19 Oct 2022 12:33 PM GMT
In a significant decision, the Allahabad High Court has held that it is permissible for the Special Court designated under the SC/ST Act to take cognizance of an offence on itself by treating an application under Section 156 (3) Cr.P.C. as a complaint.The bench of Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Samit Gopal observed thus as it held that the view taken by the Single Judge in the case...
In a significant decision, the Allahabad High Court has held that it is permissible for the Special Court designated under the SC/ST Act to take cognizance of an offence on itself by treating an application under Section 156 (3) Cr.P.C. as a complaint.
The bench of Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Samit Gopal observed thus as it held that the view taken by the Single Judge in the case of Soni Devi vs. State of U.P. and others: 2022(5)ADJ 64 is incorrect.
Essentially, in the Soni Devi case, it was held that an application under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. cannot be treated as a complaint case. Now, in July 2021, a co-ordinate bench [in the case of Naresh Kumar Valmiki v. State of U.P. and others along with connected matters] disagreed with the Soni Devi ruling, and therefore, instant reference was made to the Chief Justice.
The primary question referred to the Division Bench was whether a judicial magistrate is bound to direct the police to lodge a first information report (FIR) in cases relating to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 or as to whether he can treat such an application as a complaint.
The facts of the case
The petitioners were summoned to face trial for the offence under the SC/ST Act after the Magistrate concerned treated the applications filed under Section 156 (3) Cr.P.C. as a complaint.
Aggrieved by the Court's order, they moved the High Court challenging the summoning order on the ground that as per the scheme of the SC/ST Act, lodging of a first information report is mandatory if an act has been complained of, which is an offence and that Special Court designated under the Act cannot take cognizance of an offence on itself by treating an application under Section 156 (3) Cr.P.C. as a complaint.
It was further argued that Rule 12 of the SC/ST Rules, 1995 and Schedule (1) of the Rules provide for payment of compensation to the victim at different stages, starting from the lodging of the first information report and that it does not makes any provision for payment of compensation in the event the offence as complained of is treated as a complaint case.
High Court's observations
At the outset, the Court took into account the second proviso to Section 14 of the SC/ST [Special Court and Exclusive Special Court] which states that the Special Court so established or specified under Section 14 of the Act shall have powers to directly take cognizance of offence under this Act
Further, the Court also took into account the Apex Court's ruling in the case of Shantaben Bhurabhai Bhuriya v. Anand Athabhai Chaudhari and others LL 2021 SC 594 wherein the Supreme Court had observed that criminal proceedings under SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, is not vitiated merely because the magistrate had taken cognizance and committed the case to Special Court.
In this case, the bench of Justices MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose had observed that the insertion of the second proviso to Section 14 of the Act only gives additional powers to the Special Court to take cognizance of the offences under the Act. It cannot be said that it takes away the jurisdiction of the Magistrate to take cognizance and thereafter to commit the case to the Special Court for trial, the court said.
Read more about the case here: Proceedings Under SC-ST Act Not Vitiated Merely Because Cognizance Was Taken By Magistrate: Supreme Court
As far as the argument with regard to Rule 12 and Schedule Annexure-I was concerned, the Court noted that merely non-mentioning of the stage for the award of compensation in cases where the applications under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. are treated as a complaint case and also in complaint cases, would not oust the jurisdiction of the courts concerned to award compensation to the victims at the appropriate stage as the case may be.
Additionally, the Court also referred to Section 4(2)(b) of the SC/ST Act which states that it would be the duty of a "public servant" [which includes a Judge as per Section 21 of the IPC]w referred to in subsection (1) to register a complaint or a First Information Report under the Act and other relevant provisions and to register it under the appropriate sections of the Act.
In view of this, the Court held that a Special Judge or court so established can treat an application under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. as a complaint and proceed further in accordance with the law.
While answering the questions referred to by the Single Judge, the Court directed that the petitions and appeals be placed before the appropriate Bench on October 20, 2022.
Case title - Naresh Kumar Valmiki v. State of U.P. and others along with connected matters
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (AB) 470
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