The Kerala High court recently quashed a criminal 'cheating' case against a man accused of not paying Mobile bills, observing that the transaction involved as between the mobile operator and the customer is one arising out of a civil dispute.
Airtel had lodged a complaint against Abdul Hakkem alleging that he failed to discharge his liability for user charges of about Rs. 97,678 for a period of 5 months from 21.7.2006 to 21.11.2006.
Hakkem then approached the High Court seeking to quash criminal proceedings against him on the ground that the transaction in question is based on an agreement between the parties and therefore the alleged liability under the transaction is purely of civil nature.
Justice TV Anilkumar observed that mere breach of trust or agreement will not by itself amount to a criminal offence under Section 420 IPC. Briefly explaining the legal position, the court said:
"The purported liability of the petitioner seems to have arisen from breach of promise or agreement other than a breach followed by any dishonest intention to cheat the de facto complainant. Mere breach of trust or agreement will not by itself amount to a criminal offence under Section 420 IPC. In order to make out an offence under Section 420, the prosecution has to show that the dishonest intention to cheat existed at the time when the alleged promise in question was made."
Quashing the criminal proceedings against Hakkem, the court said that what is involved in the present case is one of civil dispute between parties.