1. This revision application is directed against an order dated 23rd December 1976 passed by the Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Hinganghat in Criminal Case No. 566 of 1975, who dismissed the complaint filed by the applicant's wife, deceased Mirabai, and discharged the opponents Nos. 1 to 3 of the offences under sections 423 and 465 of the Indian Penal Code. This discharge purports to be under Section 249 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (new).
2. The case of deceased Mirabai, the original complainant, against the opponents Nos. 1 to 3 was that opponent No. 1 Eknath was her tenant, that he had fallen into arrears of rent and, therefore, she served him with a notice through her advocate on 19th November 1974 to pay the arrears of rent and vacate the house. Opponent No. 1, though he received a notice, did not comply with it. Instead he started saying that he had purchased the house from the complainant. When the complainant heard about It she became alarmed and made enquiries through her husband who obtained a photo copy of the document purported to be a sale-deed alleged to have been executed by her in favour of the opponent No. 1 sometime in 1972. This, according to the complainant, gave her a shock because she had not executed any such document in favour of opponent No. 1. She, therefore, reported the matter both to the police and the District Registrar. However, as the matter was getting delayed at their hands she filed a complaint in the Court. According to the complainant, she never sold the said house to opponent No. 1 and never put her thumb impression on any document before the Sub Registrar, Hinganghat, The case of the complainant is that opponent No. 1 forged and fraudulently got the document registered causing thereby a huge wrongful loss to the complainant and wrongful gain to himself. The opponents Nos. 2 and 3, according to the complainant, were the witnesses to the said document and hence they have abetted the offences and are liable to be punished for abetment of the offences under sections 423 and 465 of the Indian Penal Code. On these allegations the complaint was filed by the complainant in the Court of the learned Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Hinganghat.
3. It may be noted that under the provisions of the amended Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, hereinafter called the new Code, both the offences being punishable with imprisonment for two years can be tried with the procedure prescribed for summons cases. However, it appears that the learned Magistrate decided to try the case as a warrant case. This is clear from the fact that he fixed the dates of hearing for recording evidence before the charge. There is no question of framing a charge in a summons case and, therefore, it appears that the Magistrate decided to try the case as a warrant case. Section 259 of the new Code, permits the Magistrate to try offences in accordance with the procedure prescribed for the trial of warrant cases though the offences could be tried with procedure prescribed for a summons case. I shall revert to the provisions of this section a little later. For the present it is sufficient to state that the Magistrate decided to try the case as a warrant case and when the present applicant, the husband of the original complainant Mirabai, filed a pursis before the learned Magistrate on 23-12-1976 informing the learned Magistrate that the complainant had died on 16-12-1976, he passed the following order:
Ganesh Dangre, the husband of the complainant is present. He filed a pursis that the complainant Mirabai died on 16-12-76. Relying upon Ms pursis, as the complainant is absent due to her death, the complaint is dismissed in default and the accused are discharged under Section 249 Cr. P.C.
That the accused were discharged under Section 249 of the Code of Criminal Procedure also shows that the Magistrate proceeded to try the case as a warrant case,
4. Mr. Lambat, the learned Counsel for the applicant, submitted that the Magistrate should not have discharged the accused. According to him, one of the offences, namely, the offence under section 465 of the Indian Penal Code could not be lawfully compounded and that, therefore. the provisions of Section 249 of the Code of Criminal Procedure were not attracted. He also submitted that on the facts and circumstances of the case the Magistrate could not have discharged the accused. As against this Mr. Dandekar, the learned Counsel for the opponents Nos. 1 to 3, submitted that if the offences could be lawfully compounded and were not cognisable offences, the learned Magistrate had jurisdiction to discharge the accused. He also submitted that the learned Magistrate was perfectly right in discharging the accused as the husband of the complainant who filed the pursis informing about the death of his wife, did not inform the learned Magistrate that he wanted to proceed with the case.
5. Mr. Lambat is not right when he submits that both the conditions must exist, namely, that the offence could be lawfully compounded, and is not a cognizable offence before the provisions In Section 249 of the Code can be resorted to. If either of the two conditions exists the provisions in Section 249 of the Code would apply. This view is supported by the decision in Shankar Das v. Manu Ram .
