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Registering Offence Of Corruption Against Public Servants Merely On Written Complaints Without Supportive Material Disastrous: Madhya Pradesh HC

Zeeshan Thomas
2 March 2022 10:00 AM GMT
Registering Offence Of Corruption Against Public Servants Merely On Written Complaints Without Supportive Material Disastrous: Madhya Pradesh HC
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The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently quashed the charge-sheet and consequential proceedings in a case registered for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act), observing that the investigating agency proceeded for prosecution based on half-baked material, and that allowing trial to proceed on the basis of the same would be an exercise in futility, inevitably resulting...

The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently quashed the charge-sheet and consequential proceedings in a case registered for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act), observing that the investigating agency proceeded for prosecution based on half-baked material, and that allowing trial to proceed on the basis of the same would be an exercise in futility, inevitably resulting in the discharge of the accused.

The division bench of Justice Sheel Nagu and Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav was essentially dealing an application under Section 482 of CrPC, seeking directions of the Court to quash the charge-sheet and the consequential proceedings against the Applicant for offence under Section 7 of the PC Act.

The question before the Court was whether the charge-sheet could be quashed when the only evidence collected during the investigation was as follows-

  1. Written complaint of the Complainant;
  2. A recorded conversation between the Complainant and Applicant, which the FSL reported to be not clear enough to match with the sample voice of the Applicant;
  3. Statement of shadow witness, who merely saw the Complainant and Applicant sitting in the car, but did not hear the conversation between them.

The Applicant argued that even if the the aforesaid available evidence collected by prosecution during investigation was to be accepted on its face value, it could not lead to commission of an offence punishable under Section 7 of the PC Act, as alleged. It was further submitted that there were certain other undisputed facts, which revealed patent improbability of the incident and the foundational complaint being malicious.

The Court noted that in the instant case, the facts revealed that besides the written complaint of the Complainant and the statement of the shadow witness under Section 161 CrPC, there was no other implicative piece of evidence collected by the prosecution. The Court further opined that the said complaint could've metamorphized into filing of charge-sheet, had the voice in the DVR matched with the voice sample collected from Petitioner, but that was not the case.

The Court held that the investigating agency ought to collect implicative evidence to substantiate a written compliant. It observed that mere registration of cases based on written complaint, without implicative evidence would result in disastrous consequences-

"In an offence punishable u/S. 7 of the PC Act, the least that is required of the Investigating Agency is to collect implicative evidence/material to support the allegation contained in the written complaint. In absence of any such supportive implicative material/evidence, if an offence is registered, merely on the basis of written complaint of complainant, then disastrous consequence can befall upon all public servants thereby exposing them to registration of offence and filing of charge-sheet."

It added,

"A written complaint can be made by any person who nurses a grudge or prejudice against the public servant. The public servant would stand exposed to criminal prosecution on the mere making of a written complaint. This scenario would led to chaos in the administration of service. The public servant shall not be able to discharge his official duties in a free and fair manner due to the ever present feeling of lurking fear in the mind that any act of discharge of official duties can trigger a criminal prosecution."

Placing its reliance on the jurisprudence laid out by the Supreme Court with regard to the subject concerned, the Court further opined-

For an allegation to mature into an FIR, least that is required is that the allegation/first information discloses commission of cognizable offence. Whereas for an FIR to mature into a charge-sheet/final report u/S.173(2) Cr.P.C., it has to undergo the arduous journey from Sec.154 to Sec. 176 (Chapter XII) Cr.P.C. where implicative evidence if any is collected in support of the FIR in a unilateral process called investigation.

Investigation is a unilateral process, being out of bounds for the accused. The investigating agency is thus expected to act in a free, fair and impartial manner with no element of prejudice coming into play for or against the accused or victim. Investigation as is well known is a probe in the dark starting from the known to the unknown moving backwards in time, in search of truth.

The Court reiterated that the investigating agency is obliged, while discharging its statutory duty under Chapter XII CrPC, to ensure that the final report under Section 173(1) CrPC, if prepared and filed before the court, is accompanied with such supportive/corroborative evidence which gives rise to serious and strong suspicion of involvement of accused in the offence alleged. Another test, the Court noted, to confirm the validity and lawfulness of charge-sheet/final report would be to see if the evidence/material contained therein is left uncontroverted, which would ensure that the same could sustain a conviction.

Considering the material placed on record in the case in hand, the Court held that the same was not enough for filing a report under Section 173 CrPC and for further taking cognizance. It also noted that the investigating agency should've ideally pursued a fresh exercise to record statement of the Applicant to implicate him after learning that the evidence that they had collected was not implicative. The Court observed-

Pertinently when the Investigating Agency was faced with a non- implicative Forensic Report then the only option available to the Investigating Agency was to go in for a fresh exercise of recording of statement of petitioner by laying of another trap. Instead, the Investigating Agency decided to proceed with the half baked material in shape of written complaint and the statement of shadow witness – Constable Dinesh Dubey, who had not even heard the conversation between petitioner and the complainant. This kind of an exercise by Investigating Agency amounts to utter abuse of process of Court. The charge-sheet filed is thus a waste of precious time of the Court which would be involved in a trial where discharge is inevitable and fait accompli.

Regard being had to the above, this case is one of those rarest of rare cases where without entering into the reliability, genuineness or veracity of the evidence collected, this Court is compelled to invoke it's inherent powers u/S.482 Cr.P.C. to truncate the prosecution which in turn is based on premature investigation.

With the aforesaid observations, the Court decided to quash the charge-sheet filed in the case and the consequential proceedings followed by it.

Case Title: Narendra Mishra v. The State Of Madhya Pradesh Through P.S. Special Police Establishment Lokayukt Jabalpur (M.P.)

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (MP) 52

Click Here To Read/Download Order 



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