P. Govinda Menon, J.
1. This is an application under Section 561A, Cr.P.C. for stay of trial of the criminal complaint in C.C. 24 of 1961 on the file of the District Magistrate of Palghat till the disposal of O.S. 107 of 1960 on the file of the Subordinate Judge of Palghat on the ground that the matters in issue in both the cases are the same.
2. The petitioner is a chartered accountant who had audited the accounts oil the Palghat Engineering College Council, a Society registered under the Societies Registration. Act. The respondent is the Secretary of the Council. On the ground that certain false, statements were made in the report with the intention of maligning and insulting him, the respondent in this petition filed a civil suit O.S. 107 of 1960 on 25.11.1960 in the Sub-Court, Palghat claiming damages of a sum of Rs. 5,100/-. On, 27.1.1961 the respondent filed a criminal complaint C.C. 24 of 1961 also for defamation under Section 500, I.P.C. before the District Magistrate, Palghat.
3. What is now alleged in this petition is that it is to harass and coerce the petitioner for a settlement that the respondent has filed this criminal complaint, that there will be considerable embarrassment and possible conflict, of findings if both the cases are allowed to proceed simultaneously and therefore the criminal complaint should be stayed.
4. In the counter, filed by the respondent he has denied the allegations in the petition and what he urged that the same act may give rise to a tort as well as a criminal offence and that the proper view to take in such a case is that each court must expeditiously dispose of the matter coming up before it and that the criminal complaint need not be stayed. The question for decision is whether in the circumstances of this case the criminal proceedings should be stayed.
5. That the High Court has ample powers to stay the criminal proceedings during the pendency of civil proceedings in a proper case is well settled. It is also equally clear that the mere pendency of a civil suit or appeal is not in itself a sufficient ground for staying the criminal proceedings. There is a consensus of judicial Opinion that there is no invariable rule that the criminal proceedings should necessarily be stayed pending the trial of the civil suit. The matter is entirely One of discretion of the court to exercise, having regard to the facts and circumstances of each case, the only general rule that could be adumbrated before that every court should be left as far as possible to dispose of the case on its file with the utmost expedition.
6. In C. Ramiah v. N. Ramiah AIR 1927 Mad 778, Jackson, J. has enunciated this rule and has stated:
This rule is not only in the interests of the public administration but also in those of private persons involved in criminal proceedings; for no one, wishes to have a criminal charge kept hanging indefinitely over his head. If authority were required for the above proposition there is a Patna ruling 'it is the (policy of the law to go on immediately with the inquiry.' Ram Saran Singh v. Mikhad Narain Singh AIR 1925 Pat 619 at p. 621 which is founded on Sheikh Bahadur v. Nobadali AIR 1924 Cal 634. Another Patna ruling on which the petitioner relies is Mt. Phuleshra Kuer v. Emperor 1 Pat LT 697 : AIR 1920 Pat 816, on the assumption that there may be manifest and irreparable injustice done in the criminal court; but with all respect, I do not think that such an assumption can properly be made when the integrity of the court is not impugned. It must be as assumed that in either court justice will be done, and which court precedes the other is merely a question of convenience.
7. Another argument that is usually advanced is as to the possibility of conflicting decisions if trials are allowed to proceed simultaneously upon the same issue in different courts. Jackson J, in Gnanasigamani Nadar v. Vedamuthu Nadar 52 Mad. LJ 80 : AIR 1927 Mad 308, says:
Simultaneous trials may have their disadvantages, but when in any circumstances the two several courts must try the same issue, there is no reason to prefer consecutive trials. It is not although the trial which is taken first would absorb Or govern the Other. A criminal court cannot decline to examine a question of forgery, because the forged document has been admitted as genuine in a civil court; it must try the case sooner or later and on. the general principle that judicial work should not be retarded the. sooner the better.
About there being conflicting decisions what his Lordship states is:
Conflicting decisions are the inherent risk of the division of causes into civil and criminal. The risk is probably much less than the arguments in this; type of case might lead one to suppose. Ordinarily the same evidence will result in the same finding and if then' are divergent views they ultimately flow in the ordinary course of procedure to the same channel. If the District Court or High Court has upheld or quashed a criminal conviction that court is unlikely to confirm a diver gent finding in a civil suit. Nor need it be held that one Subordinate court will be prejudiced by the opinion, of the other. Apart from the ^act that judges may be trusted to be masters of their own minds, the criminal and civil courts are never trying precisely the same issue. In the criminal court guilt must be established beyond all possibility of doubt, but the civil court weighs probability. An acquittal of forgery in a criminal court does not mean that the party -will necessarily succeed in the civil court -the authenticity of the document may still be doubtful; and if evidence is conclusive enough for conviction in the criminal court, apart from any question of prejudice there must be every likelihood that the accused will be un-suited in the civil court. And anyhow, if a case is delayed, since the court is not relieved from the ultimate duty of trying it, what danger there may be of conflicting decisions and prejudice is a factor in consecutive as well as in simultaneous trials.
8. I may in this connection reproduce the passage from the decision of the Supreme Court to M.S. Sheriff v. State of Madras AIR 1954 SC 197. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court have laid down the principle governing the stay of proceedings in a criminal case. That passage runs thus:
As between the civil and the criminal proceedings, the criminal matters should be given precedence.. No hard and fast rule can be laid down but tile possibility of conflicting decisions in the civil and the criminal courts is not 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 is the likelihood of embarrassment. Another factor which weighs with court is that civil suit often drags on for years and it is undesirable that a criminal prosecution should be postponed 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 minds and the innocent should be absolved as early as is consistent with a fair and impartial trial.
9. The learned Counsel stressed the fact that the civil suit had been filed before the institution of the criminal proceedings and has referred to certain decisions which indicate that this is one of the tests to decide whether the criminal case-should be stayed. Merely because the civil suit had been filed before the criminal complaint is no reason by itself to stay the criminal case.
10. No doubt if the object of the criminal proceeding's in a private prosecution is to prejudice the trial of the civil suit or to use them as a lever to coerce the accused into a compromise of the civil suit the criminal proceedings can be stayed till the decision of the civil suit. There may be cases in which such motives are clearly apparent, but Ordinarily speaking courts should be chary of imputing wrongful motives for rightful actions. If the law allows a legal process it should not be condemned as unjust and it cannot in such cases be argued hat one or other of the proceedings would be an abuse of justice and that trio complainant has field the criminal case in order to overawe his civil antagonist. The discretion to be exercised by the High Court in ordering stay of criminal proceedings cannot therefore be crystallized into any hard and fast rule and would largely depend upon the circumstances of each case. The test in each case would be whether the accused is likely to be seriously prejudiced by the continuance of the criminal proceedings against him, during the pendency Of the civil proceedings.
11. Now applying these principles to the instant case I do not think that any case has been made out for staying the criminal proceedings pending disposal of the suit It will be open to the accused to put forward all the matters which would be open to him in the civil suit and probably within the shorter compass and repel the accusation against him. The complainant will be obtaining no particular or unfair advantage over the accused person if the subject matter of the accusation in the criminal trial is gone into independently of and prior to the adjudication in the civil suit The accusations are also not of such a complicated nature that it can be stated that the civil court is more peculiarly qualified to adjudicate upon them. The points involved are simple and can satisfactorily be gone into by the District Magistrate. In these circumstances there are no good grounds for granting stay of the criminal proceedings asked for and this petition is dismissed.