(1) One Edara Venkata Subbaiah, the sole respondent herein, filed a complaint against three accused alleging that they committed the offences of forgery etc., by fabricating a 'photograph' and presented the same before the Sub Registrar as a document in support of their evidence in certain proceedings. The complaint was taken on file and the case concerned is now pending as C.C. No. 141 of 1964 on the file of the Additional Munsif-Magistrate, Tenali. The three accused in that case filed this petition praying for the stay of all further proceedings in C.C. No. 141 of 1964 pending disposal of O.S. No. 95 of 1963 on the file of the Sub Court, Tenali.
(2) For purposes of convenience, I am referring to the various parties by their denomination in C.C. No. 141 of 1964 hereafter in this order.
(3) The relevant facts are as follows. Venkayamma was the mother of the complainant. A-3 is the sister of Venkayamma and also the mother of A-2 who is the wife of A-1. When Venkayamma was alive, the accused got registered at the house of A-1 and A-2 (hereinafter called for convenience the house of the accused) a will purporting to have been executed on 5-2-1963 by Venkayamma. Under this will, there is benefit to A-1 and A-2. Subsequently, Venkayamma died. After her death, her son i.e., the complainant presented another will for registration before the Sub Registrar, Tenali purporting to have been executed by Venkayamma on 28-2-1963 at the complainant's house. That will contained a recital that the testator cancelled the earlier will dated 5-2-1963 and bequeathed her property to the children of the complainant.
The Sub Registrar registered will case No. 1 of 1963 and conducted enquiry regarding the will dated 28-2-1963. In that enquiry, A-2 filed objections contending that the will dated 28-2-1963 could not be true as Venkayamma did not leave the house of A-1 and A-2 at any time after executing the will dated 5-2-1963 till she died in that same house. To probabilise that Venkayamma had died in the house of A-1 and A-2, A-2 contended that, soon after the death of Venkayamma, a photo of her corpse was taken at the house of A-1 and A-2 and produced as such, a photograph which was marked as Ex. B-1 by the Sub Registrar in will Case No. 1 of 1963. The complainant contended that the photograph was not genuine i.e., what appears in it did not represent the true state of facts. Later on, he filed C.C. No. 141 of 1964 alleging that the three accused committed offence in regard to the photograph (Ex. B-1) on the basis of the following facts. In that case, he also filed and marked in his evidence as Ex. A-1 a photograph which had been taken on the occasion of his marriage in the year 1937, in which Venkayamma was sitting.
(4) The case of the complainant is as follows. What is purporting to be the corpse of Venkayamma sitting in the Chair in Ex. B-1 is a figure fabricated by ingenious and unscrupulous use of photographic technique. The body of the figure seated in Ex. B-1 purporting to be the corpse of Venkayamma was real body of A-3. The head in that figure (Ex. B-1) was the real head of Venkayamma which appears in the photograph (Ex. A-1) and was superimposed in Ex. B-1 and substituted for the original head of that person (A-3) so as to appear to be with the body which is now present i.e., body of A-3. Thus, offences are committed.
(5) To substantiate his contention in C.C. No. 141 of 1964, the complainant applied to the court of sending Ex. B-1 to an expert for comparison and opinion in the relevant aspects. The accused contested that petition. When the petition was allowed, the accused filed Crl. R. C. No. 153 of 1965 against the order of the lower Court and obtained order of stay in C. C. No. 141 of 1964. Ultimately, the High Court dismissed the revision, Crl. R.C.No. 153 of 1965.
(6) Even before the complainant filed C.C. No. 141 of 1964, A-2 filed O.S. No. 95 of 1963 in Sub Court, Tenali for relief in her favour regarding the properties of Venkayamma on the basis of the registered will dated 5-2-1963. The complainant, defendant in that suit, filed a written statement contesting the suit and putting forward the will dated 28-2-1963 in his favour. The complainant also filed O.S. No. 300 of 1963 praying for relief on the basis of the will dated 28-2-1963 on the file of the District Munsif Court, Tenali. One of the parties filed a petition in the District Court, Guntur for transfer of one of the suits so that both the suits could be tried together. It is represented by both the sides before me that the suits are pending now in the same Court and stand posted for joint trial.
