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Proceedings Under SC-ST Act Not Vitiated Merely Because Cognizance Was Taken By Magistrate: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
27 Oct 2021 2:32 PM GMT
Proceedings Under SC-ST Act Not Vitiated Merely Because Cognizance Was Taken By Magistrate: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court 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.The bench of Justices MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose observed that the insertion of second proviso to Section 14 of the Act only gives additional powers to the Special Court to take...

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The Supreme Court 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.

The bench of Justices MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose  observed that the insertion of 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 jurisdiction of the Magistrate to take cognizance and thereafter to commit the case to the Special Court for trial, the court said.

In this case, the complaint alleging offences under SC-ST Act, was filed before the Magistrate who sent the complaint for investigation as per Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure by observing that having heard the complainant and perused the documentary evidence and considering the seriousness of the case, the investigation is required. The investigation officer submitted the  report to the Magistrate pointing out that the alleged offences are prima facie appear to have been committed by the accused persons. Thereafter, the Magistrate issued summons to the accused and thus took the cognizance of the alleged offences. Challenging this order issuing summons, the accused approached the Gujarat High Court. The High Court quashed FIR as well as order passed by the  Magistrate taking cognizance on the grounds that (1) in view of the amendment to Section 14 of the Atrocities Act, the Special Court can take cognizance directly and the jurisdiction of the learned Magistrate can be said to be ousted and (2) looking at the allegation in the FIR, in absence of sanction under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure from the State Government, the concerned Court ought not to have taken cognizance of the offences.

The issue raised in appeal was this: Where in a case where for the offences under Atrocities Act, the cognizance is taken by the  Magistrate and thereafter the case is committed to the Court of Sessions / Special Court and cognizance is not straightway taken up by the Special Court / Court of Session, whether entire criminal proceedings for the offences under the Atrocities Act, 1989 can be said to have been vitiated, as so observed by the High Court in the impugned judgment and order ?

Section 14 of the SC-ST Act, after its amendment in 2016, reads as follows:

For the purpose of providing for speedy trial, the State Government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification in the Official Gazette, establish an Exclusive Special Court for one or more Districts:
Provided that in Districts where less number of cases under this Act is recorded, the State Government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify for such Districts, the Court of Session to be a Special Court to try the offences under this Act;
Provided further that the Courts so established or specified shall have power to directly take cognizance of offences under this Act

The court made the following observations in this regard:

 It cannot be said that it takes away jurisdiction of the Magistrate to take cognizance

9.1. On fair reading of Sections 207, 209 and 193 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and insertion of proviso to Section 14 of the Atrocities Act by Act No.1 of 2016 w.e.f. 26.1.2016, we are of the opinion that on the aforesaid ground the entire criminal proceedings cannot be said to have been vitiated. Second proviso to Section 14 of the Atrocities Act which has been inserted by Act 1 of 2016 w.e.f. 26.1.2016 confers power upon the Special Court so established or specified for the purpose of providing for speedy trial also shall have the power to directly take cognizance of the offences under the Atrocities Act. Considering the object and purpose of insertion of proviso to Section 14, it cannot be said that it is not in conflict with the Sections 193, 207 and 209 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. It cannot be said that it takes away jurisdiction of the Magistrate to take cognizance and thereafter to commit the case to the Special Court for trial for the offences under the Atrocities Act.

It is advisable that Special Court directly take cognizance of the offences under the Atrocities Act. 

Merely because, learned Magistrate has taken cognizance of the offences and thereafter the trial / case has been committed to Special Court established for the purpose of providing for speedy trial, it cannot be said that entire criminal proceedings including FIR and charge-sheet etc. are vitiated and on the aforesaid ground entire criminal proceedings for the offences under Sections 452, 323, 325, 504, 506(2) and 114 of the Indian Penal Code and under Section 3(1)(x) of the Atrocities Act are to be quashed and set aside. It may be noted that in view of insertion of proviso to Section 14 of the Atrocities Act and considering the object and purpose, for which, the proviso to Section 14 of the Atrocities Act has been inserted  i.e. for the purpose of providing for speedy trial and the object and purpose stated herein above, it is advisable that the Court so established or specified in exercise of powers under Section 14, for the purpose of providing for speedy trial directly take cognizance of the offences under the Atrocities Act. But at the same time, as observed herein above, merely on the ground that cognizance of the offences under the Atrocities Act is not taken directly by the Special Court constituted under Section 14 of the Atrocities Act, the entire criminal proceedings cannot be said to have been vitiated and cannot be quashed and set aside solely on the ground that cognizance has been taken by the learned Magistrate after insertion of second proviso to Section 14 which confers powers upon the Special Court also to directly take cognizance of the offences under the Atrocities Act and thereafter case is committed to the Special Court / Court of Session.

Additional powers have been given to the Special Court also to take cognizance of the offences

9.2. In support of the above conclusion, the words used in second proviso to Section 14 are required to be considered minutely. The words used are "Court so established or specified shall have power to directly take cognizance of the offences under this Court". The word "only" is conspicuously missing. If the intention of the legislature would have to confer the jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offences under the Atrocities Act exclusively with the Special Court, in that case, the wording should have been "that the Court so established or specified only shall have power to directly take cognizance of offences under Page 23 of 29 this Act". Therefore, merely because now further and additional powers have been given to the Special Court also to take cognizance of the offences under the Atrocities Act and in the present case merely because the cognizance is taken by the learned Magistrate for the offences under the Atrocities Act and thereafter the case has been committed to the learned Special Court, it cannot be said that entire criminal proceedings have been vitiated and same are required to be quashed and set aside


The court further noted that under Section 460 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, if any Magistrate not empowered by the law to take cognizance of an offence under clause (a) or clause (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 190, takes cognizance, such irregularities do not vitiate proceedings. At the most, it can be said to be irregular proceedings for which, it does not vitiate the proceedings, the bench said.

The court also added that, on the ground of delay in lodging FIR / complaint, the criminal proceedings cannot be quashed in exercise of powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure

"The aspect of delay is required to be considered during the trial and during the trial when the complainant is examined on oath and a question is put to him/her on delay and he/she can very well explain the delay in his/her cross examination. But on the aforesaid ground, entire criminal proceeding cannot be quashed in exercise of powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.", the bench said.

On the issue of Sanction, the court observed thus: Even assuming that the High Court was right that in absence of sanction under Section 197, the proceedings are vitiated, in that case, the High Court could have directed the authority to take sanction and then proceed, instead of completely quashing the entire criminal proceedings.

Observing thus, the bench set aside the High Court order.

Case name and Citation: Shantaben Bhurabhai Bhuriya vs Anand Athabhai Chaudhari | LL 2021 SC 594

Case no. and Date: CrA 967 OF 2021 | 26 October 2021

Coram: Justices MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose

Click here to Read/Download Judgment


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