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Amarsang Nathaji v. Hardik Harshadbhai Patel and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (23 Nov 2016)

Contradictory statement by a person in judicial proceeding not always sufficient to justify prosecution



Instant appeal challenged legality of proceedings under Section 340 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 initiated by High Court. Appeal before High Court arose from an order passed by Senior Civil Judge, declining to grant an interim injunction, in Civil Suit No. 28 of 2012. High Court, on account of contradictory stand taken by Appellant herein who was first Respondent before High Court (Defendant No. 1 in the Suit), took the view that, conduct of Appellant has affected administration of justice, and therefore, it was expedient interests of justice to file a complaint against Appellant under Section 340 of Cr. PC.

Pre-conditions for initiating proceedings under Section 340 of Cr. PC are - (i) materials produced before Court must make out a prima facie case for a complaint for purpose of inquiry into an offence referred to in Clause (b)(i) of Sub-section (1) of Section 195 of Cr. PC and (ii) it is expedient in interests of justice that an inquiry should be made into the alleged offence. Mere fact that a person has made a contradictory statement in a judicial proceeding is not by itself always sufficient to justify a prosecution under Sections 199 and 200 of Indian Penal Code, 1860; but it must be shown that Defendant has intentionally given a false statement at any stage of judicial proceedings or fabricated false evidence for purpose of using the same at any stage of judicial proceedings. Even after the above position has emerged also, still Court has to form an opinion that it is expedient in interests of justice to initiate an inquiry into offences of false evidence and offences against public justice and more specifically referred in Section 340(1) of Cr. PC, having regard to overall factual matrix as well as probable consequences of such a prosecution.

In process of formation of opinion by Court that, it is expedient in interests of justice that an inquiry should be made into, requirement should only be to have a prima facie satisfaction of offence which appears to have been committed. It is open to Court to hold a preliminary inquiry though it is not mandatory. In case, Court is otherwise in a position to form such an opinion, that it appears to the court that an offence as referred to under Section 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been committed, Court may dispense with the preliminary inquiry. Even after forming an opinion as to the offence which appears to have been committed also, it is not mandatory that a complaint should be filed as a matter of course.

Court in impugned order has not followed procedure in making opinion that, it was expedient in interests of justice to file a complaint against Respondent No. 1 in exercise of powers conferred under Section 340 of Cr. PC and directing Registrar (Judicial) of High Court of Gujarat, Ahmedabad "to make complaint against Respondent No. 1 in view of findings recorded by Court for the offence under Sections 199 and 200 of IPC....". Supreme Court while allowing the appeal set aside impugned order to extent of initiation of proceedings under Section 340 of Cr. PC.

Relevant : K.T.M.S. Mohd. and Anr. v. Union of India : (1992) 3 SCC 178;  MANU/SC/0349/1984  Pritish v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.: (2002) 1 SCC 253;  MANU/SC/0740/2001 Iqbal Singh Marwah and Anr. v. Meenakshi Marwah and Anr. : (2005) 4 SCC 370 MANU/SC/0197/2005 Section 340, 195 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC)


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