Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code elaborates upon the inherent powers of the High Courts in relation to adjudication of criminal proceedings which reads as follows:

‘Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.’

This proviso is primarily used by litigant for the purpose of quashing of criminal proceedings initiated by way of filing of FIR. A question that arose was whether the petition under Section 483 can be admitted even after the charge sheet has been filed? This was placed before the bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageshwar Rao in an appeal filed by the appellant challenging the Delhi High Court judgment on the grounds that the petition was premature as the investigation was still in process.

The primary dispute between the parties was regarding the earnest amounts paid by the Respondent to the Appellant for construction of a high rise building on the property of the Appellant. However due to certain changes in the regulations governing construction of buildings, the construction could not be commenced. The Appellant expressed its decision to the Respondent that it did not want to develop its property and at the same time did not return the earnest money received from the Respondents and as such, the Respondents filed a criminal complaint, which is the FIR under Section 406 of the IPC. In the appeal, the Appellants sought to amend its SLP by including a prayer for quashing of charge sheet along with quashing of FIR. The Counsel for the Respondents submitted that the quashing of FIR was untenable as the proceedings have already gone past the stage of FIR and the relevant charge sheet has also been filed. On the other hand, the Counsel for the Appellants submitted that the dispute between the parties was civil in nature as the transaction between the parties does not constitute an offence under Section 406 IPC.

The Bench made referred to the judgment in Joseph Salvaraj A v. State of Gujarat contentions of the Respondents and observed that:

“There is nothing in the words of this Section which restricts the exercise of the power of the Court to prevent the abuse of process of court or miscarriage of justice only to the stage of the FIR. It is settled principle of law that the High court can exercise jurisdiction under Section 482 of Cr.P.C even when the discharge application is pending with the trial court. Indeed, it would be a travesty to hold that proceedings initiated against a person can be interfered with at the stage of FIR but not if it has advanced, and the allegations have materialized into a charge sheet. On the contrary it could be said that the abuse of process caused by FIR stands aggravated if the FIR has taken the form of a charge sheet after investigation. The power is undoubtedly conferred to prevent abuse of process of power of any court.”

The Bench affirmed to the submissions of the Appellants and held that the retention of money by the Appellants was a dispute of a civil nature and the Respondent, having not made any attempts at seeking recovery by way of civil suit, has filed the FIR with a mala fide intention and hence is unsustainable. The Bench allowed the appeal of the Appellant for amendment of its main prayers and also quashed the FIR and the associated charge sheet.

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Judgment: Anand Kumar Mohatta and Anr Versus Government of NCT of Delhi and Anr.