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Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Sections 244, 245, 246 – Official complaint from Registrar General of High Court stating that the accused persons were guilty of using a fabricated and forged letter in the court with active connivance and conspiracy on their part – Summons issued – Application under s.245(2) Cr.P.C. rejected – Charges framed – Correctness of – Held: The charges framed clearly premature – There should be evidence before framing the charges – Opportunity to cross examine is lost – Order framing the charge quashed – Matter to go back to Trial Court – Prosecution to offer witnesses under s.244(1) Cr.P.C. and opportunity to cross-examine – Only thereafter Trial Court would proceed to decide as to whether the charges to be framed or not – Penal Code, 1860, Sections 177, 181, 182, 192, 196, 199, 209, 466, 468, 471, 474. The Registrar General of High Court made a complaint to the effect that the accused persons were guilty of using a fabricated and forged letter in the court with active connivance and conspiracy on their part. The CJM took cognizance of the complaint and ordered issue of summons. Accused approached the High Court by way of writ petition and it was dismissed. SLP was filed in Supreme Court and it was dismissed as premature. Appellant thereafter appeared before the CJM, obtained bail and moved an application for discharge. The trial court dismissed the application and proceeded to frame charges. Appellant approached the High Court by filing a writ petition which was dismissed. Hence the appeal. = AJOY KUMAR GHOSE …. APPELLANT Versus STATE OF JHARKHAND & ANR. …. RESPONDENTS = 2009( March. Part ) http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=34080

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Sections 244, 245, 246 – Official complaint from Registrar General of High Court stating that the accused persons were guilty of using a fabricated and forged letter in the court with active connivance and conspiracy on their part – Summons issued – Application under s.245(2) Cr.P.C. rejected – Charges framed – Correctness of – Held: The charges framed clearly premature – There should be evidence before framing the charges – Opportunity to cross examine is lost – Order framing the charge quashed – Matter to go back to Trial Court – Prosecution to offer witnesses under s.244(1) Cr.P.C. and opportunity to cross-examine – Only thereafter Trial Court would proceed to decide as to whether the charges to be framed or not – Penal Code, 1860, Sections 177, 181, 182, 192, 196, 199, 209, 466, 468, 471, 474. The Registrar General of High Court made a complaint to the effect that the accused persons were guilty of using a fabricated and forged letter in the court with active connivance and conspiracy on their part. The CJM took cognizance of the complaint and ordered issue of summons. Accused approached the High Court by way of writ petition and it was dismissed. SLP was filed in Supreme Court and it was dismissed as premature. Appellant thereafter appeared before the CJM, obtained bail and moved an application for discharge. The trial court dismissed the application and proceeded to frame charges. Appellant approached the High Court by filing a writ petition which was dismissed. Hence the appeal.

 

