Criminal proceedings are not a shortcut for other remedies and criminal law cannot be set into motion in a usual manner, the Delhi High Court has said.
The high court stated that summoning an accused in a criminal case is a serious matter and the complainant has to bring on record material to support the allegations to have criminal law set into motion.
The observations were made by the high court while quashing the complaint and summoning order against a practicing lawyer for the alleged offense of criminal breach of trust on account of the absence of material to prima facie establish the commission of the offense as alleged in the complaint.
The complainant real estate company, in the present matter, claimed that the petitioner’s lawyer illegally released to its opponent’s certain documents kept in an escrow account created in his name.
Giving relief to the lawyer, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh said “Criminal proceedings are not a shortcut for other remedies. The petitioner is a practicing advocate and he has given his professional services to the parties there is no material on record to establish prima facie that he has committed any offense as alleged in the complaint. Since no case of criminal breach of trust or dishonest intention of inducement is made … the summoning order dated 27th November 2013 and the complaint qua the petitioner is liable to be quashed.” “Summoning of an accused in a criminal case is a serious matter. Criminal law cannot be set into motion as a matter of course. The complainant has to bring on record material to support his allegations in the complaint to have criminal law set into motion,” the high court asserted in an order dated June 10.
The high court said that the order of the magistrate summoning the accused must reflect the application of mind to the facts and the law and he is not a “silent spectator at the time of recording of preliminary evidence before summoning of the accused”.
“He (Magistrate) has to examine the nature of allegations made in the complaint and the evidence both oral and documentary in support thereof and would that be sufficient for the complainant to succeed in bringing charge home to the accused…The Magistrate has to carefully scrutinize the evidence brought on record and may even himself put questions to the complainant and his witnesses to elicit answers to find out the truthfulness of the allegations or otherwise and then examine if any offense is prima facie committed by all or any of the accused,” the high court said.
The judge observed that although the magistrate has the power to discharge an accused at any stage of the trial if he considers the charge to be groundless, the accused can approach the high court to have the proceeding quashed against him when the complaint does not make out any case against him but he must undergo the agony of a criminal trial.
The high court said that in the present case, there are no allegations that the documents deposited in the escrow account were utilized by the petitioner for his gain, which is one of the essential ingredients of Section 409 IPC, and thus no case is made out against him.
The petitioner sought to quash the summons and the case against him on the ground that no case was made out against him and he was being intentionally dragged into a civil dispute between the complainant and the other party.