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Should Magistrates Notify The Victim Or Close Relatives When Considering A Closure Report? J&k&l High Court Responds

Sanskriti Tiwari ,
  21 June 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
J&K&L High Court
Brief :

Citation :
CRMC No. 817/2018

CASE NAME:

Sukhdev Singh vs State of Jammu and Kashmir

CASE DATE:

20th April, 2024

PARTIES INVOLVED:-

Petitioner:-

1.    Sukhdev Singh

Respondent:-

1.    State of Jammu and Kashmir

2.    SHO Police State, Gandhi Nagar, Jammu

3.    Pyara Singh

BENCH/JUDGE:

Justice Sanjeev Kumar

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:-

1.    Section 173 of CrPC:- 

Deals with the duties of the police to investigate cognizable offenses. 

2.    Section 200 of CrPC:- 

Pertains to the examination of the complainant by the Magistrate and the recording of the complainant’s statement under oath.

3.    Section 202 of CrPC:- 

Deals with the postponement of the issue of process against the accused and directs the Magistrate to inquire into the case to decide whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding.

SUBJECT:-

In this case of fatal motorcycle accident, the court examined how the Magistrate ordered reinvestigation after initially accepting the police’s closure report, which attributed fault to the deceased. Respondent No.3, the deceased’s father, argued that the Magistrate mishandled the protest petition by not treating it as a fresh complaint. The court ruled in favor of Respondent No.3, quashing the reinvestigation, upholding the closure report’s acceptance and allowing the filing of a new complaint.

OVERVIEW:-

  • On May 20, 2011, Sarabjeet Singh, the son of respondent No.3, met with a motorcycle accident involving a rashly driven grey Bajaj Chetak scooter. He sustained severe injuries and was left at the scene for half an hour before being taken to the hospital by his father, where he was declared dead. 
  • An FIR was registered and respondent No.3, suspecting police bias due to the influence of the petitioner, sought a transfer of the investigation to the Crime Branch, which was denied. Instead, a new officer was assigned. 
  • Despite this, respondent No.3 felt the investigation remained unfair and filed another petition. The court then directed the IGP Jammu to supervise the investigation.
  • The police concluded that the accident was due to the deceased’s negligent driving and closed the case, which was accepted by the Judicial Magistrate. 
  • Respondent No.3 filed a revision petition, and the Revisional Court upheld the closure but noted that the protest petition by respondent No.3 should have been considered. The Magistrate then directed a reinvestigation, suspecting the petitioner’s involvement.
  • The petitioner challenged these orders, arguing that the Magistrate and Revisional Court lacked the authority to direct a reinvestigation under the J&K Cr.PC and that only the informant of the FIR could object to the police closure report.

ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT:-

  1. Whether a Judicial Magistrate, before whom a final report recommending closure of the case is submitted by the police/Investigating Officer under Section 173 CrPC, is competent to direct a fresh investigation?
  2. Whether the Judicial Magistrate is empowered under the Code of Criminal Procedure to entertain a protest petition after accepting the closure report and dismissing the challan?
  3. Whether the victim of the crime or their close relative is entitled by law to lodge a protest petition or be notified by the Judicial Magistrate when a closure report is proposed for acceptance and therefore, required to be heard before such a closure report is accepted?

CONTENTIONS RAISED ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER:-

  • The learned counsel for the petitioner, Mr. Parag Sharma, submitted that under the J&K Cr.P.C, a criminal court was devoid of any power to direct a reinvestigation by the police. 
  • He argued that, at best, a criminal court could direct further investigation. According to the impugned order dated July 11, 2016, the learned Magistrate had effectively nullified the earlier investigation entirely and directed a reinvestigation, which was not permissible under the law.
  • He contended that a protest petition by the victim or his close relatives was not maintainable unless they were the informant. 
  • Relying on the Supreme Court judgment in Bhagwant Singh vs Commissioner of Police (1985), he argued that the Code of Criminal Procedure, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, only envisaged a protest petition by the informant. 

CONTENTIONS RAISED ON BEHALF OF THE RESPONDENT:-

  • The learned counsel for the respondent, Mr. Surinder Singh, submitted that despite respondent No.3's persistent efforts to secure a fair investigation into the death of his son, allegedly caused by the petitioner through rash and negligent driving, the police at Gandhi Nagar failed to uncover the truth and hold the guilty accountable. 
  • He relied on a Single Bench Judgment of the Calcutta High Court in Debasish Bose and another vs. State of West Bengal and another (2015) to argue that a victim is an aggrieved person not only in the context of a crime but also throughout the investigation, enquiry, trial, appeal, revision and review processes, including proceedings invoking the inherent powers of the court under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C by the accused.
  • Based on this analogy, he contended that the legal heir of the deceased, is de facto the complainant and, therefore, competent to file a protest petition.

COURT’S ANALYSIS:-

  • The court found that the impugned orders passed by the Revisional Court and the learned Magistrate were not in consonance with the law.
  • It noted that the FIR was registered based on information from reliable sources, with no identifiable informant and the learned Magistrate did not notify anyone before accepting the final report.
  • The court observed that under the J&K CrPC and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, there is no obligation for the Magistrate to notify the victim or close relatives of the deceased about the closure report unless they are the informant who lodged the FIR.
  •  While the Code does not require notice to the victim or close relatives before considering the closure report, they may appear before the Magistrate and file a protest petition. If this occurs before the Magistrate passes a final order on the police report, the Magistrate must consider the protest petition.
  • The Magistrate should consider a protest petition filed by the informant or complainant when reviewing the closure report. If persuaded by the protest petition, the Magistrate may take cognizance of the case instead of accepting the closure report, without needing to proceed under Sections 200/201 CrPC. If the Magistrate accepts the closure report but receives a valid protest petition, he can treat it as a complaint and proceed accordingly.

JUDGMENT:-

The petition was allowed. The orders passed by the Revisional Court and the Magistrate were set aside. Any further investigation conducted by the police based on the Magistrate's order was declared illegal and quashed. Respondent No.3 was given the freedom to file a new complaint before the Magistrate, which would be considered on its merits in accordance with the law. Any pending applications were dismissed. 

CONCLUSION:-

This case underscores the importance of procedural correctness in criminal investigations. The court scrutinized the Magistrate’s decision to order reinvestigation after accepting the closure report attributing fault to the deceased in a fatal motorcycle accident. Emphasizing legal protocol, the court upheld the closure report, quashed the reinvestigation and allowed the deceased’s father to pursue a new complaint, ensuring justice through proper legal channels.

 
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