Disposing of the appeal, the Court HELD: 1.1 There is a clear difference in Sections 245(1) and 245(2) of the Cr.P.C. Under Section 245(1), the Magistrate has the advantage of the evidence led by the prosecution before him under Section 244 and he has to consider whether if the evidence remains unrebutted, the conviction of the accused would be warranted. If there is no discernible incriminating material in the evidence, then the Magistrate proceeds to discharge the accused under Section 245(1) Cr.P.C. [Para 16] [530-F-G] 1.2 The situation under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C. is, however, different. There, under sub-Section (2), the Magistrate has the power of discharging the accused at any previous stage of the case, i.e., even before such evidence is led. However, for discharging an accused under Section 245 (2) Cr.P.C., the Magistrate has to come to a finding that the charge is groundless. There is no question of any consideration of evidence at that stage, because there is none. The Magistrate can take this decision before the accused appears or is brought before the Court or the evidence is led under Section 244 Cr.P.C. The words appearing in Section 245(2) Cr.P.C. “at any previous stage of the case”, clearly bring out this position. [Para 17] [530-H; 531-A-B] 1.3 The previous stage referred to under Section 245 Cr.P.C. normally comes to an end, because the next stage is only the appearance of the accused before the Magistrate in a warrant-case under Section 244 Cr.P.C. Under Section 244 Cr.P.C., on the appearance of the accused, the Magistrate proceeds to hear the prosecution and take all such evidence, as may be produced in support of the prosecution. He may, at that stage, even issue summons to any of the witnesses on the application made by the prosecution. Thereafter comes the stage of Section 245(1) Cr.P.C., where the Magistrate takes up the task of considering all the evidence taken under Section 244(1) Cr.P.C., and if he comes to the conclusion that no case against the accused has been made out, which, if unrebutted, would warrant the conviction of the accused, the Magistrate proceeds to discharge him. The situation under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C., however, is different, as has already been pointed out earlier. The Magistrate thereunder, has the power to discharge the accused at any previous stage of the case. Thus, the Magistrate can discharge the accused even when the accused appears, in pursuance of the summons or a warrant and even before the evidence is led under Section 244 Cr.P.C., makes an application for discharge.[Para 18] [532-C-D-E-F-G] 1.4 In the present case, the Magistrate did not dismiss the complaint under Section 203 Cr.P.C. However, since this was a complaint made by the Court, there was no question of examining complainant or any of his witnesses under Section 200 Cr.P.C. Further, there was no question of even issuing any direction for investigation under Section 202 Cr.P.C., since the complaint was made by the Court.[Para 19] [532-H; 533-A] 2. Since this was a complaint made by the Court, there would be no question of there being any examination of complainant or his witnesses on oath. As has already been stated earlier, the Magistrate simply issued the process under Section 204 Cr.P.C. When the accused appeared in pursuance to the summons sent to him, under Section 244 Cr.P.C., the defence came out with an application. There can be no difficulty that the discharge application was perfectly in order at that stage. Therefore, what was available before the Magistrate besides this discharge application was, a bare complaint. There was absolutely nothing beyond the complaint available, for the Magistrate to consider the framing of charge. The Magistrate could, undoubtedly, have proceeded under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C., on the basis of discharge application and discharge him. However, he would have been required to give reasons for discharging at that stage, when no evidence or no material, whatsoever, was available with him, excepting a bare complaint. [Para 19] [533-E-F-G] 3.1 An order under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C. results in discharge of the accused, whereas, an order under Section 246 Cr.P.C. creates a situation for the accused to face a full-fledged trial. Therefore, the two Sections would have to be interpreted in slightly different manner, keeping in mind the different spheres, in which they operate. The words “or at any previous stage of the case” appearing in Section 246 Cr.P.C. would include Section 245 also, where the accused has not been discharged under Section 245 Cr.P.C., while the similar term in Section 246(2) can include the stage even before any evidence is recorded. It cannot, therefore, be held that the words “at any previous stage of the case” as appearing in Section 245 Cr.P.C., would have to be given the same meaning when those words appear in Section 246 Cr.P.C. [Para 23] [536-E-F] 3.2 Coming to the facts of this case, it is clear that the opportunity to the accused to cross-examine the witnesses is lost, as the Trial Court has straightaway proceeded to frame the charge. In that view, the order, framing the charge requires to be and is quashed. The matter will now go back before the Trial Court, where the prosecution may offer the witnesses under Section 244(1) Cr.P.C. and the opportunity to cross-examine, would be offered to the accused. It is only thereafter, that the Trial Court would proceed to decide as to whether the charge is to be framed or not. The charge framed in this case is clearly premature, in view of the reasons given above. The order framing the charge would, therefore, have to be set aside. [Para 27] [539-G-H; 540-A-B] Verendra Vs. Aashraya Makers 1999 Criminal Law Journal 4206 – overruled. Iqbal Singh Marwah AND ANOTHER V. Meenakshi Marwah AND ANOTHER 2005 (4) SCC 370; Cricket Association of Bengal AND OTHERS Vs. State of West Bengal AND OTHERS 1971 (3) SCC 239; Luis de Piedade Lobo Vs. Mahadev 1984 Criminal Law Journal 513; Manmohan Malhotra Vs. P.M. Abdul Salam AND ANOTHER 1994 Criminal Law Journal 1555; Mohammed Sheriff Vs. Abdul Karim AIR 1928 Madras 129; Gopal Chauhan Vs. Smt. Satya 1979 Criminal Law Journal 446; Sambhaji Nagu Vs. State of Maharashtra 1979 Criminal Law Journal 390; Abdul NabiVs. Gulam Murthuza 1968 Criminal Law Journal 303; T.K. Appu Nair Vs.Earnest AIR 1967 Madras 262 and P. Ugender Rao AND OTHERS Vs. J. Sampoorna AND OTHERS 1990 Criminal Law Journal 762 – referred to. 4.1 This Court does not express anything on merits of the case, particularly because it is directed that the evidence of the prosecution to be led under Section 244 (1) Cr.P.C. Any expressions are likely to cause predspace to the prosecution, as the case may be, accused. Therefore, the matter is left at this.[Para 28] [540-C] 4.2 The matter shall now go back to the Trial Court and the Trial Court shall proceed to examine all the witnesses offered by the prosecution and it is only after the evidence of those witnesses is recorded, that the Trial Court would proceed to decide as to whether the charge is to be framed or not. [Para 29] [540-D] Case Law Reference 2005 (4) SCC 370 referred to Para 10 1971 (3) SCC 239 referred to Para 20 1984 Criminal Law Journal 513 referred to Para 20 1994 Criminal Law Journal 1555 referred to Para 20 AIR 1928 Madras 129 referred to Para 20 1979 Criminal Law Journal 446 referred to Para 20 1979 Criminal Law Journal 390 referred to Para 24 1968 Criminal Law Journal 303 referred to Para 24 AIR 1967 Madras 262 referred to Para 24 1990 Criminal Law Journal 762 referred to Para 24 1999 Criminal Law Journal 4206 overruled Para 26 CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Criminal Appeal No. 485 of 2009 From the Judgement and Order dated 03/07.07.2006 of the Hon’ble High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi in, W.P. (CR.) No. 315 of 2005. Ranjit Kumar, Balraj Dewan, Aurbindo, Ishant Shukla, for the Appellants. Ajay Kr, Jha, Divya Singha (M/s P. II Parekh AND Co.), Ratan Kumar Choudhuri, M.S. Chhabra, for the Respondent.

 

2009( March. Part ) http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=34080

TARUN CHATTERJEE, V.S. SIRPURKAR

1

“REPORTABLE”

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.485 OF 2009
(Arising out of SLP (CRL.) No.5196 of 2006)
AJOY KUMAR GHOSE …. APPELLANT

Versus

STATE OF JHARKHAND & ANR. …. RESPONDENTS

 

JUDGMENT

V.S.SIRPURKAR, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. A judgment passed by the High Court of Jharkand, Ranchi,

dismissing the writ petition and confirming the order of the Trial Court,

refusing to discharge the accused-appellant, is in challenge here.

