1. This is a revision petition by the complainant against the order passed by the Judicial Magistrate giving his consent on the application of the Assistant Public Prosecutor, to withdraw from the prosecution which was launched by the police on the information given by the complainant against respondents Nos. 2 to 19 alleging offences Under Section 395 read with Section 34 of the I. P. C.
2. Sometime after midnight between Dec. 23 and 24, 1975, according to the charge-sheet, the accused committed dacoity in the house of the complainant and removed property such as foodgrains and other agricultural produce, household utensils and documents totally valued at Rs. 13,635/-. It was also alleged in the charge-sheet that while committing the dacoity, the dacoits intimidated the mother and the wife of the complainant.
3. On Jan. 15, 1977 the Assistant. Public Prosecutor filed an application Under Section 321 of the Cr. P. C., 1973, seeking permission to withdraw from the prosecution on the ground that the State did not want to proceed with the prosecution.
4. On Jan. 17, 1977 another application was filed by the A. P. P. setting out the following three grounds for withdrawing from the prosecution :
1. This is Government policy matter, so State desires to withdraw the above case.
2. That to maintain peace, law and order, of that village Kakatsindgi, Government desires to withdraw the above case.
3. That the accused of the above case are not the habitual offenders, but they are the poor farmers of that village.
On this application, the Judicial Magistrate, passed the impugned order granting his consent to the withdrawal of the prosecution and passed the order discharging the accused.
5. On this petition, Mr. Kapse for the petitioner contended that the Magistrate was not competent to give his consent and that the exercise of discretion by the Magistrate was improper and not judicious. According to him the learned Magistrate has failed to exercise his discretion in a judicial manner.
6. On the first point, Mr. Kapse's argument was that Under Section 209 of Cr. P. C., 1973, it is no longer necessary for the Magistrate to hold enquiry before committing the case to the Court of Session for trial in the case of an offence exclusively triable by the Court of Session, but he is required to commit the case to the Court of Session. The Magistrate being simply a Post Office to forward the case to the Court of Session, cannot entertain such an application from the Prosecutor for withdrawing from the prosecution.
7. There is some substance in this contention, inasmuch as Section 209 says that when in a case instituted on a police report or otherwise, the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate and it appears to the Magistrate that the offence is triable exclusively by the Court of Session, he shall (underlining is mine) commit the case to the Court of Session. However, for the purposes of this application it is not necessary to decide this point, because on the merits I am satisfied that the order passed by the Magistrate cannot be sustained.
8. The first ground given by the Magistrate is that there were no independent witnesses to support the prosecution. But it is well settled that the evidence of interested witnesses or witnesses who are not independent is not necessarily unreliable. It is not, therefore, necessary that in each and every case the witnesses should always be independent. It is conceivable that in some cases independent witnesses may not be available as in the present case, where the dacoity is alleged to have been committed at midnight in the house of the complainant. From the very nature of things, the witnesses to the incident would be the inmates of the house or no independent witnesses would be available. The first ground given by the learned Magistrate is, therefore, totally untenable.
9. It was argued before the Magistrate that the parties came from the same village and that the complainant was engaged in doing money-lending business illegally at usurious rate of interest. But there was no material on record to support this contention. However, it is sufficient to observe that even moneylenders are entitled to protection of ordinary law of the land, and law cannot allow such money-lenders to be invaded by the villagers.
10. Then the learned Magistrate observes that it was the policy matter of Government. It has not, however, been made clear in the application as to what this policy was, whether the policy was to encourage dacoity or to allow the houses of money-lenders to be looted and ransacked.
11. The learned Magistrate observes that the policy of Government was in accordance with the provisions of the Maharashtra Debtors Relief Act and the application was purely based on the object of the said Act. It is difficult to follow the reasoning of the learned Magistrate in this respect. If the accused were entitled to the benefit of the provisions of Maharashtra Debtors Relief Act, they were certainly free to have recourse to the provisions of law. They cannot however take law into their hands and enforce it.
12. There was no material besides before the Magistrate to assume that the accused were debtors of the complainant and that the articles which were removed from the house of the complainant had been pawned by them with the complainant. The entire reasoning of the learned Magistrate is based on imagination.
13. Another ground given in the application was that Government intended to maintain peace, law and order in the village, and, therefore, desired to withdraw the prosecution It is difficult to follow how by not prosecuting the offenders, who were alleged to have com- mitted such serious offences. Government |could hope to enforce law and order in the village. On the other hand, by with- drawing the prosecution and allowing the alleged offenders to escape without any punishment, in my view, the law and order situation would be seriously endangered.
14. The last ground given in the application was that the accused were poor farmers. But that hardly is a sufficient ground to withdraw from the prosecution. So far as the law of the land as it at present stands, even poor farmers or other poor persons are not permitted to raid the houses of others.
