Observation On Merits For Ordering Further Enquiry By Revisional Court Is Not Taking Cognizance: SC

Observation On Merits For Ordering Further Enquiry By Revisional Court Is Not Taking Cognizance: SC

The Supreme Court, in Rajendra Rajoriya v Jagat Narain Thapak, has observed that reasons provided for ordering further enquiry under Section 398 of CrPC and the observations provided on merit by a revisional court cannot be said to have an effect of taking cognizance and the order of magistrate should reflect independent application of mind by the magistrate to the material placed before him.

The complainant had lodged a private complaint before the Magistrate alleging an offence under IPC and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The Magistrate dismissed the criminal complaint on the footing that there was no sufficient proof on the record provided by the appellant/complainant to prove that he belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe and the dispute between the parties had trappings of civil nature.

On revision, the Sessions Court held that the complainant belonged to the Jatav community which is a Scheduled Caste. It remanded the case “with a direction that if necessary after a further enquiry keeping in view the findings given in this order, proper order be passed with regard to registration of complaint and to summon the respondents and for that directed the parties to remain present before the Court below on 20.12.2012”.

The Magistrate took cognizance, observing that “Revisional Court has prima facie already found sufficient ground for initiating proceeding”.

Thereafter, on revision before the high court, it quashed the complaint on the reason that the revisional court could not have taken cognizance on 23.01.2013 as the same was in violation of Section 398 of CrPC.

With regard to the order of the high court vis-à-vis Sessions Court order, the bench of Justice NV Ramana and Justice Abdul Nazeer observed: “The observations made by the Sessions Court were only justification for a remand and the same did not amount to taking cognizance. In view of the above, the High Court clearly misconstrued the Sessions Court order and proceeded on an erroneous footing. On the other hand, the revisional court was also in error to the extent of influencing the Magistrate Court to keep the findings of Sessions Court in mind, while considering the case on remand. The misconception created before the High Court was due to the fact that the remand order provided discretion for the trial court to conduct further enquiry and thereafter consider issuing process. The High Court in the case at hand without appreciating the dichotomy between taking cognizance and issuing summons, quashed the complaint itself on wrong interpretation of law. In the light of the above, the impugned order of the High court cannot be sustained in the eyes of law.”

The court also observed that at the stage of taking cognizance, the order of magistrate should reflect independent application of mind by the magistrate to the material placed before him. “On a perusal of the order of the learned Magistrate taking cognizance, it is apparent that the learned Magistrate observes that the Sessions court has already made out a prima facie case. Such finding would be difficult to sustain as the revisional court only observed certain aspects in furtherance of remanding the matter. Such observations could not have been made by the Magistrate as he was expected to apply his independent mind while taking cognizance. In the case on hand, we recognize the limitation on the appellate forum to review subjective satisfaction of the Magistrate while taking cognizance, but such independent satisfaction unless reflected in the order would make it difficult to be sustained,” the bench said.

The bench also remarked: “On a different note, we may note that the Magistrates across India have been guided on number of occasions by concrete precedents of this court to exercise utmost caution while applying their judicious mind in this regard. Unfortunately, we may note that number of cases which are brought before us reflects otherwise.”

The court then directed the magistrate court to consider the complaint afresh.