Case Analysis

Moti Lal Songara v. Prem Prakash [2013]

By Aditya Balaji

Introduction

This case is a criminal case that was dealt with in the apex court of India, The Supreme Court. The case tackles issues that arise from the facts of the case and also from the procedural grounds that can arise during the course of a case. It deals with a few sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure mainly and the duties of the various courts involved, and the procedural or technical complexity involved in it. Being a criminal case it also deals with the crimes mentioned in the Indian Penal Code. The case also delves into the suppression of facts and how that affects the rationale of the court and what it means for the case.  Overall, this is a case that involves less with the criminal actions of the accused and more about the actions of the courts and their decisions.

Facts

An FIR was filed by the appellant against the respondent and upon investigation, the charge sheet mentions that the respondent was punishable under sections 341,323,324, 307, and 379. These sections deal with punishment for wrongful restraint, for voluntarily causing hurt and for voluntarily causing hurt with dangerous weapons or means, attempt to murder, and punishment for theft respectively.  The case went to the Magistrate, and he took cognizance of the matter regarding the offenses that one of the respondents has against him as the appellant claimed that the respondent was not made an accused.  This led him to be summoned via an arrest warrant where the case went to the sessions trial under session Judge No.3. Here it was decided that the respondents were liable under the offense of attempt to murder but it was also held that they would be discharged for the charges under section 379 which relates to the punishment for theft. They were still booked under sections 307/304 alternatively. This led the respondent to file a criminal revision challenging this decision before Sessions Judge No.1, however, the respondent did not disclose the fact about what the Sessions Judge No.3 had passed as an order. In this instance, the judge set aside the cognizance taken by the Magistrate resulting in him applying for a discharge. Here the trial judge denied the discharge application considering that the respondent did not disclose the fact about the charges framed by the Sessions Judge No.3 was not brought up and when the matter went to the high court it was observed by the judge that the order of cognizance was not justified. This led the appellant to go to the supreme court and make a case that such an order should not have been allowed to pass if the High Court found it to be unjust too and that the respondents should not have been discharged under that order.

Rules

Code of Criminal Procedure 

173. Report of police officer on completion of the investigation.

(1) Every investigation under this Chapter shall be completed without unnecessary delay. 

(2) (i) As soon as it is completed, the officer in charge of the police station shall forward to a Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence on a police report, a report in the form prescribed by the State Government, stating— 

(a) the names of the parties;
(b) the nature of the information;
(c) the names of the persons who appear to be acquainted with the circumstances of the case; 

(d) whether any offence appears to have been committed and, if so, by whom;
(e) whether the accused has been arrested;
(f) whether he has been released on his bond and, if so, whether with or without sureties; 

(g) whether he has been forwarded in custody under section 170. 

1[(h) whether the report of medical examination of the woman has been attached where investigation relates to an offence under section 376, 376A, 376B, 376C 2[376D or section 376E of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)].] 

(ii) The officer shall also communicate, in such manner as may be prescribed by the State Government, the action taken by him, to the person, if any, by whom the information relating to the commission of the offence was first given. 

190. Cognizance of offences by Magistrates.—

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, any Magistrate of the first class, and any Magistrate of the second class specially empowered in this behalf under sub-section 

(2), may take cognizance of any offence— 

(b) upon a police report of such facts; 

The Indian Constitution 

142. Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and unless as to discovery, etc ( 1 ) The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe

(2) Subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, the Supreme Court shall, as respects the whole of the territory of India, have all and every power to make any order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself

Analysis

The judgment was provided by Dipak Misra,J. The judgment goes over the facts of the case and tries to make an understanding of the events that have transpired. After the order of setting aside the cognizance was deemed as unjust by the High Court, the learned counsel of the appellant stated that the order of setting aside the cognizance should not have interfered with the decision passed by the trial judge where the accused was discharged. The Learned counsel for the respondent meanwhile argued that the Order of setting aside the cognizance taken by the magistrate is valid and should not be interfered with as it was not challenged earlier, it was necessary for the High Court to issue an order of Discharge. Furthermore, he also claimed that the Magistrate could not have taken cognizance according to section 190 of the CrPC. 

The court first decided to deal with the issue of whether the Magistrate could have taken Cognizance or not and for this they observed various cases and judgments that dealt with the power of the Magistrate. The case of Indian Carat (P) Ltd case that the court referred to gives an appropriate answer to this issue – 

“The position is, therefore, now well settled that upon receipt of a police report under Section 173(2) a Magistrate is entitled to take cognizance of an offense under Section 190(1)(b) of the Code even if the police report is to the effect that no case is made out against the accused. The Magistrate can take into account the statements of the witnesses examined by the police during the investigation and take cognizance of the offense complained of and order the issue of process to the accused. Section 190(1)(b) does not lay down that a Magistrate can take cognizance of an offense only if the investigating officer gives an opinion that the investigation has made out a case against the accused. The Magistrate can ignore the conclusion arrived at by the investigating officer and independently apply his mind to the facts emerging from the investigation and take cognizance of the case if he thinks fit, in the exercise of his powers under  Section 190(1)(b) and direct the issue of process to the accused.”

There were various judgments that were referred to with respect to this and based on their analysis of it, it was held by them that the magistrate was well within his right to take cognizance of the matter and was in fact not overstepping any boundaries. It was the job of the magistrate to apply his thinking to the facts of the case under section 190(1)(b) of the CrPC.

The second matter at hand was the matter of the suppression of facts by the respondent when he failed to inform the sessions judge about the charges against him during the revisional court hearing. The court observed that it was a special knowledge that the respondent had in this case and brought up the maxim – Suppressio veri, expression false – which means that suppression of the truth amounts to an expression of falsehood. Based on this, the judge stated that the respondent intended to gain an unfair advantage by not revealing these facts. 

The court then pondered on how justice can be provided as the suppression of facts led to a wrong decree to be passed and how to do so in a sustainable manner without affecting the powers and the structure of the legal system. To this, the Supreme Court decided to utilize its powers provided by the constitution under Article 142. This allows the supreme court to pass any order in order to ensure justice between the two parties 

Conclusion

The court, therefore, allowed the appeal by the petition and reinstated the cognizance order taken by the magistrate and set aside the order of criminal revision by Sessions judge No.1 setting aside the cognizance order. Further, the court decreed the proceeding of the case and directed the trial to proceed with the sessions Judge No.3 lawfully. This case gives us an idea of how even technical grounds can be used by an accused to make his case stronger and how it can be used wrongfully. This demonstrates how the supreme court can effectively utilize its powers in providing justice when the lower courts failed to do so.

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