1. The petitioner is one of the accused persons in a Criminal case (CO, No. 432 of 1956), instituted by the respondent and now pending before the Additional First Class Magistrate, Rajabmundry. She is the mother-in-law of the respondent. She has in turn brought a suit O. S. No. 399 of 1956 on the file of the District Munsiff's Court, Kakinada as the next friend of her minor daughter for her maintenance, against the respondent, the husband of the minor.
The Criminal case related to an offence under Sections 494 and 494 read with Section 109, I. P. C., in relation to her minor daughter, Chandra Laxmi, and it was instituted earlier than the civil suit. It appears that six witnesses have already been examined on behalf of the complainant and only one or two witnesses are yet to be examined. There civil suit is at its initial stages.
The petitioner herein applied, under Section 344, Criminal P. C., for stay of the Criminal proceedings, pending the civil suit. But the learned Magistrate rejected this petition on the ground that the points directly involved in both the proceedings are not identical, that all the accused in the criminal proceedings are not parties to the civil suit and that under Section 344, Criminal P. C., he has no powers to stay the criminal proceedings indefinitely even if he was inclined to do so.
The petitioner has come in revision against the said order. She has also invoked the inherent powers of this Court under Section 561-A, Criminal P. C., for the grant of her request.
2. The main contention of the petitioner is that the criminal case ought to have been stayed to avoid embarrassment that is likely to be caused to the applicant by the simultaneous prosecution of the civil and criminal cases. The learned Counsel argues that the criminal court ought to have stayed by virtue of the provisions of Section 344, Criminal P. C., and since it has failed to do so, this Court! should interfere with the order and direct the court below to exercise the Jurisdiction vested in it.
I do not see any force in this argument. Section 344, Criminal P. C., does not in terms provide for the stay of the criminal proceedings indefinitely. The Sub-section (1) added by Act 26 of 1955 lays down that criminal proceedings shall be held as expeditiously as possible; and in particular directs that when the examination of witnesses is started it shall be continued from day to day until all the witnesses in attendance have been examined unless adjournment becomes absolutely necessary for the grounds which should be recorded.
Of course Sub-section 1 (a) permits the courts to postpone for any reasonable cause the commencement of trial or to adjourn the same from time to time or for such time as it considers reasonable putting the parties on certain terms, which It may think fit; but even this discretion is fettered by the second proviso added by Act 26 of 1955, which provides that witnesses in attendance must needs be examined save for special grounds reduced to writing.
This only goes to show that the avowed policy of the Criminal law is to bring the accused to Justice as expeditiously as possible so that if he is found guilty, he may be punished; if not he may be acquitted as early as can be. No doubt, it is open to a party to make a request for the stay of the criminal case pending disposal of the civil suit between the same parties on the same subject-matter, and the Magistrate according to some of the High Courts, even apart from the provisions of Section 344, Criminal P. C., has inherent jurisdiction to stay proceedings before him or postpone the inquiry; but these discretionary powers are to be exercised sparingly and only if there is sufficient and reasonable cause.
The terms 'reasonable cause' is not defined nor any such definition is possible. It all depends upon the circumstances of each case. The nature of the criminal proceedings, the policy of criminal law and the spirit of Section 344, Criminal P. C., must however be kept in view in judging the circumstances of the case. As observed by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in M. a. Sheriff v. State of Madras : 1SCR1144 , as between the civil and criminal proceedings ordinarily the criminal matters should be given precedence. The reasons for the same are found In the following observations of their Lordships;
The public interests demand that criminal justice should be swift and sure; that the guilty should be punished while the events are still fresh in the public mind and that the innocent should be absolved as early as is consistent with a fair and impartial trial. Another reason is that it is undesirable to let things slide till memories have grown too dim to trust.
Another consideration which must weigh with the court, is that the criminal law aims at not only the procurement of speedy justice for the accused but also that he should have fair and impartial trial, free from all that is likely to cause serious prejudice to him. If the continuance of a criminal proceeding pending a civil suit is likely to seriously prejudice the accused Judicial discretion, certainly would warrant the Stay of the criminal proceeding.
But this is only possible if the points at Issue in both the proceedings are precisely the same and finding of the civil court will dispose of the point, which has arisen in a criminal case, The mere fact that the point which is mainly in issue in a criminal court is in some form incidentally in issue in a civil case, need not necessarily be a sufficient ground for stay of a criminal trial.
Besides one would do well to bear in mind that in the criminal court the guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt, which demands a high degree of proof, and whereas in a civil case the proof of a circumstance may depend on a mere, balance of probabilities. But it cannot, on this account, be concluded that the finding or decision in a civil case can have no bearing on the fact to be proved in a criminal case.
On the contrary intention being an integral part of a criminal offence, in many cases the decision 011 questions of right & title or other relevant points by the civil courts stand the accused in good stead in the criminal court. But it is, however, necessary for purposes of stay that the point at issue in both the proceedings must be identical or must be such as finding thereon by a civil court would influence the decision in the criminal case. There are other considerations besides which must weigh with the court.
The time of institution of the civil or criminal case and the probable ground for its prior or subsequent institution which the circumstances of the case might suggest, the stage to which the proceedings have reached the time that the civil proceeding is likely to take and the nature of the prosecution whether it is public or private are also points which influence the discretion' of the Magistrate. In the instant case evidently all the accused persons are not party to the civil suit.
That is a suit for maintenance of A-2 alone who is not the petitioner and is filed subsequent to the institution of the criminal proceeding. It is yet at its initial stage and it will take considerable time for the conclusion of the inquiry; whereas in the criminal case, six witnesses have been already examined and only a couple of witnesses are yet to be- examined. No useful purpose would therefore be served by staying the criminal proceeding at this stage.
It is clear the decision in the criminal case will Rot affect the civil case; nor will the decision of the civil case dispose of the points involved in the criminal case. It cannot be said that the simultaneous inquiry in both the cases would cause embarrassment to the accused, who are not parties to the suit. On the contrary, keeping the trial in abeyance for indefinite period with charges hanging on the accused, will cast them in a state of animated suspension.
It is significant that the accused, who is the plaintiff in the suit, has not made any application for stay. In my opinion, the circumstances of the case do not make out any reasonable cause for stay nor the time for which the stay is sought can be said to be reasonable. The criminal case being first instituted, it will be in the interests of criminal justice if it be expeditiously disposed of. The petition, is therefore, dismissed. No order as to the costs.