 

3. The appellant Ajoy Kumar Ghosh, along with some others, is facing

prosecution for the offences under Sections 177, 181, 182, 192, 196, 199,

209, 466, 468, 471 and 474 of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter referred

to as `IPC’ for short), before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ranchi. These

charges are based on an official complaint filed by the Registrar General,

Patna High Court against these accused persons including the present
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appellant, who, at the relevant time was Director, Indian School of Mines,

Dhanbad. In the said complaint it is, inter alia, contended:
(i) That one Shri M.S. Chhabra, who was the Assistant
Professor in the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, was
proceeded against for misconduct and accordingly punishment
of compulsory retirement was imposed on him.
(ii) Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, a registered Society,
is a deemed university governed by the Rules & Regulations
and bye-laws of the School. In the matter of classification and
method of appointment and terms and conditions of service for
academic staff, Rules are framed with the approval of the
Central Government. Rule 4 of the Rules & Regulations
prescribes the constitution of General Council. The
classification and method of appointment are governed by the
bye-laws. Selection to the post of Assistant Professor is
governed by Clause 38(b), while suspension and penalties are
governed by Clauses 10 and 11 of the said bye-laws. Appeal
is provided against the same under Rule 12. It is further stated
in the complaint that the Council is defined under Clause 2(b)
of the said bye-laws and means a General Council constituted
under Rule 4 of the Rules & Regulations.
(iii) That Shri M.S.Chhabra, after being found guilty, was
awarded the punishment of compulsory retirement and he
preferred an appeal to the General Council against the
imposed penalty, which appeal was disallowed. Shri
M.S.Chhabra, therefore, filed CWJC No.678/92(R) for
quashing the said order. However, even that was disposed of
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by the High Court with a direction to the General Council of the
School to give personal hearing to the appellant/petitioner and
to dispose of the appeal thereafter. Against this order of the
High Court, the Chairman, Director-in-Charge and Acting
Registrar, namely, Shri B.K. Rao, Shri A.K. Ghosh and Shri M.
Ramakrishna, respectively, preferred an appeal in Supreme
Court, which directed expeditious decision within three months
after the fresh appeal was filed by Shri M.S. Chhabra.
However, since the appeal was not disposed of, Shri
M.S.Chhabra filed another writ petition which was registered as
CWJC No.2932/92(R) and alleged therein that on 31.03.1989,
no Head of the Department was the member of the General
Council and without observing the procedure of amendment to
the Rules as laid down under Section 23, mischievous efforts
had been made by the Chairman, Director and the Registrar
for getting new sets of Rules registered under the Societies
Registration Act. He further alleged that services of one Shri
A.K. Singh, Estate-cum-Security Officer were availed of for
liaison work and thus the amendment was without the
resolution of the General Council and without the approval of
the Government of India, in which Heads of Department as
member of the General council were included and that
resolution of the General Council for revised Memorandum of
Association and Rules & Regulations were made to appear as
if they were registered with the Inspector General of
Registration, Patna on 18.06.1992. He further stated that the
Chairman, Director and the Registrar, by indulging in the case
maliciously, were acting under utter violation of procedure laid
down under Section 23 of the Societies Registration Act.
4

(iv) That the counter affidavit had been filed to this writ
petition by Shri M. Ramakrisha, S/o Shri M. Subbarao on
behalf of the respondents in his alleged capacity of Acting
Registrar. In para 37 of the said counter affidavit, the
contention made by Shri M.S.Chhabra in paras 69 to 77 of the
writ petition were denied and it was asserted that in view of the
subsequent amendments made in the Rules & Regulations of
the School, which were ratified by the Inspector General of
Registration, the necessary amendments were made in the
Rules & Regulations of the School and that was prior to the
sitting of the General Council meeting dated 11.06.1992. A
certificate to that effect was obtained from the office of the
Inspector General of Registration, Patna, Bihar and the letter
issued by the Inspector General, Registration was enclosed as
Annexure-A to the counter affidavit. The said letter dated
09.06.1992 was allegedly issued by one Shri Vikas Prasad,
Assistant Inspector General of Registration, Patna, Bihar.
(v) That Shri M. Ramakrishna had, in his counter affidavit
stated that the contents of para 37, which have been quoted
above, were based on information derived from the records of
the case.
(vi) That the Writ Application was disallowed by the Division
Bench of the Patna High Court by its judgment and order dated
05.04.1994, against which a special leave petition came to be
filed before Supreme Court wherein the Court went into the
issue raised by the appellant/petitioner with regard to the
genuineness of the letter dated 09.06.1992, purported to have
been written by Shri Vikas Prasad and enclosed as Annexure-
A with the counter affidavit filed by Prof. M. Ramakrishna.
5

 

(vii) That a notice was sent to one Shri Vikram Prasad,
Assistant Inspector General of Registration, who, however, filed
an affidavit disclosing that the said letter was a forged
document. Therefore, Supreme Court had directed to take
action under the provisions of Section 340 of the Criminal
Procedure Code with respect to that letter.
(viii) That in compliance of the order of Supreme Court, the
complaint was being filed, for which first a notice was issued
under Section 340, Cr.P.C. by Patna High Court and during the
course of inquiry, it was found:

(a) That the letter bearing No.1206 dated 09.06.1992
was forged and fabricated and was never issued from
the office of the Inspector General of Registration.

(b) That the said letter which was produced in the
Court and used in the writ petition CWJC No.2932/92
(R) in the counter affidavit dated 21.01.1993 was filed by
Shri M. Ramakrishna.

(c) Shri S.K. Das, Section Officer in the Office of the
Inspector General of Registration was found to have
delivered that letter to Shri A.K. Singh, Estate-cum-
Security Officer.

(d) That Shri A.N. Tripathi, who was the Assistant
Registrar (Establishment) of the School at the relevant
time, was dealing with the writ and was acquainted with
the facts and circumstances of the case.

(e) Shri A.K. Ghosh, the present petitioner was, at
the relevant time Director of the School and in that
capacity he was found to be fully involved and in the
know of all concerned material.

