FIR in Civil Dispute is Abuse of Process of Law: Supreme Court

In a recent Judgment in the case of The Commissioner of Police and Others vs Devender and Others (Criminal Appeal 834 of 2017) the Supreme Court reiterated that the First Information Report (FIR) should not be lodged, where the dispute is of civil nature.

Respondent No. 1 (complainant) agreed to sell a house ti Respondent Nos. 2 to 3 for a consideration of Rs.54 lakhs. The agreement to sell was executed and the full amount of consideration of Rs.54 lakhs was paid to the sellers. However, as per Respondent No. 1 (complainant), subsequently, on 31.07.2013, he learnt that the property mentioned above had been mortgaged to Andhra Bank when a notice by the said bank was affixed on the property. Due to which complainant was forced to settle the claim with Andhra Bank for Rs.16,93,059/- to get the mortgaged documents released. He also paid the registration charges of Rs,7,81,941/- for registration of the sale deed in his favour.

After that Respondent No. 1 (complainant) lodged a complaint against Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 for the offence under Section 420 and 34 of IPC alleging, inter alia, that without disclosing the fact about the mortgage of the property in question. As such, it was the case of Respondent No. 1 – that he was cheated by respondent Nos. 2 and 3. 

On a preliminary Inquiry, the Sub-Inspector submitted his report that a prima facie offence under Section 420/34 IPC is made out. The ACP also concurred with the finding, but it was alleged by Respondent No. 1 that no FIR was lodged instead a fresh process of preliminary Inquiry was started on the same set of facts. 

In subsequent Inquiry, the Police concluded that as the Respondent No.1 (Complainant) had consented to the registration of the sale deed and performed his liability of the bank, knowing the said mortgage, therefore, no police action is required. The ACP concurred with the view that it is only a dispute of civil nature, therefore no criminal action is required.

When no FIR was registered against the accused for the offence under Section 420/34 IPC as alleged, Respondent No. 1 approached the High Court by way of a writ petition. The Respondent No.2 and 3 opposed the Writ petition. The High Court allowed the Petition directing that the case be placed before the Commissioner of Police for taking action against Respondent police officials. The High Court also awarded a cost of Rs. 25000/- to the complainant.

It was argued that the complainant had earlier preferred an application U/s 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. which was rejected by the Magistrate and that the complainant did not challenge the said order. After that, a fresh private complaint under Section 200 Cr.P.C. was preferred, which remained pending. 

Further, it was argued that the dispute is of a civil nature which is tried to be converted into a criminal one. This is nothing but an abuse of the process of law.

A Bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice S.A. Nazeer and Justice M.R. Shah observed that even considering the nature of allegations in the complaint, no case is made out for cognizance of the offence U/s 420 and 34 IPC. The case involves a civil dispute, and for settling a civil dispute, the criminal complaint law cannot be put in motion, which is nothing but an abuse of the process of law.

It was further held that the criminal proceedings have been initiated by the original complainant to settle the civil dispute. When the dispute between the parties was of a civil nature, the High Court ought not to have issued further directions. 

Considering above, the Supreme Court set aside the Judgment of the High Court and quashed the criminal proceedings.

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