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Pendency Of Civil Suit Irrelevant: Madhya Pradesh High Court Refuses To Quash Criminal Proceedings Over Alleged Encroachment Of Govt Land

PRIYANKA PREET
28 Jan 2022 4:51 AM GMT
Pendency Of Civil Suit Irrelevant: Madhya Pradesh High Court Refuses To Quash Criminal Proceedings Over Alleged Encroachment Of Govt Land
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The Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that if prima facie ingredients of the offence alleged are satisfied, then criminal proceedings need not be quashed in a case involving encroachment upon Government land.The Bench comprising Justice Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava further observed that criminal complaint cannot be quashed only on the ground that the allegations made therein appear to be of...

The Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that if prima facie ingredients of the offence alleged are satisfied, then criminal proceedings need not be quashed in a case involving encroachment upon Government land.

The Bench comprising Justice Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava further observed that criminal complaint cannot be quashed only on the ground that the allegations made therein appear to be of a civil nature.

Background

The Petitioner, vide Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure ('CrPC'), sought the quashing of FIR for an offence under Section 447 of the Indian Penal Code ('IPC') and other subsequent criminal proceedings.

The Respondent-Complainant had filed an FIR against the Petitioner on the ground that the Petitioner had encroached upon his land by erecting a boundary wall. During the preliminary enquiry by the Tahsildar and the Nagar Palika Vidisha, the Petitioner could not produce any evidence to establish her possession of the disputed land. After the filing of the FIR, the investigation, and the examination of documents, the CJM framed charges against the Petitioner under Section 447 of the IPC.

Aggrieved, the Petitioner filed the current petition.

Contentions

The Petitioner argued that the aforesaid land was granted by the Government to the Petitioner on a lease that remained in existence until 1995. The matter with regard to the continuation of the lease is also pending with the revenue authorities.

The boundary wall was erected over the land by the Petitioner prior to the dispute and therefore, the Magistrate has erred in framing a charge against the Petitioner under Section 447. The Petitioner claimed that the dispute is of a civil nature and the issue of the genuineness of the lease can be determined at a civil proceeding, as well. Therefore, the conversion of a civil dispute into a criminal dispute is an abuse of process of law.

The Petitioner relied on Satish Mehra vs. NCT of Delhi and Another [AIR 2013 SC 506] wherein the Supreme Court had observed:

"The power to interdict a proceeding either at the threshold or at an intermediate stage of the trial is inherent in a High Court on the broad principle that in case the allegations made in the FIR or the criminal complaint, as may be, prima facie do not disclose a triable offence there can be reason as to why the accused should be made to suffer the agony of a legal proceeding that more often than not gets protracted."

The Respondent-Complainant opposed the petition on the ground that the possession of land by the Petitioner is unauthorised and illegal. The genuineness of the lease is yet to be proven before the Civil Court, as well. The Petitioner has also committed criminal trespass by entering into the possession of the Respondent. The Respondent relied on Kaptan Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh & Others [AIR 2021 SC 3931] where the Supreme Court had opined that the quashment of the FIR by the High Court was unwarranted in a case involving a disputed joint notarised affidavit for possession of property and payment of mon between two parties.

Judgement

The Court relied substantially on the S.Khushboo vs. Kanniammal [(2010) 5 SCC 600] and the Amit Kapoor v. Ramesh Chander [(2012) 9 SCC 460] judgements in interpreting the scope of powers under Section 482 of CrPC.

The former judgement held that where there is sufficient evidence against the accused which establish a charge against him/her, the proceedings cannot be quashed. Quashment can only be done by superior courts in exceptional circumstances where the allegations do not support a prima facie case for an offence.

The latter judgement cautioned the High Courts to not interfere using the powers under Section 482 in an unduly manner. While exercising power under Section 482, the Court must not consider whether the case would end in conviction or not at the time of framing of charge. The Supreme Court also clarified that merely because a civil claim is maintainable, does not imply that a criminal complaint cannot be maintained. Significantly, it was held that the quashing of a charge is an exception to the rule of continuous prosecution.

"Where the offence is even broadly satisfied, the Court should be more inclined to permit continuation of prosecution rather than its quashing at that initial stage."

Justice Shrivastava opined that it is a well-settled principle of law that civil and criminal proceedings can function simultaneously and there is no statute that puts an embargo on a criminal proceeding if there is a civil proceeding. The pendency of a civil suit has no bearing on the criminal proceeding.

If prima facie, the ingredients of the offence alleged against the Petitioner are made out, the criminal proceeding should not be interdicted. In the instant case, the Petitioner has been alleged to have encroached upon Government land and therefore, an offence has been registered. Hence, no interference of the High Court is warranted in the instant case, it was held.

Accordingly, the Petition was dismissed.

Case Title: Mamta Gupta vs. State of MP & Anr.

Case No: MCRC 16443 of 2019

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (MP) 17

Click Here To Read/ Download Order


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