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REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 811 OF 2013
(Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 6746 of 2012)
Sharanjit Kaur & Anr. …. Appellant(s)
Versus
State of Punjab …. Respondent(s)
WITH
CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 812 OF 2013
(Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 9690 of 2012)
J U D G M E N T
P.Sathasivam,J.
1) Leave granted.
2) These appeals are filed against the final judgment and
orders dated 23.07.2012 and 07.11.2012 passed by the High
Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in Criminal Misc.
No. M-21109 of 2012 and Criminal Writ Petition No. 1843 of
2012 respectively whereby the High Court dismissed the
petitions filed by the appellants herein.
3) Brief facts:
1Page 2
a) On 03.04.2012, a First Information Report (FIR) being
No. 17 was lodged by one Kahan Singh, r/o Village Chugawan
Roopamali, Kathunangal, Amritsar, against Sharanjit Kaur,
Mukhtiar Singh, Manjit Kaur and Kirandeep @ Mandeep Kaur,
r/o Village Mann, Tehsil and District Amritsar, at P.S.
Kathunangal, Amritsar under Section 420 of the Indian Penal
Code, 1860 (in short “IPC”) alleging embezzlement of Rs. 30
lakhs on the pretext of sending his son-Gurpreet Singh to
America for a permanent job for which he paid the above
said amount in several instalments to the accused persons.
It was also alleged in the complaint that on failure to honour
the promise, the appellants issued a cheque of Rs. 30 lakhs
to the complainant bearing No. 534873 dated 23.02.2012,
which got dishonoured due to insufficient funds.
b) Against the said FIR, Manjit Kaur and Mandeep Kaur
filed an application for anticipatory bail being No. 6148 of
2012 and Sharanjit Kaur and Mukhtiar Singh also filed a
similar application being No. 7617 of 2012 under Section 438
of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short “the Code”)
before the Additional Session Judge, Amritsar which were
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dismissed vide orders dated 19.04.2012 and 18.05.2012
respectively.
c) Aggrieved by the orders dated 18.05.2012 and
19.04.2012, Sharanjit Kaur and Mukhtiar Singh filed Criminal
Misc. No. M-21109 of 2012 and Manjit Kaur and Mandeep
Kaur filed Criminal Misc. No. M-12763 of 2012 before the
High Court for anticipatory bail which were dismissed by
orders dated 23.07.2012 and 03.05.2012 respectively.
d) Against the said order, Manjit Kaur and Mandeep Kaur
preferred Special Leave Petition No. 4932 of 2012 before this
Court. Vide order dated 20.07.2012, this Court, dismissed
the same.
e) Being aggrieved by the order dated 23.07.2012, the coaccused Sharanjit Kaur and Mukhtiar Singh filed Special
Leave Petition No. 6746 of 2012 before this Court. Vide order
dated 21.09.2012, while issuing notice, this Court stayed the
arrest of the co-accused.
f) In the meantime, Manjit Kaur and Mandeep Kaur again
moved a petition being Criminal Writ Petition No. 1843 of
2012 before the High Court praying for an order restraining
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their arrest in view of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994
being a Special Act applicable to the offences leveled against
them.
g) By order dated 07.11.2012, the High Court dismissed
the Criminal Writ Petition No. 1843 of 2012 filed by the
appellants herein.
h) Questioning the order dated 07.11.2012, the appellants,
viz., Manjit Kaur and Mandeep Kaur, filed Special Leave
Petition No. 9690 of 2012 before this Court.
4) Heard Mr. R.K. Kapoor, learned counsel for the
appellants, Mr. Ajay Kapur, learned AAG for the respondentState and Mr. A.S.Chandhiok, learned ASG as amicus curiae.
Discussion:
5) It is the claim of the appellants that whether in view of
Sections 4(2), 5, 44-51, 71 and 77 etc. of the Punjab
Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 which give complete powers to the
Gram Panchayat to take cognizance of criminal cases, accept
complaints, conduct enquiries, summon witnesses, proceed
with the trial, pass orders of conviction, sentence and
compensation, the impugned proceedings initiated under the
4

