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Don’t quash criminal charges at threshold: Supreme Court

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article522264.ece

The Supreme Court has asked the High Courts to exercise caution while exercising jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code in quashing criminal proceedings against the accused that are pending in lower courts at the threshold stage.

“The High Court would not ordinarily embark upon an enquiry whether the evidence in question is reliable or not, or whether on a reasonable appreciation of it, accusation would not be sustained. That is the function of the trial Judge/Court,” said a Bench comprising Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Anil R. Dave.

“It is true that the Court should be circumspect and judicious in exercising discretion and should take all relevant facts and circumstances into consideration before issuing process, otherwise it would be an instrument in the hands of a private complainant to unleash vendetta to harass any person needlessly,” the Bench said. “At the same time, Section 482 [of the Cr.PC] is not an instrument handed over to an accused to short-circuit a prosecution and bring about its closure without full-fledged enquiry.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said “though High Court may exercise its power relating to cognizable offences to prevent abuse of process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice, the power should be exercised sparingly. Though the powers possessed by the High Court under Section 482 are wide, however, such power requires care/caution in its exercise. The interference must be on sound principles and the inherent power should not be exercised to stifle a legitimate prosecution.”

In the instant case, the State of Andhra Pradesh filed an appeal against a judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court quashing criminal proceedings initiated against respondents Gourishetty Mahesh and three others under the Andhra Pradesh Excise Act for possessing black jaggery.

Allowing the appeal and directing the prosecution to continue, the Bench said “in this case apart from specific allegations about the transportation of Jaggery for preparation of illicit distilled liquor, prosecution also placed reliance on laboratory analysis report which mentions that the transported Jaggery is fit for fermentation, producing alcohol unfit for consumption. In those circumstances, whether the raw material in existence would be sufficient for holding the accused persons concerned guilty or not has to be considered only at the time of trial. That being so, the interference at the threshold {stage of} quashing the FIR is to be exceptional and not like routine as ordered by the High Court in the present case.”

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