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Rajendra Rajoriya Vs. Jagat Narain Thapak and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (23 Feb 2018)

Sessions Judge is empowered to call for and examine record of any proceeding before any subordinate criminal court situated within its jurisdiction



Appellant filed a complaint before the jurisdictional police station under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471, 120B, 506 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and under Section 3 of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 on the allegations that one Smt. Vidhyabai and Ors. sold the disputed land to Respondent No. 1 and got the Appellant's property mutated by committing fraud and forgery. The concerned police station did not take any action on the aforesaid complaint. Aggrieved by the inaction of the police, the Appellant approached the Jurisdictional Magistrate, with the same set of facts under Section 200 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). The Judicial Magistrate dismissed the criminal complaint on the footing that, there was no sufficient proof on record provided by the Appellant/complainant to prove that, he belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe and the dispute between the parties had trappings of civil nature.

Aggrieved by dismissal of criminal complaint, Appellant approached Sessions Court. The Sessions Court, by the order held that, the complainant belonged to Jatav community which is a Scheduled Caste. Further, the Sessions Court observed that, the facts narrated portray that, the Respondent No. 1 in conspiracy with others had transferred the land belonging to the Appellant in an illegal manner. Thereafter, concluded that the lower court did not appreciate the facts as well as the law in a proper manner and remanded the case. The questions that fall for consideration are in regard to the legality of the remand order passed by the Sessions Court and the order of the learned Magistrate taking cognizance thereafter.

As per Sections 397 and 398 of CrPC, the revisionary power is exercised either by the Sessions Court or by the High Court and a dismissal of the complaint by the Magistrate under Section 203 of CrPC may be assailed in a criminal revision under Section 397 of CrPC. The ambit of revisional jurisdiction is well settled. Section 397 of CrPC empowers the Sessions Judge to call for and examine the record of any proceeding before any subordinate criminal Court situated within its jurisdiction for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the correctness, legality or propriety of any finding, sentence or order recorded or passed, and as to the regularity of any proceedings of such subordinate Court.

The extent of the revisionary powers is provided under Section 399 read with Section 401 of CrPC. It is clear from the aforesaid provisions that, Section 398 of CrPC has to be read along with other Sections which are equally applicable to the revision petitions filed before the Sessions Court. Section 398 of CrPC only deals with a distinct power to direct further inquiry, whereas Section 397 read with Sections 399 and 401 of CrPC confers power on the revisionary authority to examine correctness, legality or propriety of any findings, sentence or order. The powers of the revisionary court have to be cumulatively understood in consonance with Sections 398, 399 and 401 of of CrPC.

The Sessions Court did not pass an order taking cognizance. The Sessions Court order should have been construed only as a remand order for further enquiry. The observations made by the Sessions Court were only justification for a remand and the same did not amount to taking cognizance. In view of the above, the High Court clearly misconstrued the Sessions Court order and proceeded on an erroneous footing. On the other hand, the revisional court was also in error to the extent of influencing the Magistrate Court to keep the findings of Sessions Court in mind, while considering the case on remand. The misconception created before the High Court was due to the fact that, the remand order provided discretion for the trial Court to conduct further enquiry and thereafter consider issuing process. The High Court in the case at hand without appreciating the dichotomy between taking cognizance and issuing summons, quashed the complaint itself on wrong interpretation of law. Impugned order of the High Court cannot be sustained in the eyes of law.

Regarding legality of the order of the learned Magistrate taking cognizance of the matter, the standard required by the Magistrate while taking cognizance is well settled by this Court in catena of judgments. In Subramanian Swamy v. Manmohan Singh and Anr., present Court explained the meaning of the word 'cognizance' holding that "...In legal parlance, cognizance is taking judicial notice by the Court of law, possessing jurisdiction, on a cause or matter presented before it so as to decide whether there is any basis for initiating proceedings and determination of the cause or matter judicially".

On a perusal of the order of the learned Magistrate taking cognizance, it is apparent that the learned Magistrate observes that the Sessions Court has already made out a prima facie case. Such finding would be difficult to sustain as the revisional court only observed certain aspects in furtherance of remanding the matter. Such observations could not have been made by the Magistrate as he was expected to apply his independent mind while taking cognizance. The appeal is allowed and the impugned judgment is set aside. Accordingly, the complaint be considered by trial court afresh.

Relevant : Subramanian Swamy v. Manmohan Singh and Anr., MANU/SC/0067/2012: (2012) 3 SCC 64


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