IPC is sustainable? On the other hand, it is the stand of the
respondent-State that in view of serious allegations against
the appellants who cheated the complainant’s son and
committed fraud by taking his money, in spite of Section
44(3) of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, the
prosecuting authority is entitled to proceed under the
provisions of the IPC.
6) In order to understand the rival contentions, it is useful
to refer the brief facts. The appellants had filed petitions for
grant of anticipatory bail before the Additional Session Judge,
Amritsar. By orders dated 19.04.2012 and 18.05.2012, the
Additional Session Judges dismissed the same by observing
that from the allegations made in the FIR, gravity of the
offence is quite serious and custodial interrogation of the
appellants is necessary for the just and complete
investigation. Thereafter, the appellants filed petitions for
anticipatory bail before the High Court contending that no
investigation could be carried out in the case since the
offence was triable by Gram Panchayat. The High Court, by
orders dated 03.05.2012 and 23.07.2012, dismissed the
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same. Being aggrieved by the order dated 03.05.2012, the
appellants, viz., Manjit Kaur and Mandeep Kaur filed Criminal
Writ Petition No. 1843 of 2012 before the High Court. Vide
order dated 07.11.2012, learned Single Judge observed that
the offence comes under the purview of IPC and rejected the
contention put forth by the appellants by dismissing their
petition for anticipatory bail. These orders are under
challenge before this Court by way of the present special
leave petitions.
7) It is also relevant to note that the complainant, under
the hope that his son would be sent to America in order to
get settled in life, went to the extent of selling his property
and arranged funds to the tune of Rs. 30 lakhs. Despite
repeated requests, the appellants failed to honour the
promise and issued a cheque of Rs. 30 lakhs to the
complainant which got dishonoured due to insufficient funds.
The complainant has also filed an affidavit highlighting all
these details. On the other hand, it is the stand of the State
that criminal courts have no bar for initiation of proceedings
against the accused. It is also pointed out that the accused
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persons failed to join the enquiry proceedings despite being
called a number of times and as such the accused would
have never appeared before the authority like Panchayat. It
is also pointed out by the State that no investigation can be
carried out by the police when the offence is triable by Gram
Panchayat is misconceived.
8) Though the issue relates to dismissal of anticipatory bail
applications by the High Court, since it relates to an
important question as to the jurisdiction of Gram Panchayats
in a serious offence like Section 420 IPC and it is also brought
to our notice that it is a common practice in the State of
Punjab being adopted by the agents like the present
appellants whereby innocent people and rustic villagers are
duped, in order to lay down an authoritative pronouncement,
we requested learned Attorney General for India for
assistance. At the time of hearing, Mr. A.S. Chandhiok,
learned ASG assisted us by taking us through the objects and
reasons, relevant provisions of the Punjab Panchayati Raj
Act, 1994 as well as provisions of the IPC.