6. The question, however, for consideration in this case would be whether the Magistrate was right in discharging the accused. On that point Mr. Dandekar submitted that there was no prima facie case and, therefore, the order of discharge was proper on that count also.
7. Now it is clear that the discretion which is vested by Section 249 of the Code in the Magistrate to discharge the accused is a judicious discretion. The Magistrate has to exercise the discretion judiciously and not arbitrarily. He is not to make an order of discharge automatically. He has to examine the facts of the case before he proceeds to discharge the accused.
8. Now coming to the facts of the case the allegations against the opponents were serious. It is the case of the complainant that opponent No. 1 had fabricated a document purporting to be a sale-deed in Ms favour of the house in question. In support of his submission that opponent No. 1 indulged in forgery, the learned Counsel for the applicant invited my attention to two circumstances. Firstly he pointed out that when the complainant gave a notice to opponent No. 1 on 19-11-1974 calling upon him to pay the arrears of rent and vacate the house, opponent No. 1 did not give a reply to that notice. The sale-deed, which, according to the complainant, is a forged one, is of the year 1972 as per the allegations in the complaint. If this sale-deed were to be genuine (it must be made clear that no decision is being given by this judgment on the points in controversy and that the observations in this judgment are limited for the purpose of finding out whether the order of discharge is proper) in all probability opponent No. 1 would have given a reply to the complainant. It must also be stated whether opponent No. 1 gave a reply to the complainant or not cannot be finally determined at this stage. It is likely that opponent No. 1 might have given a reply and if he gave that reply it is open to opponent No. 1 to prove that fact. However, at present we are to go by the allegations in the complaint.
9. Mr. Lambat further submitted that the complainant had through the Court called upon opponent No. 1 to produce the sale-deed. However, opponent No. 1 informed the Court that the sale-deed is not traceable. According to Mr. Lambat, this again is a circumstance which supports his case that the sale-deed may not be a genuine document. Mr. Lambat then submitted that he has got the thumb impression on the sale-deed compared with the thumb impression of the complainant on the registers maintained in the office of the Sub-Registrar where the document was registered and according to him, the handwriting expert after examining the document has opined that the thumb impressions do not tally. Of course, as I stated earlier, all these questions would be decided finally if and when the matter comes up for decision before the appropriate forum. What I am considering at present is whether there was or was not a prima facie case against the opponents. I do not mean to say by prima facie case, the case which is sufficient for framing a charge. What I mean is whether there were circumstances which could support the case of the complainant that opponent No. 1 had forged a fake document. The above discussion would show that there were such circumstances.
10. The question then that arises Is whether the Magistrate should have proceeded to discharge the accused. It Is clear, as is stated earlier, that Section 249 of the Code gives a discretion to the Magistrate and that discretion has to be used Judiciously, The contention of Mr., Dandekar is that the husband of the complainant when he filed a pursis informing about the death of his wife did not inform the Court that he wanted to proceed with the case and, therefore, the learned Magistrate was right in discharging the accused. It is possible to take a view that the learned Magistrate, in the absence of any further indication in the pursis filed by the complainant's husband showing his intention to proceed with the case took it that the applicant (the husband of the original complainant) did not want to proceed with the case. However, it must be noted that even though the applicant did not state in his pursis that he wanted to proceed with the case still he did not inform the Court that the case be disposed of. The circumstance that the services of a lawyer or an advocate were not available to the applicant on that date when he gave pursis cannot be ignored. It appears that the applicant was not aided by any advocate on the date on which he gave the pursis. Under the circumstances though it is possible to take a view that the Magistrate might have bona fide felt that the applicant did not want to proceed with the case, the question is whether the order of discharge passed by the Magistrate should be allowed to stand.
11. Mr. Dandekar, the learned Counsel for the opponents Nos. 1 to 3, submitted that the interference by this Court in its revisional jurisdiction is not called for.