(7) In the affidavit of A-1 in support of the petition, it is urged as follows:-
'I beg to submit the respondent, with a view to harass us and to spoil the civil suit and to compel us for a compromise, has come forward with this frivolous accusation after a long interval of filing of the suit by my wife .. .. .. I submit that any finding or decision in the criminal case will have a great repercussion and adverse effect on the civil case .. .. . Further certain documents and the oral evidence are going to be the same in both the proceedings.'
So far as the criminal case is concerned the only question to be decided is whether there was the fabrication and forgery in the manner alleged in the complaint and whether consequently, offences have been committed. The main questions concerned in the civil suit are the truth, validity and effect of the concerned wills. In support of the contention of the petitioners that Venkayamma could not have executed the will at the complainant's house on 28-2-1963, they urged that Venkayamma did not leave the house of A-1 and A-2 at any time from 5-2-1963 till her death. To substantiate the latter contention, they relied on the photograph, Ex. B-1 which showed the corpse of the deceased at the house of the accused. Thus, the genuineness of Ex. B-1 which showed the corpse of the deceased at the house of the accused. Thus, the genuineness of Ex. B-1 was only a link in the evidence aimed at probabilising the other main contentions of the accused in the civil suit. Conclusion and finding on the main contentions in the civil suit can be arrived at after consideration of all the evidence regarding them including Ex. B-1 and not on the genuineness or fabrication of Ex. B-1 as sole basis.
(8) Shri Adavi Rama Rao, the learned counsel for the respondent complainant, contends as follows. If Ex. B-1 were fabricated by the accused, they could be held liable for offences concerned in the criminal case and this would still leave room for the main question concerned in the civil suits to be decided in favour of the accused viz., that the will dated 28-2-1963 was executed by Venkayamma. On the other hand, even if, in the criminal case, the offences regarding Ex. B-1 were not proved beyond reasonable doubt and the accused were acquitted there would still be room for finding in the civil proceedings against the accused that the will dated 28-2-1963 was not executed by Venkayamma. This contention is acceptable.
(9) The learned Advocates have referred to various decisions on the general question of law as to whether the criminal proceedings could be stayed pending civil proceedings.
(10) In M.S. Sheriff v. State of Madras, : 1SCR1144 , two sets of proceedings arising out of the same facts were pending against the appellants. One was two civil suit for damage for wrongful confinement and the other was two criminal prosecutions under Section 344, I.P.C. for wrongful confinement, one against each Sub Inspector. It was held by the Supreme Court that the simultaneous prosecution of the criminal proceedings and the civil suits would embarrass the accused and that the civil suits should be stayed till the criminal proceedings have been finished. It was observed by the Supreme Court thus:- (at page 399).
'As between the civil and the criminal proceedings, we are of the opinion that the criminal matters should be given precedence .. .. .. . No hard and fast rule can be laid down but we do not consider that the possibhlity of conflicting decisions on the civil and criminal Courts is a relevant consideration. The law envisages such an eventuality when it expressly refrains from making the decision of one Court binding on the other, or even relevant, except for certain limited purposes, such as sentence or damages. The only relevant consideration here is the likelihood of embarrassment.
Another factor which weighs with us is that a civil suit often drags on for years and it is undesirable that a criminal prosecution should wait till everybody concerned has forgotten all about the crime. 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 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.
This, however, is not hard and fast rule. Special considerations obtaining in any particular case might make some other course more expedient and just. For example, the civil case or the other criminal proceeding may be so near its end as to make it inexpedient to stay it in order to give precedence to prosecution ordered under S. 476. But in this case we are of the view that the civil suits should be stayed till the criminal proceedings have finished.'