(f) Shri Vikram Prasad, Assistant Inspector
General of Registration, had filed an affidavit in the
Supreme Court as also in the High Court to the
6

effect that the letter was not issued by him, but till
the last date of inquiry, he did not take a clear stand
that the signature bearing a letter was not his
signature.
(ix) That all the accused persons were guilty of using a
fabricated and forged letter in the Court of law with active
connivance and conspiracy on their part.
4. Cognizance was taken on the basis of this complaint by an order

dated 20.08.1999 and summons were ordered to be issued by the CJM,

Ranchi.

 

5. There are some events which took place before the cognizance was

taken, for example, on 06.03.1998, Shri M.S. Chhabra had handed over an

application which was purportedly an application under Section 340 of the

Code of Criminal Procedure (hereinafter referred to as “Cr.P.C.” for short)

The High Court accepted that application on the same day and directed

that a notice be issued to the respondents including the present appellant

by the Registry for their appearance before the Court on 02.04.1998. This

order was challenged by the Indian School of Mines and some other

persons including the present appellant by way of a Special Leave Petition

in this Court whereupon this Court disposed it of as being premature. It

was observed that the petitioners, instead of giving reply to the notice in the

High Court, had rushed through a Special Leave Petition and, therefore,

this Court did not find it a fit case to interfere.
7

 

6. The appellant thereafter filed reply to the show cause notice issued

by the Patna High Court under Section 340 Cr.P.C. on 12.04.1999 wherein

the appellant denied that he had any knowledge about the aforementioned

document dated 09.06.1992. The Division Bench of the High Court at

Patna, by its order dated 16.07.1999 straightaway discharged the

Chairman of the Governing Council, Shri B.K. Rao and two other members

of the Governing Council, viz., Shri B.B. Dhar and Shri K. Paul. However,

the Court directed filing of complaint against the appellant who was also a

member of the Governing Council, since he happened to be the Acting

Director of the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, at the relevant time. The

High Court, however, included in the array of accused, Shri Vikram Prasad,

Assistant Inspector General of Registration, Bihar who was a signatory to

the letter dated 09.06.1992.

 

7. As has been stated earlier, the complaint came to be filed by the

Registrar of Patna High Court on 09.08.1999 wherein cognizance was

taken by CJM, Ranchi. The appellant thereafter filed Special Leave

Petition No.16037/1999 before this court against the order dated

16.07.1999 passed by the Patna High Court, wherein three other persons

were discharged while complaint was directed to be filed against some

others, including the appellant. This Court issued notice on 19.11.1999.

However, on 17.04.2001, this court dismissed the aforesaid Special Leave

Petition but permitted the appellant to raise all contentions in the Trial
8

Court including the right to plead for discharge and also granted

anticipatory bail to him. The order passed by this Court is as under:

 

“We permit the petitioners to raise all their contentions in the
trial court including the right to plea for discharge. If petitioner
would appear and apply for bail before the trial Court they shall
be released on bail on executing a bond for such sum as may
be fixed by that court with or without sureties. Accordingly,
special leave petitions are dismissed.”
8. The appellant accordingly appeared before the CJM, Ranchi on

11.07.2005 and obtained bail. Thereafter, he moved an application for

discharge on the same date. However, the Trial Court dismissed the

discharge application in limine and proceeded to frame charges against the

petitioner. The petitioner, therefore, filed a Writ Petition (Crl.) No.315/2005,

challenging the order dismissing discharge application and the order

framing charge, before the High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi which was

dismissed on 03/07.07.2006, necessitating the filing of present Special

Leave Petition.

 

9. In the impugned order, the High court quoted the judgment passed

by the Patna High Court dated 16.07.1999 and observed that the letter

dated 09.06.1992 was found to be forged and fabricated in the inquiry

instituted by the Department and, therefore, offence under Section 195(1)

(b) Cr.P.C. appeared to have been committed in respect of that letter. The

High Court came to the conclusion that since the Division Bench of the
9

Patna High Court, by its earlier elaborate judgment, had clearly found, on

the basis of evidence on record, that the appellant was well aware of filing

of such counter affidavit in which a forged letter was used before the Court

on behalf of Indian School of Mines, it could not be said that the allegations

against the appellant were based on mere suspicion. It further recorded a

finding that documentary evidence was sufficient to frame charge against

the appellant. It is this judgment of the Patna High Court, which has fallen

for our consideration.

 

10. Shri Ranjit Kumar, learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of

the appellant firstly urged that there was no material whatsoever against

the appellant who, at the relevant time, was the Acting Director of the

Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad. He referred to the earlier order passed

by this Court and pointed out that this Court had given the liberty to the

appellant to file the discharge application and it was in terms of that order

that the application was filed. The further argument of Shri Ranjit Kumar is

that neither the Trial Court nor the High Court had considered the

questions raised in the discharge application. He pointed out on merits

that it was not the appellant who authored the aforementioned letter dated

09.06.1992, nor had the appellant sworn or filed the affidavit before the

High Court, of which the alleged letter was part, since that affidavit was

sworn by Shri M. Ramakrishna. He argued that the appellant had not even

taken any advantage from the letter dated 09.06.1992. He further argued
10

that in spite of the order of this Court, specifically granting liberty to the

appellant to file a discharge application, the Division Bench of the Patna

High Court did not go into the aspect of discharge at all. Learned Senior

Counsel, by way of his legal submissions, urged that at the time when the

inquiry under Section 340 Cr.P.C. was ordered in relation to the alleged

forgery of the letter dated 09.06.1992, the provisions of law with reference

to the forgery of document contemplated under Section 195(1) (b) Cr.P.C.

and related Sections did not make a distinction between forgery being

committed outside the Court and while the document was custodia legis.