12. Now, Section 397 of the new Code provides that the High Court or any Sessions Judge may call for and examine the record of any proceeding before any inferior Criminal Court situate within its or his local jurisdiction for the purpose of satisfying itself or himself 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 inferior Court, and may, when calling for such record, direct that the execution of any sentence or order be suspended and if the accused is in confinement, that he be released on bail or on his own bond pending the examination of the record. Section 398 provides that on examining any record under Section 397 or otherwise, the High Court or the Sessions Judge may direct the Magistrate to make further enquiry in any complaint which has been dismissed under Section 203 or Sub-section (4) of. Section 204, or into the case of any person accused of an offence who has been discharged. It would appear from the provisions In Section 397 of the Code that not only the legality or correctness of the order can be gone into, but even the propriety of the order can be gone into. Though as I have stated above it is possible to take a view that the learned Magistrate might have bona fide felt that the applicant did not want to proceed with the case as he did not state so expressly in the pursis, the question would be whether the order that has been passed by him ordering the discharge of the opponents is proper in the circumstances of the case.
13. Now, as is indicated above, the discretion granted by Section 249 of the Code is the judicious discretion. Whether the accused should be discharged or not has to be decided upon consideration of various circumstances, including the gravity of the offence. The Magistrate is not to make an order of discharge automatically in case of absence of the complainant. He has to take Into consideration the facts and circumstances governing the case. Now in this case, as is pointed out above, there were circumstances which supported the case of the complainant that opponent No. 1 had forged a document. I would repeat at this stage that what is being said here is only for the purpose of this order. The opponents Nos. 1 to 3 have not disclosed their defence and they were not expected to disclose the same at the stage at which they were discharged. Still the fact remains that at the stage at which the opponents were discharged there were circumstances which supported the case of the complainant. Obviously the offences of which the opponents Nos. 1 to 3 were accused were serious offences. That being the position, the learned Magistrate, in any view, was not right in passing the order of discharge.
14. There is one more circumstance which also requires to be taken into consideration, and that is whether the offences of which the opponents were charged could be tried as the summons case. The Magistrate, it appears, decided to follow the procedure of a warrant case, Section 259 of the new Code reads as under s
259. When in the course of the trial of a summons-case relating to an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding six months, It appears to the Magistrate that in the interest of justice, the offence should be tried in accordance with the procedure for the trial of warrant-cases, such Magistrate may proceed to rehear the case in the manner provided by this Code for the trial of warrant-cases and may recall any witness who may have been examined.
It would appear from the opening clause of Section 259 that prima facie the Magistrate is empowered to resort to the procedure of a warrant case, in the course of a trial of the summons case, When, according to him, in the interest of justice the offence should be tried in accordance with the procedure for the trial of warrant cases. It is possible to take a view that the Magistrate can resort to this section not from the inception but after the trial has begun and he feels that in the interest of justice the offence should be tried in accordance with the procedure for the trial of a warrant case. The last clause in this section which provides that such Magistrate may proceed to re-hear the case in the manner provided by the Code again supports the possible view that the provisions in Section 259 come into play not at the inception but in the course of a trial, I must make it clear that I am not deciding this question finally in this judgment, However, what I have to say is that if it is ultimately found that procedure adopted by the learned Magistrate was not legal and that the Magistrate should have started the case as a summons case, It would be possible to argue that the case being triable as a summons case the order of the Magistrate could be only one of acquittal and not of discharge and that the prosecution on the same facts would not be competent.
15. If this was a clear case it would have been possible to argue that in spite of discharge of the opponents Nos. 1 to 3 the present applicant could have filed a fresh case. Apart from the submission of Mr. Lambat, the learned Counsel for the applicant, that the filing of a fresh case will involve further delay in. the complainant getting necessary relief, the fact remains, as I have stated above, that the order of the learned Magistrate could be construed as an order of acquittal. In view of that position I think it would be In the interest of justice to set aside this order of discharge passed by the learned Magistrate discharging the opponents Nos. 1 to 3, Apart from the powers conferred by Section 397 of the Code on the High Court, this, in my opinion, would also be a fit case for passing the appropriate orders under the inherent powers of this Court.
16. In the result, this revision application is allowed. The order passed by the learned Magistrate discharging the opponents Nos. 1 to 3 Is set aside and the case is sent back to the learned Magistrate for trial according to law. The parties are directed to appear before the learned Magistrate on 16th January 1978.