Gupta & ANR. Vs. State of Jharkhand & ANR.  INSC 632 (13 August
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1512
OF 2010 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.4684 of 2009) Preeti Gupta & Another
...Appellants Versus State of Jharkhand & Another ....Respondents
This appeal has been filed by Preeti Gupta the married
sister-in-law and a permanent resident of Navasari, Surat, Gujarat with her
husband and Gaurav Poddar, a permanent 2 resident of Goregaon, Maharashtra, who
is the unmarried brother-in-law of the complainant, Manisha Poddar, against the
impugned judgment of the High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi, Jharkhand dated
27.4.2009 passed in Criminal Miscellaneous Petition Nos.304 of 2009.
Brief facts which are necessary to dispose of this appeal are
recapitulated as under:
Complainant Manisha was married to Kamal Poddar at Kanpur on 10.12.2006.
Immediately after the marriage, the complainant who is respondent no.2 in this
appeal left for Mumbai along with her husband Kamal Poddar who was working with
the Tata Consultancy Services (for short "TCS") and was permanently
residing at Mumbai. The complainant also joined the TCS at Mumbai on 23.12.2006.
Respondent no.2 visited Ranchi to participate in "Gangaur" festival
(an important Hindu festival widely celebrated in Northern India) on 16.3.2007.
After staying there for a week, she returned to Mumbai on 24.03.2007.
Respondent no.2, Manisha Poddar filed a complaint on 08.07.2007
before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ranchi under sections 498-A, 406, 341,
323 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code read with sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry
Prohibition Act against all immediate relations of her husband, namely,
Pyarelal Poddar (father-in-law), Kamal Poddar (husband), Sushila Devi
(mother-in-law), Gaurav Poddar (unmarried brother-in-law) and Preeti Gupta @
Preeti Agrawal (married sister-in-law). The complaint was transferred to the
court of the Judicial Magistrate, Ranchi. Statements of Respondent no.2 and
other witnesses were recorded and on 10.10.2008 the Judicial Magistrate took
cognizance and passed the summoning order of the appellants. The appellants are
aggrieved by the said summoning order.
In the criminal complaint, it was alleged that a luxury car was
demanded by all the accused named in the complaint. It was also alleged that
respondent no.2 was physically assaulted at Mumbai. According to the said
allegations of the complainant, it appears that the alleged incidents had taken
4 place either at Kanpur or Mumbai. According to the averments of the
complaint, except for the demand of the luxury car no incident of harassment
took place at Ranchi.
According to the appellants, there was no specific allegation
against both the appellants in the complaint.
no.1 had been permanently residing with her husband at Navasari, Surat
(Gujarat) for the last more than seven years. She had never visited Mumbai
during the year 2007 and never stayed with respondent no.2 or her husband.
appellant no.2, unmarried brother-in-law of the complainant has also been
permanently residing at Goregaon, Maharashtra.
It was asserted that there is no specific allegation in the entire
complaint against both the appellants. The statements of prosecution witnesses
PW1 to PW4 were also recorded along with the statement of the complainant. None
of the prosecution witnesses had stated anything against the appellants. These
appellants had very clearly stated in this appeal that they had never visited
Ranchi. The appellants also 5 stated that they had never interfered with the
internal affairs of the complainant and her husband. According to them, there
was no question of any interference because the appellants had been living in
different cities for a number of years.
It was clearly alleged by the appellants that they had been
falsely implicated in this case. It was further stated that the complaint
against the appellants was totally without any basis or foundation. The
appellants also asserted that even if all the allegations incorporated in the
complaint were taken to be true, even then no offence could be made out against
The appellants had submitted that the High Court ought to have
quashed this complaint as far as both the appellants are concerned because
there were no specific allegations against the appellants and they ought not
have been summoned. In the impugned judgment, while declining to exercise its
inherent powers, the High Court observed as under:
"In this context, I may again reiterate that the acts relating to demand
or subjecting to cruelty, as per the complaint petition, have been committed at
the place where the complainant was living with her husband. However, the
complainant in her statement made under solemn affirmation has stated that when
she came to Ranchi on the occasion of Holi, all the accused persons came and
passed sarcastic remarks which in absence of actual wordings, according to the
learned counsel appearing for the petitioner could never be presumed to be an
act constituting offence under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code."
In this appeal, both the appellants specifically asserted that
they had never visited Ranchi, therefore, the allegations that they made any
sarcastic remarks to the complainant had no basis or foundation as far as the
appellants are concerned.