The learned counsel heavily relied upon a decision of this Court reported

as Iqbal Singh Marwah & Anr. V. Meenakshi Marwah & Anr. [2005 (4)

SCC 370] wherein this Court had held that proceeding under Section 340

read with Section 195 Cr.P.C. could only be initiated if the forgery was

committed during the time when the documents were custodia legis and

not when the forgery was committed outside the Court i.e. before the

document had been produced or given in evidence in a proceeding in any

Court. He, therefore, urged that there could not be any initiation of

proceedings under Section 340 Cr.P.C. much less for the offences under

Section 195 Cr.P.C. and the other allied offences because, admittedly, the

forgery was not committed in respect of the document dated 09.06.1992

when the letter was custodia legis. Learned counsel also invited our

attention to the earlier order passed by the High Court wherein three other
11

accused were discharged, who were similarly circumstanced as the

appellant herein.

 

11. As against this, it was urged on behalf of respondent No.2 that the

High Court was correct in rejecting the petition of the petitioner/appellant

and in refusing discharge from the prosecution. Learned counsel urged

that there was enough material with the complainant and it was clear that

the appellant was aware of the aforementioned forgery and he was party to

the conspiracy of using forged letter.

 

12. There can be no doubt that in the present case, this Court had

specifically granted liberty to the appellant to file a discharge application.

We have quoted that order of this Court in para 7 of this judgment.

Accordingly, the appellant filed a discharge application in the Trial Court,

where the trial was pending, contending therein that there was no material

available even for framing the charge. It was specifically pleaded in the

said application that the said discharge was being sought for under sub-

Section (2) of Section 245 Cr.P.C.

 

13. The essential difference of procedure in the trial of warrant case on

the basis of a police report and that instituted otherwise than on the police

report, is particularly marked in Sections 238 and 239 Cr.P.C. on one side

and Sections 244 and 245 Cr.P.C., on the other. Under Section 238, when
12

in a warrant case, instituted on a police report, the accused appears or is

brought before the Magistrate, the Magistrate has to satisfy himself that he

has been supplied the necessary documents like police report, FIR,

statements recorded under sub-Section (3) of Section 161 Cr.P.C. of all the

witnesses proposed to be examined by the prosecution, as also the

confessions and statements recorded under Section 164 and any other

documents, which have been forwarded by the prosecuting agency to the

Court. After that, comes the stage of discharge, for which it is provided in

Section 239 Cr.P.C. that the Magistrate has to consider the police report

and the documents sent with it under Section 173 Cr.P.C. and if necessary,

has to examine the accused and has to hear the prosecution of the

accused, and if on such examination and hearing, the Magistrate considers

the charge to be groundless, he would discharge the accused and record

his reasons for so doing. The prosecution at that stage is not required to

lead evidence. If, on examination of aforementioned documents, he comes

to the prima facie conclusion that there is a ground for proceeding with the

trial, he proceeds to frame the charge. For framing the charge, he does

not have to pass a separate order. It is then that the charge is framed

under Section 240 Cr.P.C. and the trial proceeds for recording the

evidence. Thus, in such trial prosecution has only one opportunity to lead

evidence and that too comes only after the charge is framed.
13

14. However, in a warrant trial instituted otherwise than on a police

report, when the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate

under Section 244(1) Cr.P.C., the Magistrate has to hear the prosecution

and take all such evidence, as may be produced in support of the

prosecution. In this, the Magistrate may issue summons to the witnesses

also under Section 244(2) Cr.P.C. on the application by prosecution. All

this evidence is evidence before charge. It is after all this, evidence is

taken, then the Magistrate has to consider under Section 245(1) Cr.P.C.,

whether any case against the accused is made out, which, if unrebutted,

would warrant his conviction, and if the Magistrate comes to the conclusion

that there is no such case made out against the accused, the Magistrate

proceeds to discharge him. On the other hand, if he is satisfied about the

prima facie case against the accused, the Magistrate would frame a charge

under Section 246(1) Cr.P.C. The complainant then gets the second

opportunity to lead evidence in support of the charge unlike a warrant trial

on police report, where there is only one opportunity. In the warrant trial

instituted otherwise than the police report, the complainant gets two

opportunities to lead evidence, firstly, before the charge is framed and

secondly, after the charge. Of course, under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C., a

Magistrate can discharge the accused at any previous stage of the case,

if he finds the charge to be groundless.
14

15. Essentially, the applicable Sections are Section 244 and 245

Cr.P.C., since this is a warrant trial instituted otherwise than on police

report. There had to be an opportunity for the prosecution to lead evidence

under Section 244(1) Cr.P.C. or to summon its witnesses under Section

244(2) Cr.P.C. This did not happen and instead, the accused proceeded to

file an application under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C., on the ground that the

charge was groundless.

 

16. Now, there is a clear difference in Sections 245(1) and 245(2) of the

Cr.P.C. Under Section 245(1), the Magistrate has the advantage of the

evidence led by the prosecution before him under Section 244 and he has

to consider whether if the evidence remains unrebutted, the conviction of

the accused would be warranted. If there is no discernible incriminating

material in the evidence, then the Magistrate proceeds to discharge the

accused under Section 245(1) Cr.P.C.

 

17. The situation under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C. is, however, different.

There, under sub-Section (2), the Magistrate has the power of discharging

the accused at any previous stage of the case, i.e., even before such

evidence is led. However, for discharging an accused under Section 245

(2) Cr.P.C., the Magistrate has to come to a finding that the charge is

groundless. There is no question of any consideration of evidence at that

stage, because there is none. The Magistrate can take this decision before
15

the accused appears or is brought before the Court or the evidence is led

under Section 244 Cr.P.C. The words appearing in Section 245(2) Cr.P.C.

“at any previous stage of the case”, clearly bring out this position. It will

be better to see what is that “previous stage”.