15. Mr. Sali, the learned Public Prosecutor, invited my attention to Ramsaran v. Emperor AIR 1945 Nag 72 : 46 Cri LJ 731, in support of his argument that the withdrawal of a case is an executive and not a judicial act and it is not even necessary for the Magistrate to assign any reasons for giving his consent to the Public Prosecutor to withdraw from the prosecution. But in State of Bihar v. Ram Naresh : 1957CriLJ567 , the Supreme Court has clearly laid down that the function of the Court in granting its consent to withdrawal from the prosecution may well be taken to be judicial function.
16. It, therefore, follows that in granting the consent, the Court must exercise a judicial discretion. It was observed in the said case : (at p. 393)
The judicial functions, therefore, implicit in the exercise of the judicial discretion for granting the consent would normally mean that the Court has to, satisfy itself that the executive function of the Public Prosecutor has not been improperly executed, or that it is not an attempt to interfere with the normal course of justice for illegitimate reasons or purposes. In this context it is right to remember that the Public Prosecutor though an executive officer is, in a larger sense, also an officer of the Court and that he is bound to assist the Court with his fairly-considered view and the Court is entitled to have the benefit of the fair exercise of his function.
In the same case the Supreme Court has also observed that although in such a case it is not necessary for the Court to prima facie determine whether there is a triable issue or that there is no prima facie case before granting such consent, at the same time consent to withdraw from the prosecution by the Public Prosecutor cannot be lightly granted on the application of the Public Prosecutor, Without a careful and proper scrutiny of the grounds on which the application for consent is made.
17. In M.N.S. Nair v. P.V. Balakrishnan : 1972CriLJ301 , it has been observed that though Section 494 of the old Cr. P. C., 1898, (which is almost identical with Section 321 of Cr. P. C., 1973,) is in general terms and does not circumscribe the powers of the Public Prosecutor to seek permission to withdraw from the prosecution, the essential consideration which is implicit in the grant of the power is that it should be in the interest of administration of justice which may be either that it will not be able to produce sufficient evidence to sustain the charge or that sub-sequent information before prosecution agency would falsify the prosecution evidence or any other similar circumstance which it is difficult to predicate as they are dependent entirely on the facts and circumstances of each case. Nevertheless it is the duty of the Court also to see in furtherance of justice that the permission is not sought on grounds extraneous to the interest of justice or that offences which are offences against the State go unpunished merely because the Government as a matter of general policy or expediency unconnected with its duty to prosecute offenders under the law, directs the Public Prosecutor to withdraw from the prosecution and the Public Prosecutor merely does so at its behest.
18. In that case on a charge filed by the police against the accused, the Magistrate committed the accused for trial to the Court of Session for offences Under Sections 467, 478, 420 read with Section 109 I.P.C. etc. The accused having moved the State Government to withdraw the prosecution, the State Government passed an order directing withdrawal of the case with the sanction of the Court in the interest of public policy as also because there was no likelihood of the case being pursued to a successful issue. It was stated in the memo filed by the Public Prosecutor for withdrawal that the alleged offences charged against the accused arose out of a contract agreed to between the accused and the General Manager of the Company in which the accused were serving, that as the witnesses came from far off places, it would Involve heavy expenses for the State in securing their presence to give evidence and that the case was one of civil nature.
19. The Magistrate on this application accorded his consent to the withdrawal of the case. Against that order the matter was taken to the High Court, but the High Court having refused to interfere, the Managing partner of the company took the matter to the Supreme Court by special leave. In paragraph 8 of the report the Supreme Court observed :
It appears to us that the wide and general powers which are conferred Under Section 494 on the Public Prosecutor to withdraw from the prosecution though they are subject to the permission of the Court have to be exercised by him in relation to the facts and circumstances of that case in furtherance of, rather than as a hindrance to the object of the law and justified on the material in the case which substantiate the grounds alleged, not necessarily from those gathered by the judicial method but on other materials which may not be strictly on legal or admissible evidence. The Court also while considering the request to grant permission under the said section should not do so as a necessary formality--the grant of it for the mere asking. It may do so only if it is satisfied on the materials placed before it that the grant of it subserves the administration of justice and that permission was not being sought covertly with an ulterior purpose unconnected with the vindication of the law which the executive organs are in duty bound to further and maintain.
20. On the merits, the Supreme Court in that case held that the grounds put forth for withdrawal from the prosecution were flimsy and did not justify the grant of permission to withdraw from the prosecution.
21. In the present case also, as has been discussed above, the grounds put forth by the A.P.P. for securing consent of the Court to withdraw from the prosecution are not at all sound. The order passed by the learned Magistrate according his consent to withdraw from the prosecution and the consequent order discharging the accused cannot therefore be sustained.
22. In the result, the rule is made absolute and the order dated 18th Jan. 1977 passed by the trial Court is set aside and the matter is sent back to the Magistrate for proceeding with it according to law.