Criminal proceedings are not a shortcut to civil remedies

Gauhati High Court: The High Court recently through a common judgment disposed of two criminal petitions under Section 482 CrPC quashing the FIRs under Sections 418/420/423/406 IPC. The common arguments in both the petitions by the counsel were that the allegations in the FIR were purely civil in nature and therefore, the FIRs deserve to be quashed.

On hearing the arguments, the Court revisited the judgment of the Supreme Court in Indian Oil Corporation v. NEPC, (2006) 6 SCC 736 wherein the Court has taken notice of a growing tendency in business circles to convert purely civil disputes into criminal cases clearly indicating the fact that civil law remedies usually fail to protect the interests of lenders/creditors and criminal prosecution is rampantly used in pressuring the other party for settlement of dispute.

The Court further examined the law on the point as laid down by the Apex Court in Anju Chaudhary v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2013) 6 SCC 384. In this case, it has been held that the purpose of registering an FIR is to set the machinery of criminal investigation into motion, which culminates with filing of the police report in terms of Section 173(2) of the Code. The Court has explained that there cannot be two FIRs for the same offence in the same incident. However, there will be different FIRs in case of separate incidents, but same offence. The Supreme Court in this judgment has highlighted the need of examining the safeguards provided in Section 154 CrPC that are akin to principle of double jeopardy.

Hitesh Kumar Sarma, J. in the light of the judgments of Apex Court observed that in the present cases, when the first set of selection of tenderers was made it was fair and in accordance with Rules and informant had no grievance as far as the selection of highest bidders was concerned. The Court observed that petitioners had chosen a different set of tenderer after the withdrawal of previously selected tendered and this may or may not be an arbitrary decision and this very question doesn’t even arise in the petitions. The Court went on to hold that when a right is vested in an authority to select a tenderer, the criminal offence can’t be made out of it on the ground that by exercising the option of selecting a tenderer revenue loss has been caused to the State.

Finally, keeping in mind what has been held in Binod Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 10 SCC 663, the Court reiterated the principle of law that criminal proceedings are not a shortcut for other remedies and since no case of cheating is made out in any of the FIRs, the petitions are allowed and FIRs are quashed. [Pranita Das v. State of Assam, 2017 SCC OnLine Gau 716 , decided on 05.09.2017]

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