 

18. The previous stage would obviously be before the evidence of the

prosecution under Section 244(1) Cr.P.C. is completed or any stage prior

to that. Such stages would be under Section 200 Cr.P.C. to Section 204

Cr.P.C. Under Section 200, after taking cognizance, the Magistrate

examines the complainant or such other witnesses, who are present. Such

examination of the complainant and his witnesses is not necessary, where

the complaint has been made by a public servant in discharge of his official

duties or where a Court has made the complaint or further, if the Magistrate

makes over the case for inquiry or trial to another Magistrate under Section

192 Cr.P.C. Under Section 201 Cr.P.C., if the Magistrate is not competent

to take the cognizance of the case, he would return the complaint for

presentation to the proper Court or direct the complainant to a proper

Court. Section 202 Cr.P.C. deals with the postponement of issue of

process. Under sub-Section (1), he may direct the investigation to be

made by the Police officer or by such other person, as he thinks fit, for the

purpose of deciding whether or not there is sufficient ground for

proceeding. Under Section 202(1)(a) Cr.P.C., the Magistrate cannot given

such a direction for such an investigation, where he finds that offence
16

complained of is triable exclusively by the Court of sessions. Under

Section 202(1)(b) Cr.P.C., no such direction can be given, where the

complaint has been made by the Court. Under Section 203 Cr.P.C., the

Magistrate, after recording the statements on oath of the complainant and

of the witnesses or the result of the inquiry or investigation ordered under

Section 202 Cr.P.C., can dismiss the complaint if he finds that there is no

sufficient ground for proceeding. On the other hand, if he comes to the

conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding, he can issue the

process under Section 204 Cr.P.C. He can issue summons for the

attendance of the accused and in a warrant-case, he may issue a warrant,

or if he thinks fit, a summons, for securing the attendance of the accused.

Sub-Sections (2), (3), (4) and (5) of Section 204 Cr.P.C. are not relevant for

our purpose. It is in fact here, that the previous stage referred to under

Section 245 Cr.P.C. normally comes to an end, because the next stage is

only the appearance of the accused before the Magistrate in a warrant-

case under Section 244 Cr.P.C. Under Section 244, on the appearance of

the accused, the Magistrate proceeds to hear the prosecution and take all

such evidence, as may be produced in support of the prosecution. He

may, at that stage, even issue summons to any of the witnesses on the

application made by the prosecution. Thereafter comes the stage of

Section 245(1) Cr.P.C., where the Magistrate takes up the task of

considering on all the evidence taken under Section 244(1) Cr.P.C., and if

he comes to the conclusion that no case against the accused has been
17

made out, which, if unrebutted, would warrant the conviction of the

accused, the Magistrate proceeds to discharge him. The situation under

Section 245(2) Cr.P.C., however, is different, as has already been pointed

out earlier. The Magistrate thereunder, has the power to discharge the

accused at any previous stage of the case. We have already shown

earlier that that previous stage could be from Sections 200 to 204 Cr.P.C.

and till the completion of the evidence of prosecution under Section 244

Cr.P.C. Thus, the Magistrate can discharge the accused even when the

accused appears, in pursuance of the summons or a warrant and even

before the evidence is led under Section 244 Cr.P.C., makes an application

for discharge.

 

19. In the present case, the Magistrate did not dismiss the complaint

under Section 203 Cr.P.C. However, since this was a complaint made by

the Court, there was no question of examining complainant or any of his

witnesses under Section 200 Cr.P.C. Further, there was no question of

even issuing any direction for investigation under Section 202 Cr.P.C.,

since the complaint was made by the Court. This is clear from the

wordings of Section 202(1) Cr.P.C. It is as under:-

 

“202(1) ………..
Provided that no such direction for investigation
shall be made-

(a) x x x x x
18

(b) where the complain has not been made by
a Court, unless the complainant and the
witnesses present (if any) have been
examined on oath under Section 200.”
We have already pointed out that since this was a complaint made

by the Court, therefore, there would be no question of there being any

examination of complainant or his witnesses on oath. As has already been

stated earlier, the Magistrate simply issued the process under Section 204

Cr.P.C. When the accused appeared in pursuance to the summons sent to

him, under Section 244 Cr.P.C., the defence came out with an application.

There can be no difficulty that the discharge application was perfectly in

order at that stage. Therefore, what was available before the Magistrate

besides this discharge application was, a bare complaint. There was

absolutely nothing beyond the complaint available, for the Magistrate to

consider the framing of charge. The Magistrate could, undoubtedly, have

proceeded under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C., on the basis of discharge

application and discharge him. However, he would have been required to

give reasons for discharging at that stage, when no evidence or no

material, whatsoever, was available with him, excepting a bare complaint.

 

20. The Magistrate, in this case, not only dismissed the application, but

also proceeded to frame the charge, which order was also in challenge in

the Writ Petition filed before the Division Bench. We have now to see as to

whether the Magistrate was justified in dismissing the discharge application
19

and then straightaway to frame a charge under Section 246(1) Cr.P.C. If

under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C., there could be a discharge at any previous

stage which we have discussed about, there is a necessary sequel, an

application could also be made at that stage. The Magistrate has the

power to discharge the accused under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C. at any

previous stage, i.e., before the evidence is recorded under Section 244(1)

Cr.P.C., which seems to be the established law, particularly in view of the

decision in Cricket Association of Bengal & Ors. Vs. State of West

Bengal & Ors. reported in 1971 (3) SCC 239, as also the subsequent

decision of the Bombay High Court in Luis de Piedade Lobo Vs.

Mahadev reported in 1984 Criminal Law Journal 513. The same

decision was followed by Kerala High Court in Manmohan Malhotra Vs.

