December 4, 2022

When High court can quash the FIR?- In brief

Section 482 of CrPC gives inherent power to High court to make such order as require to prevent abuse of the process of Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

This provision indirectly gives power to the high court to also quash the criminal proceeding or FIRs. But, this is very big power given to the high courts and with great power comes great responsibility too. Therefore, there are many case laws where supreme court reviewed this power and also laid down guidelines to use it in right and fair way.

In the case of S. Khushboo v. Kaniammal, (2010), the supreme court reiterated the view of the court in the case of M/s Pepsi Foods Ltd. & Anr. Vs. Special Judicial Magistrate & Ors., AIR 1998 SC 128 when it said that when the criminal law machinery is set in motion, the superior courts should not mechanically use either their inherent powers or writ jurisdiction to intervene with the process of investigation and trial. However, such forms of judicial review can be exercised to prevent a miscarriage of justice or to correct some grave errors that might have been committed by the subordinate courts.

In the past, this Court has laid down some guidelines for the exercise of inherent power by the High Courts to quash criminal proceedings in such exceptional cases. We can refer to the decision in State of Haryana & Ors. Vs. Ch. Bhajan Lal & Ors., AIR 1992 SC 604, to take note of two such guidelines-

“(1). Where the allegations made in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused. …

(7). Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.”

It is of course a settled legal proposition that in a case where there is sufficient evidence against the accused, which may establish the charge against him/her, the proceedings cannot be quashed.

In M/s Medchl Chemicals & Pharma Ltd. Vs. M/s Biological E. Ltd. & Ors., AIR 2000 SC 1869, supreme Court observed that a criminal complaint or a charge sheet can only be quashed by superior courts in exceptional circumstances, such as when the allegations in a complaint do not support a prima facie case for an offence.

Similarly, in M/s Zandu Pharmaceutical Works Ltd. & Ors. Vs. Mohd. Sharaful Haque & Ors., AIR 2005 SC 9, Court has held that criminal proceedings can be quashed but such a power is to be exercised sparingly and only when such an exercise is justified by the tests that have been specifically laid down in the statutory provisions themselves.

It was further observed that superior courts “may examine the questions of fact” when the use of the criminal law machinery could be in the nature of an abuse of authority or when it could result in injustice.

In Shakson Belthissor Vs. State of Kerala & Anr., (2009) 14 SCC 466, supreme Court relied on earlier precedents to clarify that a High Court while exercising its inherent jurisdiction should not interfere with a genuine complaint but it should certainly not hesitate to intervene in appropriate cases. In fact, it was observed:

“One of the paramount duties of the superior courts is to see that a person who is apparently innocent is not subjected to prosecution and humiliation on the basis of a false and wholly untenable complaint.”

There can be no quarrel about supreme Court’s competence to quash criminal proceedings pending before the subordinate courts. However, this power must be exercised sparingly and with circumspection.