The complainant could not dispute that appellant no.1 was a
permanent resident living with her husband at Navasari, Surat, Gujarat for the
last more than seven years and the appellant no.2 was permanent resident of
Goregaon, Maharashtra. They had never spent any time with respondent no.2.
According to the appellants, they are not the residents of Ranchi
and if they are compelled to attend the Ranchi Court repeatedly then that would
lead to insurmountable harassment and inconvenience to the appellants as well
as to the complainant.
The complaint in this case under section 498-A IPC has led to
several other cases. It is mentioned that a divorce petition has been filed by
the husband of respondent no.2.
respondent no.2 and her husband are highly qualified and are working with
reputed organization like Tata Consultancy Service. If because of temperamental
incompatibility they cannot live with each other then it is proper that they
should jointly get a decree of divorce by mutual consent. Both respondent no.2
and her husband are in such age group that if proper efforts are made, their
re- settlement may not be impossible.
The main question which falls for consideration in this case is
whether the High Court was justified in not exercising its inherent powers
under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the facts and
circumstances of this case?
This court in a number of cases has laid down the scope and ambit
of courts' powers under section 482 Cr.P.C. Every High Court has inherent power
to act ex debito justitiae to do real and substantial justice, for the
administration of which alone it exists, or to prevent abuse of the process of
power under section 482 Cr.P.C. can be exercised:
give effect to an order under the Code;
prevent abuse of the process of court, and (iii) to otherwise secure the ends
Reference to the following cases would reveal that the courts have
consistently taken the view that they must use this extraordinary power to
prevent injustice and secure the ends of justice. The English courts have also
used inherent power to achieve the same objective. It is generally agreed that
the Crown Court has inherent power to protect its process 9 from abuse. In
Connelly v. Director of Public Prosecutions  AC 1254, Lord Devlin stated
that where particular criminal proceedings constitute an abuse of process, the
court is empowered to refuse to allow the indictment to proceed to trial. Lord
Salmon in Director of Public Prosecutions v.
 AC 1 stressed the importance of the inherent power when he observed that
it is only if the prosecution amounts to an abuse of the process of the court
and is oppressive and vexatious that the judge has the power to intervene. He
further mentioned that the court's power to prevent such abuse is of great
constitutional importance and should be jealously preserved.
The powers possessed by the High Court under section 482 of the
Code are very wide and the very plenitude of the power requires great caution
in its exercise. The court must be careful to see that its decision in exercise
of this power is based on sound principles. The inherent power should not be
exercised to stifle a legitimate prosecution but court's failing to use the
power for advancement of justice can also lead to 10 grave injustice. The High
Court should normally refrain from giving a prima facie decision in a case
where all the facts are incomplete and hazy; more so, when the evidence has not
been collected and produced before the court and the issues involved, whether
factual or legal, are of such magnitude that they cannot be seen in their true
perspective without sufficient material. Of course, no hard and fast rule can
be laid down in regard to cases in which the High Court will exercise its
extraordinary jurisdiction of quashing the proceedings at any stage.
This court had occasion to examine the legal position in a large
number of cases. In R.P. Kapur v. State of Punjab AIR 1960 SC 866, this court
summarized some categories of cases where inherent power can and should be
exercised to quash the proceedings:
it manifestly appears that there is a legal bar against the institution or
continuance of the proceedings;
where the allegations in the first information report or complaint taken at
their face value and accepted in their entirety do not constitute the offence
where the allegations constitute an offence, but there is no legal evidence
adduced or the evidence adduced clearly or manifestly fails to prove the
This court in State of Karnataka v. L. Muniswamy & Others
(1977) 2 SCC 699 observed that the wholesome power under section 482 Cr.P.C.
entitles the High Court to quash a proceeding when it comes to the conclusion
that allowing the proceeding to continue would be an abuse of the process of
the court or that the ends of justice require that the proceeding ought to be
quashed. The High Courts have been invested with inherent powers, both in civil
and criminal matters, to achieve a salutary public purpose. A court proceeding
ought not to be permitted to degenerate into a weapon of harassment or
persecution. In this case, the court observed that ends of justice are higher
than the ends of mere law though justice must be administered according to laws
made by the legislature. This case has been followed in a large number of
subsequent cases of this court and other courts.
