18 May 2023 2:58 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed a criminal case against the President and Vice President of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Bengaluru, Madhu Pandit Dasa and Chanchalapati Dasa respectively, which was lodged at the instance of ISKCON Kolkata. The criminal case was filed over the alleged theft of a bus belonging to ISKCON Kolkata, which was allegedly brought...
The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed a criminal case against the President and Vice President of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Bengaluru, Madhu Pandit Dasa and Chanchalapati Dasa respectively, which was lodged at the instance of ISKCON Kolkata. The criminal case was filed over the alleged theft of a bus belonging to ISKCON Kolkata, which was allegedly brought to Bangalore unauthorisedly by the accused.
A private complaint was lodged by ISKCON Kolkata Branch Manager against Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chanchalapati Dasa and other accused in 2009. The Magistrate passed an order to Ballygunge Police under Section 156(3) CrPC to register FIR. After investigation, the police filed final report on which the Chief Judicial Magistrate took cognizance.
The ISKCON Bangalore leaders approached the Supreme Court after the Calcutta High Court dismissed their petition under Section 482 CrPC to quash the proceedings.
In the Supreme Court, a bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela Trivedi allowed the appeals of Madhu Pandit Dasa and Chanchalapati Dasa, who contended that the bus was brought to Bangalore with due authorisation and registered there after executing necessary documents.
The bench noted that the complaint in the case was filed in 2009, almost eight years after the alleged theft of the bus took place in 2001. The complainant contended that complaints were lodged in 2002 and 2006, on which the police did not take any action. Rejecting this argument, the bench observed, "It is just not believable that the concerned Ballygunge Police Station, Kolkata would not have taken any action on the report made in 2002 on behalf of the powerful body like the ISKCON Kolkata, or on the letter dated 30.09.2006 written by the Branch Manager of the ISKCON, Kolkata"
The Court opined that the "inordinate delay of eight years in filing the complaint in the court itself would be a sufficient ground to quash the proceeding".
"If the luxury bus owned by the ISKCON, Kolkata Branch in 1998 was so precious to them, they would not have sat silent for such a long time of eight years. In our opinion, the criminal machinery set into motion by filing the complaint for the alleged incident which had taken place eight years ago, that act itself was nothing but a sheer misuse and abuse of the process of the court", the bench added.
In this regard, the bench observed :
"As regards inordinate delay in filing the complaint it has been recently observed by this Court in Hasmukhlal D. Vora & Anr. vs. State of Tamil Nadu that though inordinate delay in itself may not be a ground for quashing of a criminal complaint, however unexplained inordinate delay must be taken into consideration as a very crucial factor and ground for quashing a criminal complaint"
The bench further opined that there are no materials or documents produced by the complainant to substantiate the allegations against the appellants. Even if the allegations are presumed to be true, none of the offences are made out. The bench also said that there was noting to suggest that the investigating officer had even bothered to collect any cogent or substantive evidence against the appellants to prosecute them for the alleged offences.
"There remains no shadow of doubt that the complaint filed by the respondent-complainant after an inordinate unexplained delay of eight years was nothing but sheer misuse and abuse of the process of law to settle the personal scores with the appellants, and that continuation of such malicious prosecution would also be further abuse and misuse of process of law, more particularly when neither the allegations made in the complaint nor in the chargesheet, disclose any prima facie case against the appellants. The allegations made against the appellants are so absurd and improbable that no prudent person can ever reach to a conclusion that there is a sufficient ground for proceeding against the appellants-accused", the bench observed.
While allowing the appeals, the Court also imposed a cost of Rupees One Lakh on the complainant, which is to be deposited with the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association.
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan and Advocate Kartik Seth appeared for the appellants. Senior Advocate Krishnan Venugopal appeared for the complainant.
Case Title : Chanchalapati Das vs State of West Bengal and Madhupandit Das vs State of West Bengal
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 446
Click here to read the judgment