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9) The Panchayati Raj Institution has been in existence in
the country for a long period of time. It has been observed
that the institutions like the Panchayat Samitis, Zila
Parishads and Panchayats have not been able to acquire the
status and dignity of viable and responsive people’s bodies
due to variety of reasons including absence of regular
elections, prolonged suppressions, inadequate
representation of weaker sections like scheduled castes and
women, insufficient devolution of powers and lack of financial
resources. In order to overcome the shortcoming, various
provisions were enacted in the Constitution of India, IPC,
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as well as in the Punjab
Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 which are as under:
(A) Constitution of India:
(i) In the Constitution, a new Part, viz., Part IX relating to
‘Panchayats’ has been added by the Constitution 73rd
Amendment Act, 1992 which defines the ‘Gram Sabha’ and
‘Panchayat’ as under:-
“243(b) Gram Sabha means a body consisting of persons
registered in the electoral rolls relating to a village
comprised within the area of Panchayat at the village
level;
8Page 9
“243(d) Panchayat means an institution (by whatever
name called) of self government constituted under Article
243B, for the rural areas;”
(ii) Similarly, under Article 243A, a Gram Sabha may
exercise such powers and perform such functions at the
village level as the legislature of a State may, by law,
provide.
(iii) Article 243N of the Constitution provides as under:-
“243N. Continuance of existing laws and
Panchayats. Notwithstanding anything in this Part, any
provision of any law relating to Panchayats in force in a
State immediately before commencement of the
Constitution (Seventy third Amendment) Act, 1992, which
is inconsistent with the provisions of this part, shall
continue to be in force until amended or repealed by a
competent legislature other competent authority or until
the expiration of one year from such commencement
whichever is earlier:
Provided that all the Panchayats existing immediately
before such commencement shall continue till the
expiration of their duration, unless sooner dissolved by a
resolution passed to that effect by the Legislative
Assembly of that State or, in the case of a State having a
Legislative Council, by each house of the Legislature of
that State.”
(B) Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994:
(i) Though in the State of Punjab, Punjab Gram Panchayat
Act, 1952 was in existence which was repealed and a new
Punjab Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 was enacted. However, the
provisions of the earlier act and new act are more or less
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similar. The new Act of 1994 was enacted with the
Statement of Objects and Reasons to bring together the
institutions like the Panchayat Samitis, Zila Parishads and
Panchayats by a comprehensive and unified enactment
consequent upon the Constitutional changes made in the
Constitutional 73rd Amendment Act, 1992. The Act thus was
aimed to enable the Panchayats to function as an institution
of self-government.
(ii) Similar Panchayati Raj Acts are in existence in many
other States, viz., Himachal Pradesh Panchayati Raj Act,
1994, Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, Madhya
Pradesh Panchayat Raj Avam Gram Swaraj Adhiniyam, 1993,
Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1947 and Bihar Panchayat
Raj Act, 1993 which contained various provisions relating to
Nyaya Panchayats in the concerned State.
(iii) The issue arises for consideration in the case on hand is
whether the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 deprive the
ordinary criminal courts of their jurisdiction to try an offence
under the IPC, i.e., Section 420, which is both cognizable and
1Page 11
non-bailable and which is also mentioned in the Schedule II
of the said Act.
(iv) It is useful to refer the important provisions under the
Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 which are as under:-
Section 2(za) “Gram Panchayat” means an institution of
self-government for a Gram Sabha area constituted under
Section 9.
Section 2 (zze) The expression “offence”, “non-bailable
offence”, “cognizable offence”, “complaint”, “officer-incharge of a police station”, and “police station” have the
same meaning as in Section 2 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973.
Section 4 provides for ‘Constitution of Gram Sabhas’.
Section 9 provides for ‘Functions of Gram Sabhas’.
Section 30 provides for ‘Functions of Gram
Panchayats’.
Section 35 provides for ‘Power of Gram Panchayat to
make
general order’.
Chapter IV provides for the ‘Judicial Functions of Gram
Panchayats’.
Section 44 provides for ‘Powers and Jurisdiction of Gram
Panchayat over criminal offences’ as under:-
(1) – Gram Panchayat shall exercise powers
and shall have jurisdiction over matters laid
down in Schedule II.
(2) For the purpose of deciding whether an
offence falls within the jurisdiction of a Gram
Panchayat, the provisions of Section 178 to
181 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
shall apply.
(3) A Gram Panchayat shall be deemed to be
criminal court when trying criminal cases.”
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Section 47 provides for ‘Cognizance of criminal cases’
(1) A criminal case before a Gram Panchayat shall be
instituted on a complaint in writing and on payment
of fee prescribed in Schedule III by presenting it in
person to the Sarpanch, and in absence, to any
Panch or by sending it by registered post to the
