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L.M. D'Costa Vs. Water Pinto and Ors. (22.08.1985 - BOMHC) - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Revision Application No. 221 of 1984
Judge
Reported in1986(2)BomCR403
ActsIndian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 406
AppellantL.M. D'Costa
RespondentWater Pinto and Ors.
Appellant AdvocateK.K.V. Kurup, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateS.H. Karim and ;B.M. Purandare, Advs. for respondent No. 1 and ;V.S. Jadhav, P.P. for respondent No. 4
Excerpt:
.....- held, magistrate correct in dismissing complaint. - - if the complainant was found, on taking accounts to be the creditor of the partnership, then the accused would have to make good the share of the..........cannot be stated that he had misappropriated that property. it may be that on taking accounts, the partner accused of misappropriation may be creditor of the firm and in such a case the accused would be entitled to recover something from the partnership assets. if the complainant was found, on taking accounts to be the creditor of the partnership, then the accused would have to make good the share of the complainant.13. this issue was considered in the case of velji raghavji patil v. the state of maharashtra, : 1965crilj431 . their lordships observed :---'upon the plain reading of section 405, i.p.c. it is obvious that before a person can be said to have committed criminal breach of trust it must be established that he was either entrusted with or entrusted with dominion over property.....
Judgment:

D.N. Mehta, J.

1. The petitioner L. M. D'Costa has filed this criminal revision application impugning the order of the learned Metropolitan Magistrate, 23rd Court, Esplanade, Bombay dated 21-4-1984. By the said order the learned Metropolitan Magistrate was pleased to dismiss the complaint filed against the three accused in Criminal Case No. 20/Misc./84.

2. Briefly stated, the facts leading to the present revision application are the following :---

The petitioner herein, who will hereinafter be referred to as 'the complainant', entered into a partnership agreement with respondent No. 1, who will hereinafter be referred to as 'accused No. 1, to carry on business of recruiting employees for posts in the Gulf countries. On 10-5-1982 the complainant served a Notice of Dissolution on accused No. 1. The partnership was dissolved as from 31-5-1982.

3. On 11-3-1983 the 2nd Income-tax Officer, BSD (South), Bombay issued, a notice under section 226(3) of the Income-tax Act to the Manager, Bank of America, Bombay, calling upon him to deposit with the said Income-tax Officer two sums of Rs. 54,000/- and Rs. 15000/- lying in the account of Poinnari Recruiting Agency. Two sums were required to be deposited with the said Income-tax Officer for the purpose of satisfying the advanced tax liability for the year 1983-84 of the accused No. 1 and for meeting the liability of accused No. 1 under the Compulsory Deposit Payment Scheme.

4. Pursuant to he said Notice of the Income-tax Officer, the Supervisor of the Bank of America one P.C. Sawardekar forwarded two cheques for Rs. 54,000/- and Rs. 15,000/- to the 2nd Income-tax Officer N.V. Subramanian. The two cheques were transmitted to the Income-tax Officer with the forwarding letter dated 16-3-1983.

5. It appears that the complainant as one of the partners of M/s. Poinnari Recruiting Agency raised an objection with the Bank of America for depositing the two amounts of Rs. 54,000/- and Rs. 15,000/- with the 2nd Income-tax Officer, BSD (South) towards the payment of the personal liability of accused No. 1 from the partnership account of M/s. Poinnari Recruiting Agency. Thereupon the said Supervisor of the Bank of America Sawardekar addressed a letter dated 7-4-1983 to the said 2nd Income-tax Officer calling upon him to return the two payments of Rs. 54,000/- and Rs. 15,000/- as the payment was objected to by a partner of M/s. Poinnari Recruiting Agency, i.e. the complainant.

6. By his letter dated 28-4-1983 Sawardekar, the Supervisor of the Bank of America, addressed a reminder to the Income-tax Officer to return the said amounts to the Bank for being deposited in the partnership account of M/s. Poinnari Recruiting Agency, from which account the two amounts had been paid.

