the act of forgery has affected the administration of justice, such inquiry didn't need to be conducted.
The Court delivered its judgement on the issues raisedin this appeal and referred the case to a regular Bench of the Court for the merits of the case to be judged upon.It was held that preliminary inquiry needs to be conducted by the Court only when a situation comes wherein there is proven effect that has happened to the administration of justice.
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