P.M. Abdul Salam & Anr. reported in 1994 Criminal Law Journal 1555

and Hon’ble Justice K.T. Thomas, as the Learned Judge there was,

accepted the proposition that the Magistrate has the power under Section

245(2) Cr.P.C. to discharge the accused at any previous stage. The

Hon’ble Judge relied on a decision of Madras High Court in Mohammed

Sheriff Vs. Abdul Karim reported in AIR1928 Madras 129, as also the

judgment of Himachal Pradesh High Court in Gopal Chauhan Vs. Smt.

Satya reported in 1979 Criminal Law Journal 446. We are convinced

that under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C., the Magistrate can discharge the

accused at any previous stage, i.e., even before any evidence is recorded

under Section 244(1) Cr.P.C. In that view, the accused could have made
20

the application. It is obvious that the application has been rejected by the

Magistrate. So far, there is no difficulty.

 

21. However, the real difficulty arises in the Trial Court’s proceeding to

frame the charge under Section 246 Cr.P.C. It is obvious that at that stage

of framing a charge in this case, no material, whatsoever, was available

with the Trial Court, excepting the complaint, which was also not supported

by any statement on oath, by the complainant or any of his witnesses,

which ordinarily are recorded at the stage of Section 200 Cr.P.C. In this

case, since the complaint was by the Court, no such statement came to be

recorded, of the complainant or any of his witnesses present. Here also,

the Trial Court has committed no mistake. Again, the Trial Court has also

not made any mistake in issuing the process, if the Trial Court felt that

there was a ground for proceeding. The real question, which comes,

however, is as to how after rejecting the application made by the accused

under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C., the Trial Court straightaway proceeded to

frame the charge.

22. The charge is framed under Section 246(1) Cr.P.C., which runs as

under:-

“246(1) If, when such evidence has been taken, or at any
previous stage of the case, the Magistrate is of
opinion that there is ground for presuming that the
accused has committed an offence triable under this
Chapter, which such Magistrate is competent to try
and which, in his opinion, could be adequately
punished by him, he shall frame in writing a charge
against the accused.”
21

 

The language of the Section clearly suggests that it is on the basis of

the evidence offered by the complainant at the stage of Section 244(1)

Cr.P.C., that the charge is to be framed, if the Magistrate is of the opinion

that there is any ground for presuming that the accused has committed an

offence triable under this Chapter. Therefore, ordinarily, when the

evidence is offered under Section 244 Cr.P.C. by the prosecution, the

Magistrate has to consider the same, and if he is convinced, the Magistrate

can frame the charge. Now here, there is, however, one grey area.

Section 246(1) Cr.P.C. is very peculiarly worded. The said grey area is on

account of phrase “or at any previous stage of the case”. The question

is as to whether, even before any evidence is led under Section 244

Cr.P.C., can the Magistrate straightaway proceed to frame a charge. The

debate on this question is not new, though there is no authoritative

pronouncement of this Court, on that issue. There are cases, where the

High Courts have specifically taken a view that the phrase does not

empower the Magistrate to frame any charge in the absence of any

evidence, whatsoever. It must be, at this stage, borne in mind that the

word used in Section 246 Cr.P.C. is “evidence”, so also, in Section 244

Cr.P.C., the word used is “evidence”. Therefore, ordinarily, the scheme of

the Section 246 Cr.P.C. is that, it is only on the basis of any evidence that

the Magistrate has to decide as to whether there is a ground to presume

that the accused has committed an offence triable under this Chapter.
22

 

23. Before we approach this question, we must note that while Section

245(2) Cr.P.C. speaks about the discharge of the accused on the ground

that the charge is groundless, Section 246(1) operates in entirely different

sphere. An order under Section 245(2) Cr.P.C. results in discharge of the

accused, whereas, an order under Section 246 Cr.P.C. creates a situation

for the accused to face a full-fledged trial. Therefore, the two Sections

would have to be interpreted in slightly different manner, keeping in mind

the different spheres, in which they operate. The words “or at any

previous stage of the case” appearing in Section 246 Cr.P.C. would

include Section 245 also, where the accused has not been discharged

under Section 245 Cr.P.C., while the similar term in Section 246(2) can

include the stage even before any evidence is recorded. It cannot,

therefore, be held that the words “at any previous stage of the case” as

appearing in Section 245 Cr.P.C., would have to be given the same

meaning when those words appear in Section 246 Cr.P.C.