Gram Panchayat…..
(2) The particulars of the complaint shall be
recorded by the Secretary of the Gram Panchayat in
the register prescribed for the purpose.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in subsection (1) A Gram Panchayat shall be competent to
take cognizance suo moto of cases falling under
Sections 160, 228, 264, 277, 289, 290 & 510 of the
Indian Penal Code, 1860 and under Sections 3 and 4
of the Punjab Juvenile Smoking Act.
Section 48 provides for the procedure by Gram Panchayat after
receiving the complaint.
Section 49 provides for ‘Power of Gram Panchayat to refuse to
entertain criminal case’:-
(1) If at any time it appears to the Gram Panchayat that the
offence is one for which the sentence which the Gram Panchayat
is competent to pass would be inadequate, it shall send the
record of the case by order in writing to the Chief Judicial
Magistrate.
Section 51 provides for Prompt disposal of criminal cases’:-
(1) The Gram Panchayat shall, if possible, try a criminal case
and pass orders on the day on which the accused appears
and if that is not possible may, if he is not already on bail,
require him to execute a bond with or without sureties… to
appear before the Gram Panchayat or any subsequent
day/days to which trial may be adjourned……
Section 52 provides for the punishment which can be passed
by the Gram Panchayat.
(1) A Gram Panchayat may on conviction:-
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(a) sentence the accused to a fine not exceeding two hundred
rupees or double the value of the damage or loss caused by this
Act, whichever is greater;
Provided that no fine shall exceed the maximum fine prescribed
by the law for that offence…..
Section 55 provides for supervision of criminal proceedings by
Chief Judicial Magistrate.
Section 71 provides that Provisions of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973 and Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and the Indian
Evidence Act, 1872 shall not apply to proceedings before the
Gram Panchayat.
Section 74 provides for ‘Bar to Legal Practitioners’
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Legal
Practitioners Act, 1879, no legal practitioner shall be
permitted to appear, plead or act before a Gram
Panchayat for any party in any judicial proceedings under
this Act.
Sections 79 and 80 provides that on an application filed by
any party for transfer of proceedings before the Chief Judicial
Magistrate etc. the Gram Panchayat shall adjourn or stay the
case.
Section 82 provides for ‘Finality of decision.’
Section 222 provides for ‘Over-riding Effect on Other Laws’
(1) Save as otherwise provided in this Act, the
provisions of this Act or rules or regulations or bye-laws
made thereunder have effect notwithstanding anything
inconsistent contained in any other law for the time being
in force.
(C) Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973:
Section 4 Trial of offences under the Indian Penal Code
and other laws:-
(1) All offences under the Indian Penal Code (45 of
1860) shall be investigated, inquired into, tried, and
otherwise dealt with according to the provisions
hereinafter contained.
1Page 15
(2) All offences under any other law shall be
investigated, inquired into, tried and otherwise dealt
with according to the same provisions, but subject to
any enactment for the time being in force regulating
the manner or place of investigating, inquiring into,
trying or otherwise dealing with such offences.”
Section 5 provides that ‘nothing contained in this Code shall, in
the absence of a specific provision to the contrary, affect any
special or local law for time being in force, or any special
jurisdiction or power conferred or any special form of procedure
prescribed, any other law for time being in force’.
Section 2(d) ‘Complaint’ and Section 2(r) ‘Police Report’ has
been equally applicable under the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act.
(D) Case Laws:
(i) In Giani Ram vs. Attar Chand and Ors., AIR 1960
Punjab 80, while dealing with earlier Punjab Gram Panchayat
Act, 1952, it was observed that proviso to Section 41 did not
intend to take away the jurisdiction vested in the criminal
courts to try offences which they are empowered to try under
the Code of Criminal Procedure. The ordinary criminal courts
have not been completely divested of their jurisdiction under
the general law.
(ii) As rightly pointed out by learned ASG, it is important to
note that no ‘exclusive jurisdiction’ for trying certain criminal
offences has been conferred upon Gram Panchayat under
1Page 16
the Punjab Gram Panchayat Act, 1952 or Punjab Panchayati
Raj Act, 1994 unlike in the case of Pepsu Panchayat Raj Act,
2008Bk. (Section 67(2) of the Pepsu Act). [vide Meena Ram
vs. Master Dwarki, AIR 1958 Punjab 417 at para 2]
(iii) In Baldeo Singh and Ors. vs. State of Bihar and
Others, AIR 1957 SC 612, this Court, after interpreting the
provisions of Bihar Panchayati Raj Act, 1948, held that the
scheme of the Act was that a case cognizable under the Act
by Gram Cutcherry should be tried by a Bench of the Gram
Cutcherry save in some exceptional cases. It was further
held that in case of transfer, withdrawal of a case from the
Gram Cutcherry or the cancellation of the jurisdiction of the
bench, it may not be said that the ordinary criminal Courts
also have no jurisdiction to try it.
(iv) A similar ‘exclusive jurisdiction’ has been conferred
upon Nyaya Panchayats under the Uttar Pradesh Panchayat
Raj Act, 1947. [vide Chhotey Lal and Others vs. State AIR
1967 All 229 para 6]
(v) In Bhim Sen vs. State of U.P., AIR 1955 SC 435, a
bench of three-Judges of this Court, while interpreting the

