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Quashing of FIR in Civil Disputes

April 21, 2022

By Nihit Nagpal and Anuj Jhawar

Whenever there is a commission of any offence, it can be reported to a police officer in charge of the police station by any aggrieved person. That report is known as First Information Report (FIR). However, the term FIR is not defined but Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973[1] relates to FIR and states as “information in cognizable cases”.

Reporting FIR have also become a tool of misuse since frivolous FIRs are being filed against innocent persons if there exists a malafide intention with an objective to harass them at the hands of law. One such instance is where a criminal proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on a person and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.

Fate of frivolous FIR in Civil Disputes

Thus, to tackle the menace the Hon’ble High Courts in India can be approached by any aggrieved person against the frivolous FIR filed against him. Petition under Section 482 of the CrPC[2] can be filed at the Hon’ble High Courts for quashing of the FIR where the Hon’ble High Courts can exercise their inherent powers to secure the ends of justice for the innocent. There have been instances when a civil dispute is already pending for adjudication before the Hon’ble Courts, but frivolous FIRs are being filed by one of the parties to initiate criminal proceedings against the opposite one, solely to harass them. However, the Supreme Court of India in catena of judgements has ruled against the frivolous FIRs thereby quashing them in the interest of justice.

Judicial Trends

  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India vide its judgements Hira Lal Hari Lal Bhagwati v. C.B.I.[3] dated May 2, 2003 and Y. Jose v. State of Gujarat[4] dated December 16, 2008 held that for establishing the offence of cheating, the complainant is required to show in the FIR that the accused had fraudulent or dishonest intention at the time of making promise of representation, and from his making failure to keep up promise subsequently, such a culpable intention right at the beginning that is at the time when the promise was made cannot be presumed.

 

  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in its judgement Vesa Holdings P. Ltd. v. State of Kerala[5] dated March 17, 2015 observed that every breach of contract would not give rise to an offence of cheating and only in those cases breach of contract would amount to cheating where there was any deception played at the very inception. The Apex Court further observed that if the intention to cheat has developed later on, the same cannot amount to cheating as for the purpose of constituting an offence of cheating, the complainant is required to show that the accused had fraudulent or dishonest intention at the time of making promise or representation. Even in a case where allegations are made in regard to failure on the part of the accused to keep his promise, in the absence of a culpable intention at the time of making initial promise being absent, no offence under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 can be made out. Thus, criminal proceedings shall not be encouraged when it is found to be malafide or otherwise an abuse of the process of the court.

 

  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in its judgement Sushil Sethi v. The State of Arunachal Pradesh[6] dated January 31, 2020 observed that when a dispute between the parties constitute only a civil wrong and not a criminal wrong, courts would not permit a person to be harassed although no case for taking cognizance of the offence has been made out. Brief facts of this case are that an FIR under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860[7] was filed against the Managing Director and the Director of a company which it entered into a contract with Government of Arunachal Pradesh for construction, supply and commissioning of a Power Project. There was some dispute with respect to the payment of maintenance and thereafter the complainant was filed alleging inferior quality materials in contravention with the contract. The Apex Court observed that there was no FIR/complaint/chargesheet filed against the company, and the employees were rather arrayed as accused. The Apex Court held that from a bare reading of the FIR, there were no allegations that there was a fraudulent and dishonest intention to cheat the government from the very beginning of the transaction, and even there were no specific allegations in the FIR that the said employees were in-charge of administration and management of the company making them vicariously liable. Thus, the FIR filed against the accused were quashed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973[8].

 

Conclusion

Thus, where a criminal proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on a person when a civil remedy lies within the law, the FIR can be quashed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 by the Hon’ble High Courts while exercising their inherent powers to prevent abuse of the process of law to secure the ends of justice.

Karanveer Singh, Associate at S.S. Rana & Co. has assisted in the research of this article.

[1] 154 of CrPC. Information in cognizable cases.

[2] 482 of CrPC. Saving of inherent power of High Court.

[3] AIR 2003 SC 2545

[4] (2009) 3 SCC 78

[5] (2015) 8 SCC 293

[6] AIR 2020 SC 765

[7] 420 of IPC. Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property.

[8] 482. Saving of inherent powers of High Court.

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