24. The Bombay High Court, in a decision in Sambhaji Nagu Vs. State

of Maharashtra reported in 1979 Criminal Law Journal 390, has

considered the matter. While interpreting the words “at any previous

stage” under Section 246(1) Cr.P.C., the Learned Single Judge in that

case, came to the conclusion that the phraseology only suggested that the

Magistrate can frame charge, even before “all” the evidence is completed

under Section 244 Cr.P.C. Section 244 Cr.P.C. specifically mandates that
23

as soon as the accused appears or is brought before the Court, the

Magistrate shall proceed to hear the prosecution and take all such

evidence as may be produced in support of the prosecution. Further,

Section 245 Cr.P.C. also mandates that if upon taking all the evidence

referred to in Section 244 Cr.P.C., the Magistrate considers, for reasons to

be recorded, that no case against the accused has been made out which, if

unrebutted, would warrant his conviction, the Magistrate shall discharge

him. In Section 246 Cr.P.C. also, the phraseology is “if, when such

evidence has been taken”, meaning thereby, a clear reference is made to

Section 244 Cr.P.C. The Bombay High Court came to the conclusion that

the phraseology would, at the most, mean that the Magistrate may prefer to

frame a charge, even before all the evidence is completed. The Bombay

High Court, after considering the phraseology, came to the conclusion that

the typical clause did not permit the Magistrate to frame a charge, unless

there was some evidence on record. For this, the Learned Single Judge in

that matter relied on the ruling in Abdul Nabi Vs. Gulam Murthuza

reported in 1968 Criminal Law Journal 303. The similar view seems to

have been taken in T.K. Appu Nair Vs. Earnest reported in AIR 1967

Madras 262 and in re. M. Srihari Rao reported in AIR 1964 Andhra

Pradesh 226. The similar view has been expressed in P. Ugender Rao &

Ors. Vs. J. Sampoorna & Ors. reported in 1990 Criminal Law Journal

762, where it has been expressed that previous stage is a stage, after

recording some evidence. It is neither a stage before recording any
24

evidence at all nor a stage after recording the entire evidence, but is in

between. The interpretation, thus, placed on words “at any previous

stage of the case”, occurring in Section 246(1) Cr.P.C. also appears to be

more in consonance with the order of the Sections numbered in the Code

and also with the heading given to Section 246 Cr.P.C., viz., “Procedure

where accused is not discharged”. The very heading of the Section

even indicates that it would come into play only after the matter is

examined in the light of Section 245 Cr.P.C. and the accused is not

discharged thereunder. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Magistrate to

examine the matter for purposes of considering the question whether the

accused could be discharged under Section 245 Cr.P.C. and it is only

when he finds it otherwise, he could have resort to Section 246 Cr.P.C.

 

25. The Learned Single Judge in this ruling has also noted another ruling

by the same High Court in Abdul Nabi Vs. Gulam Murthuza reported in

1968 Criminal Law Journal 303 (cited supra). We, therefore, find that

consistently, the view taken by the High Court is that there would have to

be some evidence before the charge is framed. In the last mentioned case

of P. Ugender Rao & Ors. Vs. J. Sampoorna & Ors. reported in 1990

Criminal Law Journal 762, there is one incorrect observation in respect of

a decision of this Court in Cricket Association of Bengal & Ors. Vs.

State of West Bengal & Ors. reported in 1971 (3) SCC 239 (cited supra)

to the effect that the Magistrate cannot discharge the accused before
25

recording any evidence, whatsoever, under Section 244 Cr.P.C. We have

not been able to find out such an expression in the aforementioned case of

Cricket Association of Bengal & Ors. Vs. State of West Bengal & Ors.

(cited supra). That was a case under old Section 253(2), which is pari

materia to the present Section 245(1). On the other hand, the Court has

very specifically stated therein that Section 253(2) gives ample jurisdiction

to the Magistrate to discharge the accused in the circumstances mentioned

therein and the order of discharge can be passed at any previous stage

of the case. It is further stated in Para 13 that sub-Section (1) under those

circumstances will not operate as a bar to the exercise of jurisdiction by the

Magistrate under sub-Section (2). Since we have found error in the above

mentioned judgment, we have mentioned so. However, the ruling in

Cricket Association of Bengal & Ors. Vs. State of West Bengal & Ors.

(cited supra) also supports our earlier finding that the Magistrate has the

power to discharge the accused, even before any evidence is recorded and

thus, an application for discharge at that stage is perfectly justifiable.

However, insofar as Section 246(1) Cr.P.C. is concerned, we are of the

clear opinion that some evidence would have to be there for framing the

charge.

 

26. There is only one judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in

Verendra Vs. Aashraya Makers reported in 1999 Criminal Law Journal

4206, which has taken the view that the Magistrate can frame the charge
26

even without any evidence having been taken under Section 244 Cr.P.C.

We do not think that is a correct expression of law, as the right of the

accused to cross-examine the witnesses at the stage of Section 244(1)

Cr.P.C. would be completely lost, if the view is taken that even without the

evidence, a charge can be framed under Section 246(1) Cr.P.C. The right

of cross-examination is a very salutary right and the accused would have to

be given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses, who have been

offered at the stage of Section 244(1) Cr.P.C. The accused can show, by

way of the cross-examination, that there is no justifiable ground against him

for facing the trial and for that purpose, the prosecution would have to offer

some evidence. While interpreting this Section, the prejudice likely to be

caused to the accused in his losing an opportunity to show to the Court that

he is not liable to face the trial on account of there being no evidence

against him, cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, the earlier cases of the

same Court, which we have referred to above, were brought to the notice

of the Learned Judge. Again, the Learned Judge has not considered the

true impact of the clause “at any previous stage of the case”, which could

only mean that even with a single witness, the Magistrate could proceed to

frame the charge.

 

27. Now, coming to the facts of this case, it is clear that the opportunity

to the accused to cross-examine the witnesses is lost, as the Trial Court

has straightaway proceeded to frame the charge. In that view, we would
27

have to quash the order, framing the charge. It is accordingly, quashed.

The matter will now go back before the Trial Court, where the prosecution

may offer the witnesses under Section 244(1) Cr.P.C. and the opportunity

to cross-examine, would be offered to the accused. It is only thereafter,

that the Trial Court would proceed to decide as to whether the charge is to

be framed or not. The charge framed in this case is clearly premature, in

view of the reasons given by us. The order framing the charge would,

therefore, have to be set aside.

 

28. We are not expressing anything on merits, particularly because we

have directed the evidence of the prosecution to be led under Section 244

(1) Cr.P.C. Any expressions on our part are likely to cause prejudice to the

prosecution, as the case may be, accused. We are, therefore, leaving the

matter at this.

 

29. Accordingly, the appeal is disposed of with the direction that the

matter shall now go back to the Trial Court and the Trial Court shall

proceed to examine all the witnesses offered by the prosecution and it is

only after the evidence of those witnesses is recorded, that the Trial Court

would proceed to decide as to whether the charge is to be framed or not.

The appeal, thus, succeeds partly.

 
………………………………………….J.
[Tarun Chatterjee]
28

 
………………………………………….J.
[V.S. Sirpurkar]

New Delhi
March 18, 2009
29

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