7. Sometime in February 1984 the complainant filed a criminal complaint for criminal breach of trust against not only his erstwhile partner, accused No. 1, but also against Sawardekar, the Supervisor of the Bank of America, as accused No. 2 and against M.V. Subramanian, the 2nd Income-tax Officer, BSD (South) as accused No. 3. After recording the verification the learned Metropolitian Magistrate passed an order refusing to issue process and dismissed the complaint.

8. Against the said order of the learned Metropolitan Magistrate dated 21-4-1984 the complainant has now filed the present criminal revision application.

9. At the admission stage the criminal revision application was dismissed against accused No. 2 Sawardekar, the Supervisor of the Bank of America, and against accused No. 3-M.V. Subramanian, the 2nd Income-tax Officer, BSD (South). Rule was ordered to be issued only as against accused No. 1.

10. Shri Kurup, the learned Advocate appearing on behalf of accused No. 1, has made various submissions before me. Shri Kurup, firstly submitted that on the date of the recovery of this amount i.e. 16-3-1983, the partnership of M/s. Poinnari Recruiting Agency was not subsisting. Hence the partnership assets could not be applied for fulfilling the personal tax liability of accused No. 1. Shri Kurup submitted that the partnership assets could be utilised for satisfying only the liabilities of the partnership firm and not for satisfying the liabilities which were unconnected with the business of the firm. Secondly, Shri Kurup contended that under section 47 of the Indian Partnership Act, 1932, after the dissolution of the firm no partner could claim any part of the assets as his own. Shri Kurup stated that after the dissolution the partners could only take steps for the process of winding up and setting of accounts and neither partner could touch the partnership assets without the consent of the other. Thirdly, Shri Kurup contended that the learned Metropolitan Magistrate had erred in coming to the conclusion that there was no entrustment of partnership assets. Shri Kurup submitted that the complainant stood in a fiduciary position in relation to accused No. 1 who held the partnership property. Fourthly, Shri Kurup argued that once the partnership was dissolved, none of the partners could touch or utilise the partnership assets till the accounts were made. Shri Kurup contended that the authority of the partner for utilising the partnership assets was limited and that the assets were the mutual property of the partners.

11. Shri Karim, the learned Advocate appearing on behalf of accused No. 1, has submitted that in this case accused No. 1 had not utilised the assets of the partnership firm. Shri Karim pointed out that it was pursuant to a notice issued by the 2nd Income-tax Officer, BSD (South) to the Bank of America, that the Bank of America forwarded the two cheques for Rs. 54,000/- and Rs. 15,000/- to the Income-tax Officer. In these circumstances, argued Shri Karim, it could not be stated that it was accused No. 1 who had misappropriated the amounts for his own use. Secondly, Shri Karim submitted that there was no entrustment of the property by the complainant in the hands of accused No. 1 and since there was no entrustment, it could not be stated that accused No. 1 had committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the partnership firm. Shri Karim took me through the complaint filed by the complainant in order to point out that at no place in the complaint was there any averment that the property had been entrusted by the complainant to accused No. 1. Shri Karim contended that in these circumstances the learned Metropolitan Magistrate was justified in passing the order dismissing the complainant.

12. Now, it must be pointed out that in the case of a partnership the shares of the partners are undefined and each partner has dominion over the partnership property by reason of the fact that he is a partner. Till such time as the partnership is dissolved and accounts are taken, no partner could claim any specific property as his own. In these circumstances, when a partner deals with any part of the partnership property, it cannot be stated that he had misappropriated that property. It may be that on taking accounts, the partner accused of misappropriation may be creditor of the firm and in such a case the accused would be entitled to recover something from the partnership assets. If the complainant was found, on taking accounts to be the creditor of the partnership, then the accused would have to make good the share of the complainant.