16

U.P. Panchayat Raj Act, 1947, which contained a provision
relating to bar of jurisdiction of ordinary criminal courts, has
held that such a bar in respect of the entire case can be
operative only when there is valid machinery for the trial
thereof under the Act.
(vi) In Kartar Singh and Others vs. Pritam Singh and
Others AIR 1956 Pepsu 78, it was held with respect to civil
matters that “although the Panchayat Courts have been
given jurisdiction in certain suits by the Pepsu Panchayat Raj
Act, 2008 Bk, the jurisdiction of ordinary civil courts in such
suits has not been excluded or taken away, the result of
which is that both the courts have concurrent jurisdiction in
such suits.
(vii) In State of M.P. vs. Shobharam & Ors., AIR 1966 SC
1910, a Constitution Bench of this Court, while examining the
provisions of Madhya Bharat Panchayat Act, 1949 held that
“the police have under its general powers under the Code of
Criminal Procedure authority to arrest any person concerned
in any cognizable offence”.
1Page 18
10) Learned amicus, after adverting to the various
provisions of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 as well as
of the Code pointed out that de hors the fact that whether
the offence is triable under the ordinary criminal courts or by
the Gram Panchayats, there is no bar to the police to
investigate the offence and submit a report to the
Magistrate. He further submitted that according to Section
45 of the said Act, Magistrate can transfer a case to Gram
Panchayat at the stage of receiving a complaint under
Section 156(3) or at the time of taking cognizance after filing
of report by the police under Section 173 of the Code.
Therefore, in view of the above, the Punjab Panchayati Raj
Act, 1994 in no way prohibits the investigation and arrest by
the Police.
11) Learned amicus curiae, by pointing out towards Section
46(2) of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 contended that
it makes very clear that at least the part of investigation has
been entrusted to the Police. He further pointed out that the
provisions contained in Section 47 make it clear that: (i)
Gram Panchayat can take suo moto cognizance only in cases
1Page 19
falling under Sections 160, 228, 264, 277, 289, 290 and 510
of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and certain other cases; and
(ii) for remaining cases in the Schedule II, cognizance can
only be taken after receiving a complaint in writing.
12) Further, it is submitted in view of Section 51 of the
Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 that the wordings ‘if he is
not already on bail’ signifies that the accused can be
investigated under the provisions of the Code of Criminal
Procedure and can even be arrested.
13) Learned amicus curiae further pointed out that in view
of Section 52 of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, the
Gram Panchayats have a limited power only to impose a fine
that too of only Rs. 200 and it has no power to sentence the
accused for imprisonment. Further, in view of Section 71
which provides that the provisions of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973 and Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and the
Indian Evidence Act, 1872 shall not apply to proceedings
before the Gram Panchayat, it was submitted that the above
provision does not mean that during investigation and the
1Page 20
proceeding before the Magistrate, provisions of Code of
Criminal Procedure, 1973 will not apply.
14) Admittedly, though civil and criminal jurisdiction has
been conferred upon the Gram Panchayats, no qualification
etc., has been provided for panchas. Therefore, what culled
out from the above is that the power of the police cannot be
abridged or taken away under any circumstances.
15) It is not out of place to mention that a new Act, viz.,
Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 has been enacted and has been
made applicable to many States including Punjab. The new
Act of 2008 also brings in the civil and the criminal
jurisdiction to the Gram Nyayalayas. Section 3(3) of the
2008 Act provides that the Gram Nyayalayas established
under the sub-Section (1) shall be in addition to the courts
established under any other law for the time being in force.
16) As far as the present case is concerned, in view of the
various provisions of the Constitution of India, Punjab
Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
as well as the case laws on the point discussed in the earlier

20

paragraphs, the conclusion which can be drawn from the
above is as under:-
(i) There is no bar for investigating any offence by the
police including the offences mentioned in the Schedule II of
the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994.
(ii) The investigation would include the power to arrest and
the ordinary procedure under the Code will govern the entire
proceedings.
(iii) Till the stage of completion of investigation, Gram
Panchayat has no jurisdiction at all.
(iv) After the report of police under Section 173, the
Magistrate shall transfer the case for trial to Gram Panchayat
or to any other subordinate court to him.
(v) Unless a case is transferred to Gram Panchayat under
Section 45 of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, the ‘Gram
Panchayat’ does not get any jurisdiction over the said
case/investigation unless the offence is one mentioned in
Section 47(3) of the said Act.
(vi) However, it is open to any person/complainant to
directly approach the Gram Panchayat by submitting a
2Page 22
written complaint. In that case also, if it is a cognizable
offence, there is no bar for the police to investigate the
matter.
17) In view of the above analysis, the claim of the
appellants, as projected by Mr. Kapoor, that no investigation
can be carried out by police is not sustainable. Though Mr.
Kapoor has relied on various decisions of the High Courts,
viz., State of M.P. vs. Shobaram and Others AIR 1966 SC
1910, Bhim Sen (supra), Meena Ram (supra) and
Chhotely Lal (supra), in the light of our interpretation with
reference to the relevant provisions of the Punjab Panchayati
Raj Act, 1994, we feel that the same are not helpful to the
stand taken by the appellants.
18) Under these circumstances, we hold that in the facts
and circumstances of the present case, the investigation is to
be conducted by the police authorities only and the offence
of Section 420 IPC where the allegations are of a serious
nature and the appellants has duped of Rs. 30 lakhs from the
complainant, should be tried by the regular criminal court
only and not by the Gram Panchayat.
2Page 23
19) Consequently, both the appeals fail and are accordingly
dismissed. Interim protection granted earlier shall stand
vacated.
………….…………………………J.
(P. SATHASIVAM)
………….…………………………J.
(M.Y. EQBAL)
NEW DELHI;
JULY 01, 2013.

 

 

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