(11) In Basavaiah v. Panchayat Board (1955) 1 Andh WR 572. Chandra Reddy, J. observed thus: - (at p. 575)
'As pointed out by Ramasami, J., in Ranganayakulu Chetty v. Gopala Chetty, : AIR1953Mad439 there is no invariable rule that criminal proceedings should be stayed pending the issue in a civil suit. It is a matter entirely for the discretion of the Court considering all the circumstances of the case. As far as possible, every court must be allowed to dispose of a case as expeditiously as possible. But if in the peculiar circumstances of a case, the court thinks that the interests of justice will be served best by staying the proceedings, it should be done. When the issue arising in both the court is the same such as title to immovable property and when a decision by the Criminal Court before the disposal of the civil suit is likely to result in prejudice to the accused it is desirable that the proceedings in the criminal case should be stayed.'
(12) In Parameshwar Ram v. State of Bihar, : AIR1951Pat230 , the Patna High Court observed thus:- (at p. 231).
'In my opinion, the discretion to be exercised by the High Court in ordering stay of criminal proceedings cannot be crystallized into a hard and fast rule, and must, to a large extent, depend on circumstances of each case. One point of importance is whether the criminal complaint has been filed before or after the civil suit. If it is filed afterwards, the intention to prejudice the civil litigation which is only a matter of inference, can be suspected. But it is very difficult to draw any such inference in the case of public prosecution.'
(13) In Anna Ayyar v. Emperor, (1907) ILR 30 Mad 226, it was held by the Madras High Court that the defendant in a civil suit ought not to be allowed to prejudice the trial of such suit by launching and proceedings with a criminal prosecution on the same facts against the plaintiff and his witnesses and such proceedings, if launched, would be stayed by the High Court in the exercise of its powers of superintendence.
(14) In Jogiah v. Emperor, (1908) ILR 31 Mad 510, it was held that where a Court, in a Civil suit, found a document to be a forgery and, while an appeal against its decision was pending, took proceedings in the Criminal Courts under S. 476 Cr. P.C., the High Court would direct further proceedings in the Criminal Court to be stayed, if, on a consideration of the circumstances, it was satisfied that such proceedings were oppressive and would prevent the party from conducting his appeal.
(15) In Dharamdas v. State, : AIR1956Bom512 , it was held by the Bombay High Court that the principle that, if a criminal complaint had been filed in the first instance and a civil suit later on, the former could not be stayed solely on the ground that some of the questions which arose for decision in a criminal complaint could be more appropriately tried by a Civil Court, could not be applied to all cases where an accused person prayed for stay of criminal proceedings. Therein it was observed that facts and circumstances in each case would have to be considered and the question of stay would have to be determined in the light of what appeared to the Court to be just in any given case.
(16) In Gnanasigamani v. Vedamuthu, AIR 1927 Mad 308 it was held that the High Court, in the exercise of its function of superintendence, should avoid staying proceedings in a criminal case except on special grounds merely because the same question was in issue in a civil suit.
(17) In Janikamma v. Appanna, AIR 1957 Andh Pra 771 Kumarayya, J. observed thus:- (at p. 772).
'.. .. . 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 S. 344, Criminal P.C. has inherent jurisdiction to stay proceedings before him or postpone the enquiry; but these discretionary powers are to be exercised sparingly and only if there is sufficient and reasonable cause. The term '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 S. 344, Criminal P.C. must however be kept in view in judging the circumstances of the case.'
(18) It is, therefore, clear from the above decisions that stay of trial of a criminal case can be granted pending disposal of the civil suit in suitable cases where facts and circumstances show the stay to be necessary to avoid any embarrassment in the conduct of the criminal proceedings.
(19) What has been mentioned above is sufficient to indicate that the trial of the criminal case is only one of the various elements which are likely to be of evidentiary value in support of the main contentions in the civil suit and that grant of stay is not necessary to avoid any embarrassment to the petitioners in the conduct of the criminal proceedings. There are no sufficient grounds for granting stay. Any discussion or expression of opinion regarding the further details is avoided by me so that there may be no likelihood of embarrassment in pending proceedings.
(20) The petition is dismissed.
(21) Petition dismissed.