13. This issue was considered in the case of Velji Raghavji Patil v. The State of Maharashtra, : 1965CriLJ431 . Their Lordships observed :---

'Upon the plain reading of section 405, I.P.C. it is obvious that before a person can be said to have committed criminal breach of trust it must be established that he was either entrusted with or entrusted with dominion over property which he is said to have converted to his own use or disposed of in violation of any direction of law, etc. Every partner has dominion over property by reason of the fact that he is a partner. This is a kind of dominion which every owner of property has over his property. But it is not dominion of this kind which satisfies the requirements of section 405. In order to establish 'entrustment of dominion' over property to an accused person the mere existence of that person's dominion over property is not enough. It must be further shown that his dominion was the result of entrustment. Therefore, as rightly pointed out by Harris, C.J., the prosecution must establish that dominion over the assets or a particular asset of the partnership was, by a special agreement between the parties, entrusted to the accused person. If in the absence of such a special agreement a partner receives money belonging to the partnership he cannot be said to have received it in a fiduciary capacity or in other words cannot be held to have been 'entrusted' with dominion over partnership properties...It is obvious that an owner of property, in whichever way he uses his property and with whatever intention will not be liable for misappropriation and that would be so even if he is not the exclusive owner thereof. As already stated, a partner has, undefined ownership along with the other partners over all the assets of the partnership. If he chooses to use any of them for his own purposes he may be accountable civilly to the other partners. But he does not thereby commit any mis-appropriation.'

14. In the instant case, although the partnership had been dissolved as and from 31-5-1982, the accounts of the partnership firm had not been made. Hence each of the two partners had dominion over the partnership property. It is not the complainant's case that there was any special agreement between him and accused No. 1. In the absence of such a special agreement, it cannot be stated that accused No. 1 stood in a fiduciary capacity or that he had been entrusted with dominion over the partnership property. The other fact which is pertinent in the instant case is that it was not accused No. 1 who had utilised the property of the partnership firm. As I have already pointed out, during the narration of the facts, it was the Income-tax Officer who had issued a notice to the Bank of America, which held an account of the partnership firm, to deposit with the Income-tax Officer two amounts of Rs. 54,000/- and Rs. 15,000/-. The Bankers thereupon deposited with the 2nd Income-tax Officer the two amounts as required. It, therefore, cannot be stated that accused No. 1 was in any way responsible for the transfer of two amounts by the Bank of America to the 2nd Income-tax Officer. It is difficult to understand how the complainant could have roped in the Supervisor of the Bank of America as accused No. 2 and the Income-tax Officer as accused No. 3 when both these Officers were merely carrying out their duties.

15. It appears to me that the remedy open to the complainant would be a suit for dissolution and for accounts and the complainant has been ill-advised to file a prosecution against accused No. 1.

16. I may here cite a passage from a ruling of the Full Bench of the Calcutta High Court which was approved by Their Lordships of the Supreme Court in the case of Velji Raghavji Patil v. The State of Maharashtra. In the case of Bhuban Mohan Das v. Surendra Mohan Das, : AIR1951Cal69 , the Full Bench of the Calcutta High Court was pleased to hold :---

'The reason, therefore, of holding that a partner cannot be prosecuted by another partner for criminal breach of trust in respect of partnership property under section 406, Penal Code, is two-fold. The nature, character and incident of partnership property are such that during the subsistence of the partnership there cannot be, except by special agreement with which we are not concerned here, any entrustment or dominion and secondly partnership property is not a specific and ascertainable property and is of so equivocal and problematic a nature until dissolution and accounts, that it is not susceptible to be used in a manner which can bring into operation section 405, Penal Code. It is only when such ordinary character and nature of the partnership property are varied by special contract of partnership so as to create entrustment of any specific property in favour of one partner as against the others or so as to give exclusive dominion of such property to one partner as against the other that there can be any scope of application of section 405, Penal Code'

17. As I have already pointed out here, it is not the case of the complainant in this case that there was any special agreement whereunder any property was specifically entrusted by the complainant to accused No. 1. In these circumstances, the learned Metropolitan Magistrate was justified in coming to the conclusion that there was no case of entrustment made out by the complainant against accused No. 1. The learned Metropolitan Magistrate was correct in dismissing the complaint.

18. In the result, the rule stands discharged.


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