In Madhu Limaye v. The State of Maharashtra (1977) 4 SCC 551, a
three-Judge Bench of this court held as under:- ".....In case the impugned
order clearly brings out a situation which is an abuse of the process of the
court, or for the purpose of securing the ends of justice interference by the
High Court is absolutely necessary, then nothing contained in Section 397(2)
can limit or affect the exercise of the inherent power by the High Court. Such
cases would necessarily be few and far between. One such case would be the
desirability of the quashing of a criminal proceeding initiated illegally,
vexatiously or as being without jurisdiction. The present case would
undoubtedly fall for exercise of the power of the High Court in accordance with
Section 482 of the 1973 Code, even assuming, that the invoking of the
revisional power of the High Court is impermissible."
This court in Madhavrao Jiwajirao Scindia & Others v.
Sambhajirao Chandrojirao Angre & Others (1988) 1 SCC 692 observed in para 7
The legal position is well settled that when a prosecution at the initial stage
is asked to be quashed, the test to be applied by the court is as to whether
the uncontroverted allegations as made prima facie establish the offence. It is
also for the court to take into consideration any special features which appear
in a particular case to consider whether it is expedient and in the interest of
justice to permit a prosecution to continue. This is so on the basis that the
court cannot be utilized for any 13 oblique purpose and where in the opinion of
the court chances of an ultimate conviction is bleak and, therefore, no useful
purpose is likely to be served by allowing a criminal prosecution to continue,
the court may while taking into consideration the special facts of a case also
quash the proceeding even though it may be at a preliminary stage."
In State of Haryana & Others v. Bhajan Lal & Others 1992
Supp. (1) SCC 335, this court in the backdrop of interpretation of various
relevant provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (for short, Cr.P.C.)
under Chapter XIV and of the principles of law enunciated by this court in a
series of decisions relating to the exercise of the extraordinary power under
Article 226 of the Constitution of India or the inherent powers under section
482 Cr.P.C. gave the following categories of cases by way of illustration
wherein such power could be exercised either to prevent abuse of the process of
the court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. Thus, this court made it
clear that it may not be possible to lay down any precise, clearly defined and
sufficiently channelised and inflexible guidelines or rigid formulae and to
give an exhaustive list to 14 myriad kinds of cases wherein such power should
Where the allegations made in the first information report or the complaint,
even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do
not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
the allegations in the first information report and other materials, if any,
accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an
investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under
an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.
the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence
collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence
and make out a case against the accused.
Where, the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but
constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a
police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section
155(2) of the Code.
the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently
improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just
conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the
Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to
the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a
specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious
redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the
proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking
vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and
In G. Sagar Suri & Another v. State of UP & Others (2000)
2 SCC 636, this court observed that it is the duty and obligation of the
criminal court to exercise a great deal of caution in issuing the process
particularly when matters are essentially of civil nature.
This court in Zandu Pharmaceutical Works Ltd. & Others v.
Mohd. Sharaful Haque & Another (2005) 1 SCC 122 observed thus:- "It
would be an abuse of process of the court to allow any action which would
result in injustice and prevent promotion of justice. In exercise of the
powers, court would be justified to quash any proceeding if it finds that initiation/continuance
of 16 it amounts to abuse of the process of court or quashing of these
proceedings would otherwise serve the ends of justice. When no offence is
disclosed by the complaint, the court may examine the question of fact. When a
complaint is sought to be quashed, it is permissible to look into the materials
to assess what the complainant has alleged and whether any offence is made out
even if the allegations are accepted in toto."
A three-Judge Bench (of which one of us, Bhandari, J.
author of the judgment) of this Court in Inder Mohan Goswami and Another v.
State of Uttaranchal & Others (2007) 12 SCC 1 comprehensively examined the
came to a definite conclusion and the relevant observations of the court are
reproduced in para 24 of the said judgment as under:- "Inherent powers
under section 482 Cr.P.C. though wide have to be exercised sparingly, carefully
and with great caution and only when such exercise is justified by the tests
specifically laid down in this section itself. Authority of the court exists
for the advancement of justice. If any abuse of the process leading to
injustice is brought to the notice of the court, then the Court would be
justified in preventing injustice by invoking inherent powers in absence of
specific provisions in the Statute."
We have very carefully considered the averments of the complaint
and the statements of all the witnesses recorded at the time of the filing of
the complaint. There are no specific allegations against the appellants in the
complaint and none of the witnesses have alleged any role of both the
Admittedly, appellant no.1 is a permanent resident of Navasari,
Surat, Gujarat and has been living with her husband for more than seven years.
