By Shramana Paul
Before the Supreme Court of India
|NAME OF THE CASE
|Neelu Chopra & Anr v. Bharti
|CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 949 OF 2003
|DATE OF THE CASE
|7th October 2009
|NEELU CHOPRA & ANR.
|Justice V.S. Sirpurkar, Justice Deepak Verma
|The Indian Penal Code, 1860 The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
|S.406, 498A and S. 114 of IPC S.482 of CrPC
The current appeal has been filed against the decision of the High Court in the matter of quashing a complaint under S.482 of CrPC. The High Court was of the view that there was material evidence to proceed against the appellants and hence refused to quash the complaint. The main contention is whether or not a complaint can be entertained when particulars of the offence are absent. The Appellants are the parents of Rajesh who is the husband of the complainant Bharti. The main allegations are against Rajesh, who expired on 6/1/2006.
The case at hand is a criminal appeal case before the Supreme Court of India against the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s decision refusing the quashing of a complaint under S.482. The Supreme Court has the power to hear the present appeal by its criminal appellate jurisdiction under articles 132(1), 133(1) and 134 of The Constitution of India. The petitioners had been charged with- criminal breach of trust; Cruelty to the wife; and abetment of all the mentioned offences. [S.406, S.498A/S.114 respectively].
Cruelty to the wife according to S.498A of the Indian Penal Code is:-
a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
In this case, the respondent Bharti had filed a complaint against her husband Rajesh and his parents along with his sister Rakhee nine years after her marriage. The respondent/complainant alleged that due to demands of unreasonable dowry and misbehaviour by Rajesh and his parents her married life had not been smooth and peaceful. Rakhee was later removed from the list of accused due to her not living in the house where Bharti resided. Rajesh had reportedly expired on 6th January 2006.
The Judicial Magistrate of 1st Class, Gidderbaha took cognizance of the complaint under the above-mentioned sections on 25.1.1994.
In the case of Neelu Chopra & Anr v. Bharti, the petitioners Neelu Chopra and Krishan Saroop Chopra are husband and wife who have preferred this present appeal before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India for quashing of the complaint made by the respondent Bharti, their daughter-in-law under S.406 and 498A/S.114 of IPC. Quashing of complaints can be done under s.482 by trying to invoke the inherent powers of the Court.
Bharti, the respondent, married Rajesh, the son of the current appellants, in the year 1984. However, according to the respondent, Rajesh and his parents, who are the appellants in this case, made exorbitant dowry demands and misbehaved with her, which made her married life difficult. Finally, a complaint was brought before the Judicial Magistrate 1st Class, Gidderbaha, on December 24, 1993. The learned Judicial Magistrate took cognizance of the offences under Sections 406, 498A read with 114 IPC by his order dated 25.1.1994, and the complaint was accepted. The accused people contested this order of cognizance. According to reports, Rajesh passed away on June 6, 2006. But the High Court declined to dismiss the case but did mention that the material on record was insufficient to proceed against the appellants. The court also gave the magistrate the discretionary power to dispense with the personal appearance of the appellants in the case.
- Can a complaint be quashed due to the absence of the particulars of the offence in the complaint?
- Will the prosecution of an accused against whom there is no evidence or allegations that support the crime with which they have been charged, serve the goals of justice?
Arguments of the Appellants
- Learned senior counsel on behalf of the appellants Mr M.N.Krishnamani narrated the contents of the original complaint along with the present contentions and the allied facts relevant for the determination of the present controversy.
- The counsel points out that the marriage between Bharti and Rajesh had taken place way back in 1984 and the complaint was filed by the complainant 9 years later on 24.12.1993.
- He further informs the court that the complainant along with her two daughters from her marriage to Rajesh i.e. the son of the appellants resides in the same house just on another floor.
- The learned senior counsel says that the complaint against the present appellants is vague and no concrete allegations are there against them. He brings to the notice of the court that the present appellants are aged 76 and 80 respectively.
Arguments of the Respondents
In spite of the service of notice by the Hon’ble court, the complainant was not present before the court and also did not have any counsel representing her.
- Indian Penal Code, 1860
S.114: “Abettor present when the offence is committed—Whenever any person, who is absent would be liable to be punished as an abettor, is present when the act or offence for which he would be punishable in consequence of the abetment is committed, he shall be deemed to have committed such act or offence.”
S.406: “Punishment for criminal breach of trust—Whoever commits criminal breach of trust shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, with a fine, or with both.”
S.498A: “Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation—For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means—
(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”
- The Code of Criminal Procedure,1973
S.482: “Saving of inherent powers of High Court. Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.”
It is clear that the issue became a concern within six months of the marriage. According to the complaint, all of the accused visited the complainant’s parents’ home in Gidderbaha and asked them for more gold and other items as dowry threatening to leave her there otherwise and get Rajesh married again. Rajesh is the subject of the complaint since he allegedly urged the complainant to give his parents the jewellery and clothing so they wouldn’t go misplaced. When the complainant requested the return of the jewellery upon arrival in Delhi, they were not given back.
“When we see the complaint as a whole it is basically against the accused Rajesh. All the allegations are against Rajesh. There is undoubtedly some reference to the present appellants, but what strikes us is that there are no particulars given as to the date on which the ornaments were handed over, as to the exact number of ornaments or their description and as to the date when the ornaments were asked back and were refused. Even the weight of the ornaments is not mentioned in the complaint and it is a general and vague complaint that the ornaments were sometimes given in the custody of the appellants and they were not returned.”
The judges observed that no particulars were mentioned in the complaint. The type or number of ornaments that were given for safekeeping, the date of when they were given to the appellants or when they were asked back, not even the value and weight of the ornaments were mentioned in the complaint, nothing describing the clothes which were allegedly handed over to Rakhee, the daughter of the appellants was mentioned in the complaints. The witness statements of Dharampal and Bhagwati attesting to the fact that the clothes were indeed handed over to Rakhee were also very vague and could not provide any essential details. The complainant had filed a medical certificate from AIIMS to support her claim that she had been hit. But no date or the name of the person by whom she was beaten or any other particulars of her injury were mentioned in the official complaint. Nothing in the complaint shows what offence the appellants have committed or how exactly can they be charged with the offences that they have been accused of. Rakhee has already been removed from the list of accused on account of her living in a separate house. The charges against Rajesh are however more precisely framed hence a case can be made out against him. The court did not find any material or allegation worth the name against the present appellants, all the allegations appear to be against Rajesh. Keeping in mind the age of Rajesh’s parents who are the present appellants the court rules that allowed the case to proceed would be an abuse of process of law especially when the complainant even after getting directions from the court did not appear or was not represented by any counsel. The order of the High Court and that of the Magistrate taking cognizance of the case is accordingly set aside and the complaint is quashed under S.482 of CrPC
A proper complaint must have all the particulars of the offence that is being reported including time, place, date, description and other particulars that constitute the offence and that have occurred in the scenario being reported- mere mentioning of certain sections and their definitions is not enough. Everything that has constituted the offence and every act in connection with it has to be brought to the notice of the court for the case to stand. All of these ‘particulars’ and information were missing in the complaint which had been filed in the case of Neelu Chopra v Bharti. Along with this, the absence of the complainant in spite of a notice from the court showed a lack of vigilance on the part of the complainant. Hence due to all these reasons coupled with the old age of the appellant’s Court rightly quashed the complaint in question thereby setting aside the orders of the High Court and the Magistrate taking cognizance of the case.
 4th Semester student, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata
 See S.498A, Indian Penal Code, 1860
 See the Indian Penal Code, 1860
 See the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973