Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. V. State of Maharashtra and Others( 13 April, 2021) Supreme Court
Ø The appellant has filed an FIR against the defendants at Mumbai's Worli Police Station for offences under Sections 406, 420, 465, 468, 471, and 120B of the Penal Code, 1860. That the original accused is accused of forgery and fabrication of Board Resolutions, as well as the fraudulent sale of a valuable property Naziribagh Palace ad- measuring 111,882 sq. ft. belonging to the appellant firm to one M/s. Irish Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.
Ø The original accused filed an anticipatory bail plea before the learned trial Court under Section 438 Cr.P.C., fearing arrest in connection with the aforementioned FIR. That the learned Sessions Court, Mumbai granted temporary protection from arrest to the alleged accused. That the interim protection given by the learned Sessions Court was extended from time to time and lasted about a year after that.
Ø That on 17.09.2020, while the anticipatory bail application was pending before the learned Sessions Court in Mumbai, the original accused - respondent herein petitioned the High Court of Judicature in Bombay under Article 226 of the Constitution of India r/w Section 482 Cr.P.C. for quashing the FIR.
Ø The High Court has adjourned the case until October 28, 2020, and passed the aforementioned temporary decision directing that "no coercive measures shall be taken against the petitioners (original accused) about the relevant FIR."
Ø The original complainant has filed this appeal because he is aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned interim order issued by the Division Bench of the High Court directing that "no coercive measures shall be adopted" against the original accused (writ petitioners before the High Court) about the said FIR.
In light of the foregoing and for the reasons stated above, our conclusions on the main/core issue, whether the High Court would be justified in passing an interim order of stay of investigation and/or "no coercive steps to be adopted" during the pendency of the quashing petition under Section 482 Cr. P.C and/or under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, and under what circumstances and whether the High Court would be justified in passing the order not to arrest the accused or “no coercive steps to be adopted” during the investigation or till the final report/charge sheet is filed under Section 173 Cr.P.C. while dismissing/disposing of/not entertaining/not quashing the criminal proceedings/complaint/FIR in the exercise of powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, our conclusions are as under:
1) Police have the statutory right and duty to investigate a cognizable offence under the relevant provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure contained in Chapter XIV of the Code;
2) Courts will not thwart any investigation into cognizable offences;
3) The Court will not permit an investigation to continue unless no cognizable offence or offence of any kind is disclosed in the first information report;
4) As has been stated, the power of quashing should be utilised sparingly and with caution in the "rarest of rare circumstances" (not to be confused with the formation in the context of the death penalty).
5) While examining an FIR/complaint for quashing, the court cannot inquire as to the reliability, genuineness, or otherwise of the allegations made in the FIR/complaint;
6) Criminal proceedings should not be halted at the outset;
7) Quashing of a complaint/FIR should be an exception rather than the rule;
8) Normally, the courts are barred from usurping the jurisdiction of the police, because the two organs of the State operate in two distinct spheres of activity, and one should not tread on the other;
9) The functions of the judiciary and the police are complementary, not overlapping;
10) Except in exceptional cases where non-interference would result in a miscarriage of justice, the Court and the judicial process should not intervene at the stage of the investigation.
11) The Court's extraordinary and inherent powers do not grant it arbitrary jurisdiction to act at its whims or caprice.
12) The first information report is not an encyclopaedia that must include all facts and details about the reported offence. As a result, while the police investigation is ongoing, the court should not consider the merits of the charges in the FIR. The police must be allowed to conduct their investigation. It would be premature to conclude, based on vague facts, that the complaint/FIR does not deserve to be investigated or that it amounts to an abuse of the legal process. If following the investigation, the investigating officer determines that the complainant's application lacks substance, the investigating officer may file an appropriate report/summary before the learned Magistrate, which the learned Magistrate may evaluate in line with the known procedure.
13) The jurisdiction conferred by Section 482 Cr.P.C. is broad, but such broad power necessitates greater caution on the part of the court. It imposes an onerous and more diligent duty on the court;
14) However, the court has the jurisdiction to quash the FIR/complaint if it thinks fit, having regard to the parameters of quashing and the self-restraint imposed by law, particularly the parameters laid down by this Court in the cases of R.P. Kapur (supra) and Bhajan Lal (supra).
15) When the alleged accused requests that the FIR be quashed, the court, in exercising its power under Section 482 Cr.P.C., merely has to evaluate whether the accusations in the FIR reveal the commission of a cognizable offence or not. The court is not obligated to evaluate whether the claims make out a cognizable offence on the merits, and the court must let the investigative agency/police investigate the charges in the FIR.
16) While dismissing/disposing of the quashing petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the High Court shall not and is not justified in passing the order of not to arrest and/or "no coercive steps" either during the investigation or until the investigation is completed and/or until the final report/charge sheet is filed under Section 173 Cr.P.C.
17) Even if the High Court is prima facie of the opinion that an exceptional case has been made out for the grant of an interim stay of further investigation, after considering the broad parameters while exercising the powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and/or Article 226 of the Constitution of India referred to above, the High Court must give brief reasons why such an interim order is warranted and/or is required to be passed so that it can demonstrate the exceptionality.
18) xviii) Whenever an interim order is passed by the High Court of “no coercive steps to be adopted” within the aforesaid parameters, the High Court must clarify what does it by “no coercive steps to be adopted” as the term “no coercive steps to be adopted” can be said to be too vague and/or broad which can be misunderstood and/or misapplied.
In light of the foregoing and for the reasons described above, the current appeal is successful.