Similarly, appellant no.2 is a permanent resident of Goregaon, Maharasthra.
They have never visited the place where the alleged incident had taken place.
They had never lived with respondent no.2 and her husband. Their implication in
the complaint is meant to harass and humiliate the husband's relatives. This
seems to be the only basis to file this complaint against the appellants.
the complainant to pursue this complaint would be an abuse of the process of
It is a matter of common knowledge that unfortunately matrimonial
litigation is rapidly increasing in our country. All the courts in our country
including this court are flooded with 18 matrimonial cases. This clearly
demonstrates discontent and unrest in the family life of a large number of
people of the society.
The courts are receiving a large number of cases emanating from
section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code which reads as under:- "498-A.
Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.--Whoever, being
the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to
cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to
three years and shall also be liable to fine.
the purposes of this section, `cruelty' means:- (a) any wilful conduct which is
of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause
grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of
the woman; or (b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view
to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for
any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any
person related to her to meet such demand."
It is a matter of common experience that most of these complaints
under section 498-A IPC are filed in the heat of the 19 moment over trivial
issues without proper deliberations. We come across a large number of such
complaints which are not even bona fide and are filed with oblique motive. At
the same time, rapid increase in the number of genuine cases of dowry
harassment are also a matter of serious concern.
The learned members of the Bar have enormous social responsibility
and obligation to ensure that the social fiber of family life is not ruined or
demolished. They must ensure that exaggerated versions of small incidents
should not be reflected in the criminal complaints. Majority of the complaints
are filed either on their advice or with their concurrence. The learned members
of the Bar who belong to a noble profession must maintain its noble traditions
and should treat every complaint under section 498-A as a basic human problem
and must make serious endeavour to help the parties in arriving at an amicable
resolution of that human problem. They must discharge their duties to the best
of their abilities to ensure that social fiber, peace and tranquility of the
society remains 20 intact. The members of the Bar should also ensure that one
complaint should not lead to multiple cases.
Unfortunately, at the time of filing of the complaint the
implications and consequences are not properly visualized by the complainant
that such complaint can lead to insurmountable harassment, agony and pain to
the complainant, accused and his close relations.
The ultimate object of justice is to find out the truth and punish
the guilty and protect the innocent. To find out the truth is a herculean task
in majority of these complaints. The tendency of implicating husband and all
his immediate relations is also not uncommon. At times, even after the
conclusion of criminal trial, it is difficult to ascertain the real truth. The
courts have to be extremely careful and cautious in dealing with these
complaints and must take pragmatic realities into consideration while dealing
with matrimonial cases. The allegations of harassment of husband's close
relations who had been living in different cities and never 21 visited or
rarely visited the place where the complainant resided would have an entirely
different complexion. The allegations of the complaint are required to be
scrutinized with great care and circumspection. Experience reveals that long
and protracted criminal trials lead to rancour, acrimony and bitterness in the
relationship amongst the parties. It is also a matter of common knowledge that
in cases filed by the complainant if the husband or the husband's relations had
to remain in jail even for a few days, it would ruin the chances of amicable
settlement altogether. The process of suffering is extremely long and painful.
Before parting with this case, we would like to observe that a
serious relook of the entire provision is warranted by the legislation. It is
also a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incident are
reflected in a large number of complaints. The tendency of over implication is
also reflected in a very large number of cases.
The criminal trials lead to immense sufferings for all concerned.
Even ultimate acquittal in the trial may also not 22 be able to wipe out the
deep scars of suffering of ignominy.
a large number of these complaints have not only flooded the courts but also
have led to enormous social unrest affecting peace, harmony and happiness of
high time that the legislature must take into consideration the pragmatic
realities and make suitable changes in the existing law. It is imperative for
the legislature to take into consideration the informed public opinion and the
pragmatic realities in consideration and make necessary changes in the relevant
provisions of law. We direct the Registry to send a copy of this judgment to
the Law Commission and to the Union Law Secretary, Government of India who may
place it before the Hon'ble Minister for Law & Justice to take appropriate
steps in the larger interest of the society.
When the facts and circumstances of the case are considered in the
background of legal principles set out in preceding paragraphs, then it would
be unfair to compel the 23 appellants to undergo the rigmarole of a criminal
trial. In the interest of justice, we deem it appropriate to quash the
complaint against the appellants. As a result, the impugned judgment of the
High Court is set aside. Consequently, this appeal is allowed.
.................................J. (Dalveer Bhandari)
.................................J. (K.S. Radhakrishnan)