Navin Kumar Rai vs Surendra Singh on 14 February, 2024

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Supreme Court of India

Navin Kumar Rai vs Surendra Singh on 14 February, 2024

Author: Sanjay Karol

Bench: Sanjay Karol, B.R. Gavai

                                                                                  NON-REPORTABLE
 2024 INSC 116
                                       IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                      CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                   CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 890-891 OF 2024
                           (Arising out of Special Leave Petition(Crl.)Nos.5531-32 of 2022)



          NAVIN KUMAR RAI                                                    …          APPELLANT(S)



                                                        VERSUS



          SURENDRA SINGH AND ORS. ETC. ETC.                                   …      RESPONDENT(S)



                                                   JUDGMENT

SANJAY KAROL, J.

Leave granted.

2. These appeal(s) call into question the correctness of a common judgment

and order dated 24th March 2022 passed by the High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi,

in W.P(s)(Crl.)Nos. 02 of 2021 and 47 of 2021, by which the High Court quashed

Giridih(T)P.S.Case No.217 of 2020 @ FIR No.04797769 dated 5th November,

Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Nidhi Ahuja
Date: 2024.02.15
18:34:27 IST
Reason:

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2020, for the offences under Sections 420, 467, 468, and 471 of the Indian Penal

Code, 18601, pending before the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Giridih.

Brief Background

3. One Purushotam Kumar (A-1) forged a Power of Attorney2 on the basis of

which transfer of certain land in favour of Bikash Kumar Singh, S/o Surendra

Singh (A-2), Surendra Singh (A-3) with the latter witnessing the sale transaction

stood registered with the Registrar having competent jurisdiction at a place known

as Giridih. The original owner Naveen Kumar Rai, having learnt of such an illegal

transaction instituted proceedings before a Civil Court seeking a declaration of the

transaction to be null and void. Independently, the District Deputy Registrar,

Giridih initiated an inquiry in terms of Circular No.15/R(Miscellaneous)Public

Applications-04/163 dated Nil resulting in the passing of an order, prima facie

holding A-1 to have forged the PoA impersonating Naveen Kumar Rai, leading to

the execution of a sale deed which document also stood registered with the very

same Authority. Resultantly, on the basis of such an inquiry both the documents

i.e., the PoA and the sale deed stood cancelled. Further, on the basis of the

communication dated 15th October, 2020 that of the District Deputy Registrar,

Giridih, FIR bearing the above-noted particulars stood registered by Sahdeo

Mehra, against seven accused persons including A-1, A-2 and A-3.
1 IPC for short
2 PoA
3 ‘Circular’

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4. Assailing the said action of initiation of criminal proceedings, the accused

persons preferred separate writ petitions titled Surendra Singh & Ors. v. State of

Jharkhand and Ors; and Purushotam Rai @ Purushotam Kumar Rai @

Purushotom Kumar Rai v. State of Jharkhand and Ors., which stood disposed of

vide the judgment impugned before us.

5. A perusal of the impugned judgment shows the FIRs to have been quashed

on the following counts:-

(a) The original owner had already initiated civil proceedings;

(b) No act of “criminality” can be said to be “made out”;

(c) Initiation of criminal prosecution would amount to abuse of the
process of Court (“perhaps meant as law”);

(d) The alleged action “appears” to be “a civil wrong” in relation to
which, “with respect to the same cause of action” the title suit is
pending.

(e) For ready reference the operative portion of the judgment is extracted
as under:-

“…However, in case, if it finds that the criminality is not made
out and the criminal prosecution has been initiated, it will amount
to an abuse of the process of Court. For the same cause of action
and for cancellation of the sale deed as well as the power of
attorney, the Title Suit has already been filed earlier by the
intervener. It is well settled that any registered document can be
annulled by way of filing the civil suit, which is not in the domain
of the Deputy Commissioner to cancel the sale deed. Thus, it
appears that for a civil wrong, the criminal case has been initiated
against the petitioners and for the same cause of action, the title
suit is pending.

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In view of the above facts and reasoned analysis, the
Giridih(T) P.S. Case No.217 of 2020 for the alleged offence under
Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code, pending
in the Court of learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Giridih, is
hereby, quashed…”

6. In our considered view, the premise on which the Court proceeded in

quashing the FIR is on the wrong assumption, interpretation, and application of the

law.

7. It is argued before us that the Circular stands quashed vide Judgment dated

11th January, 2024 in W.P.(C)No.3103 of 2020 titled as Vinod Shankar Jha @

Binod Shankar Jha v. State of Jharkhand and Ors. with connected writ petitions.

