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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1500 OF 2010
(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 5440 of 2009)
Kishan Singh (D) through L.Rs. ...Appellants
Gurpal Singh & Ors. ...Respondents
Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN, J.
1. Leave granted.
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. The 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
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."
16 In Iqbal Singh Marwah & Anr. Vs. Meenakshi Marwah &
Anr., (2005) 4 SCC 370, 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 :-
"t 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).
19. Thus, in view of the above, the law on the issue stands
crystallized to the effect that the findings of fact recorded by the Civil
Court do not have any bearing so far as the criminal case is
concerned and vice-versa. Standard of proof is different in civil and
criminal cases. In civil cases it is preponderance of probabilities
while in criminal cases it is proof beyond reasonable doubt. There is
neither any statutory nor any legal principle that findings recorded by
the court either in civil or criminal proceedings shall be binding
between the same parties while dealing with the same subject matter
and both the cases have to be decided on the basis of the evidence
adduced therein. However, there may be cases where the provisions
of Sections 41 to 43 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, dealing with
the relevance of previous Judgments in subsequent cases may be
taken into consideration.
20. In view of the above, the Judgment and order of the High Court
dated 13.02.2009 is not sustainable in the eyes of law and is liable to
be set aside. However, the facts and circumstances of the case do
not warrant so. The agreement to sell in favour of the appellants'
father is dated 22.10.1988 and sale deed was to be executed and
registered by 15.06.1989. The respondent Nos. 1 to 4 filed Civil suit
No. 60/1989 in 1989. It is difficult to believe that the appellants' father
was not aware of the pendency of that suit. No explanation has been
furnished as to why after expiry of the date of execution of the sale
deed in favour of Kishan Singh, i.e. 15.06.1989, the appellants' father
did not file the suit for specific performance which was subsequently
filed on 6.2.1996 as Civil Suit No. 81/1996. Even if it is presumed
that Kishan Singh was not aware of pendency of suit filed by the
respondent Nos. 1 to 4, no explanation could be furnished that in
case, the appellants' father filed another suit No. 1075/1996 for
setting aside the decree dated 8.5.1996 in Civil Suit no.60/1989, why
did he wait till the decision of that suit for lodging FIR, as the civil and
criminal proceedings could have proceeded simultaneously. The FIR
has been filed only on 23.07.2002 i.e. after filing the RFA No.
2488/2002 before the High Court on 15.07.2002. Therefore, there is
an inordinate delay on the part of the appellants' father in filing the
FIR and there is no explanation whatsoever for the same.
21. Prompt and early reporting of the occurrence by the informant
with all its vivid details gives an assurance regarding truth of its
version. In case, there is some delay in filing the FIR, the
complainant must give explanation for the same. Undoubtedly, delay
in lodging the FIR does not make the complainant's case improbable
when such delay is properly explained. However, deliberate delay in
lodging the complaint is always fatal. [vide: Sahib Singh Vs. State
of Haryana, AIR 1997 SC 3247].
22. In cases where there is a delay in lodging a FIR, the Court has
to look for a plausible explanation for such delay. In absence of such
an explanation, the delay may be fatal. The reason for quashing
such proceedings may not be merely that the allegations were an
after thought or had given a coloured version of events. In such
cases the court should carefully examine the facts before it for the
reason that a frustrated litigant who failed to succeed before the Civil
Court may initiate criminal proceedings just to harass the other side
with mala fide intentions or the ulterior motive of wreaking vengeance
on the other party. Chagrined and frustrated litigants should not be
permitted to give vent to their frustrations by cheaply invoking the
jurisdiction of the criminal court. The court proceedings ought not to
be permitted to degenerate into a weapon of harassment and
persecution. In such a case, where an FIR is lodged clearly with a
view to spite the other party because of a private and personal
grudge and to enmesh the other party in long and arduous criminal
proceedings, the court may take a view that it amounts to an abuse of
the process of law in the facts and circumstances of the case. (vide :
Chandrapal Singh & Ors. Vs. Maharaj Singh & Anr., AIR 1982 SC
1238; State of Haryana & Ors. Vs. Ch. Bhajan Lal & Ors., AIR
1992 SC 604; G. Sagar Suri & Anr. Vs. State of U.P. & Ors., AIR
2000 SC 754; and Gorige Pentaiah Vs. State of A.P. & Ors., (2008)
12 SCC 531).
23. The case before us relates to a question of the genuineness of
the agreement to sell dated 4.1.1988. The said agreement was
between Kishori Lal and respondents and according to the terms of
the said agreement, the sale deed was to be executed by 10.6.1989.
As the sale deed was not executed within the said time, suit for
specific performance was filed by the other party in 1989 which was
decreed in 1996. So far as the present appellants are concerned,
agreement to sell dated 22.10.1988 was executed in favour of their
father and the sale deed was to be executed by 15.6.1989. No action
was taken till 1996 for non-execution of the sale deed. The
appellants' father approached the court after 7 years by filing Suit
No.81/1996 for specific performance. However, by that time, the suit
filed by the present respondents stood decreed. The appellants'
father filed another Suit No.1075/96 for setting aside the judgment
and decree passed in favour of the respondents 1 to 4. The said suit
was dismissed by the Additional District Judge (Senior Division),
Khanna on 10.6.2002. Subsequently, the appellants preferred RFA
No. 2488/02 on 15.7.2002 against the aforesaid order, and the said
appeal is still pending before the Punjab & Haryana High Court.
24. It is to be noted that the appellants' father Kishan Singh lodged
FIR No.144/02 on 23.7.2002 through his attorney Jaswant Singh
Mann under Sections 420/323/467/468/471/120-B IPC, against the
respondents. The allegations made in the FIR were substantially
similar to the allegations made by the appellants in Civil Suit
No.1075/96, which had been decided against them. It is evident
that the aforesaid FIR was filed with inordinate delay and there has
been no plausible explanation for the same. The appellants lodged
the aforesaid FIR only after meeting their Waterloo in the Civil Court.
Thus, it is evident that the FIR was lodged with the sole intention of
harassing the respondents and enmeshing them in long and arduous
criminal proceedings. We are of the view that such an action on the
part of the appellants' father would not be bona fide, and the criminal
proceedings initiated by him against the respondents amount to an
abuse of the process of law.
25. In view of the above, and to do substantial justice, we are not
inclined to interfere with the order passed by the High Court quashing
the criminal proceedings against the respondents in spite of the fact
that the impugned judgment dated 13.02.2009 passed in Criminal
Misc. No. 4136 of 2003 is not sustainable in the eyes of law.
26. With these observations, the appeal stands disposed of.
(P. SATHASIVAM) ..................................J.
New Delhi, (Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN)
August 12, 2010 1