8. Be that as it may. We are of the opinion that such a decision would have no

bearing on the merits of the instant appeals. This we say so for the reason that the

Circular primarily envisaged action for cancellation of the document by the

authorities itself, whereas the power to set in motion the criminal machinery is

totally independent and distinct from the cancellation of registration of the

document.

9. We may note that Section 82 and 83 of the Registration Act, 1908,

empowers the Inspector General; the Registrar; or the Sub-Registrar, in whose

territories, district, or sub-district, the offence stands committed to commence

prosecution. For facility of reference, Sections 82 and 83 are reproduced herein

below:-

4 |Crl.Appeal No……./2024 @SLP(Crl)Nos.5531-32 of 2022
“82. Penalty for making false statements, delivering false copies or
translations, false personation, and abetment.-Whoever-

(a) intentionally makes any false statement, whether on oath or not,
and whether it has been recorded or not, before any officer acting
in execution of this Act, in any proceeding or inquiry under this
Act; or

(b) intentionally delivers to a registering officer, in any proceeding
under section 19 or section 21, a false copy or translation of a
document, or a false copy of a map or plan; or

(c) falsely personates another, and in such assumed character presents
any document, or makes any admission or statement, or causes any
summons or commission to be issued, or does any other act in any
proceeding or enquiry under this Act; or

(d) abets anything made punishable by this Act, shall be punishable
with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or
with fine, or with both.

83. Registering officers may commence prosecutions.

(1) A prosecution for any offence under this Act coming to the
knowledge of a registering officer in his official capacity may be
commenced by or with the permission of the Inspector-General, the
Registrar or the Sub-Registrar, in whose territories, district or sub-
district, as the case may be, the offence has been committed.
(2) Offences punishable under this Act shall be triable by any Court or
officer exercising powers not less than those of a Magistrate of the
second class.”

10. It is not in dispute that the communication dated 15th October, 2020 resulting

in registration of the FIR was that of a competent authority i.e., the Sub-Registrar

of the concerned district. In any event, such a power is the result of an action only

in reference to and in connection with the Act and not the general provisions of

IPC in relation to other penal provisions for which the FIR actually stood

registered.

5 |Crl.Appeal No……./2024 @SLP(Crl)Nos.5531-32 of 2022

11. Given that the FIR against which the petition under Section 482 Code of

Criminal Procedure4 had been preferred were offences contained only in the IPC,

what the Court was required to consider was whether any of the well-established

grounds that are enumerated in judgments of this Court viz., State of Haryana v.

Bhajan Lal5; Neeharika Infrastructure v. State of Maharashtra6 and reiterated in

Peethambaran v. State of Kerala7, were made out or not. We find the High Court

to have referred to the detailed discussion in Vineet Kumar and Ors. v. State of

Uttar Pradesh and Anr.8. but, however, discussion is conspicuously absent as to

how the aspect of “criminality” is not present. It is all too well settled that while

exercising such inherent powers what is required to be examined is only the prima

facie existence of the offence sought to be quashed. For the offence of cheating, for

instance, this Court has enumerated certain factors to be considered in Vijay

Kumar Ghai v. State of West Bengal9.

12. The Court’s observation that because there is no order of the Inspector

General, “in spite of that this FIR has been lodged by the District Sub-Registrar,

Giridih, which is against Section 83 of the Registration Act, 1908” as demonstrated

(supra) is completely divorced from the text of the Section itself, for, it provides, as

4 “Cr.P.C.”
5 1992 Suppl.(1) SCC 335
6 2021 SCC OnLine 315
7 2023 SCC OnLine 553
8 (2017) 13 SCC 369
9 (2022) 7 SCC 124

6 |Crl.Appeal No……./2024 @SLP(Crl)Nos.5531-32 of 2022
reproduced above, that a prosecution may be lodged by or with the permission of

the Sub-Registrar in whose territory the offence has been committed.

13. It is for both the above reasons that the exercise of power under Section 482

Cr.P.C., in the attending facts and circumstances, was unjustified and entirely

unsustainable. The FIR and the consequent case, quashed vide the impugned

judgment stand restored to the file of the concerned district Court. All

consequential steps may follow including the Trial Court commencing proceedings

as per law. The appellant is directed to appear before the Court on 01.03.2024 at

10.00 a.m. Once such presence is registered with the Court and the proceedings

begin, we direct the trial to be expedited and, if not inconvenient and otherwise,

possibly conduct the same on a day-to-day basis, minimizing adjournments so as to

ensure that the proceedings are taken to the lawful conclusion at the earliest.

14. With the above observations, the Criminal Appeals are allowed. Pending

applications(s), if any, shall stand closed.

……………………..J.
(B.R. GAVAI)

……………………..J.
(SANJAY KAROL)

New Delhi
February 14, 2024

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