CIVIL, Criminal

When Dispute Is Of Civil Nature, Giving It A Criminal tone Is Abuse Of Process

SUPREME COURT
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KEYWORDS: CHEATING – CRIMINAL BREACH OF TRUST – BREACH OF CONTRACT

Cheating -Hridaya Ranjan Prasad Verma & ors -vs Stat of Bihar and anr (2000) 4 SCC 168

“It is held time and again that the distinction between mere breach of contract and the offence of cheating is a fine one .It would depend upon the intention of the accused at the time of inducement, which may be judged by his subsequent conduct but for this subsequent conduct is not the sole test. Mere breach of contract cannot give rise to criminal prosecution for cheating unless fraudulent or dishonest intention is shown right at the beginning of transaction that is the time when the offence is said to have been committed. Therefore, it is the intention which is gist of the offence. To hold a person guilty of cheating, it is necessary to show that he had fraudulent or dishonest intention at the time of making the promise. From his mere failure to keep up promise subsequently such an culpable intention right at the beginning that is when he made the promise cannot be presumed”

State of Haryana and others -vs- Bhajan Lal and others 1992 Supp (1) SCC 335, where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with malafide intention and/or the proceeding is maliciously instituted with object to serve the oblique purpose of recovering the amount, such proceeding needs to be quashed and set aside.

Apex Court in the case of Chandran Ratnaswami -vs- K.C. Palanisamy and ors (2013) 6 SCC 740, relied upon by learned counsel for applicant, wherein it was held that, when the disputes are of civil nature and finally adjudicated by the competent authority, as in the present case, by the Company Law Board and the disputes are arising out of alleged breach of joint venture agreement and when such disputes have been finally resolved by the Court of competent jurisdiction, then it is apparent that complainant wants to manipulate and misuse the process of Court. In this judgment, it was held that, it would be unfair if the applicants are to be tried in such criminal proceeding arising out of the alleged breach of a Joint Venture Agreement. It was further held that the wholesome power under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure entitles the High Court to quash a proceeding when it comes to the conclusion that allowing the proceeding to continue would be abuse of the process of the Court or that the ends of justice require that the proceedings ought to be quashed.

In Indian Oil Corpn -vs- NEPC India Ltd and ors, 2006 (3) SCC Cri 736, the Apex Court was pleased to caution about the growing tendency in business circles to convert purely civil disputes into criminal cases.

State of Maharashtra and ors -vs- Arun Gulab Gawali, (2009) 9 SCC 701  relied upon by learned counsel for respondent No.3, Court has explained the parameters and ambit of section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in the light of decision of Apex Court, in case of State of Haryana -vs- Bhajanlal. when the dispute is of civil nature and does not disclose commission of cognizable offence, would be an abuse of process of law .

  • Pratiba Rani v. Sooraj Kumar – (1985) 1 Crimes 614 = 1985 Crl.L.J. 817 (SC)…Anil Maliajan v. Bhor Industries Ltd. (2005) 10  SCC 228…
    Uma Shankar Gopalika  v. State of Bihar (2005) 10 SCC 336…
    Nalini  Shankaran v. Neelkanth Mahadeo  Kamble  – (2007) 12 SCC 90…Trilok Singh v. Satya Deo Tripathi – (1979) 4 SCC 396 = 1980 Crl.L.J. 822 (SC);George Zacharia v. T.K. Varghese – (1995) Supp. 1 SCC 267; Bal Krishnan Das v. P.C. Nayar – (1991) Supp. 2 SCC 412. …
  • Sagar Suri v. State of U.P….AIR 2000 SC 754 =  2000 Crl.L.J. 824…
  • Kishan Singh (D) Thru Lrs vs Gurpal Singh & Ors on 12 August, 2010 – HELD : The issue as to whether the findings recorded by Civil Court are binding in criminal proceedings between the same parties in respect of the same subject matter, is no more Res Integra. It is to be noted that the appellants’ father Kishan Singh lodged FIR No.144/02 on 23.7.2002 through his attorney Jaswant Singh Mann under Sections 420/323/467/468/471/120-B IPC, against the respondents. The allegations made in the FIR were substantially similar to the allegations made by the appellants in Civil Suit No.1075/96, which had been decided against them. It is evident that the aforesaid FIR was filed with inordinate delay and there has been no plausible explanation for the same. The appellants lodged the aforesaid FIR only after meeting their Waterloo in the Civil Court. Thus, it is evident that the FIR was lodged with the sole intention of harassing the respondents and enmeshing them in long and arduous criminal proceedings. We are of the view that such an action on the part of the appellants’ father would not be bona fide, and the criminal proceedings initiated by him against the respondents amount to an abuse of the process of law.

    In M/s Karamchand Ganga Pershad & Anr. Vs. Union of India & Ors., AIR 1971 SC 1244, this Court, while dealing with the same issue, held as under :-

    “It is well established principle of law that the decisions of the civil courts are binding on the criminal courts. The converse is not true.”

    The said Judgment was delivered by a three-Judge Bench of this Court without taking note of the Constitution Bench Judgment in M.S. Sherrif Vs. The State of Madras & Ors., AIR 1954 SC 397 on the same issue, wherein this Court has held as under :-

    “As between the civil and the criminal proceedings we are of the opinion that the criminal matters should be given precedence. There is some difference of opinion in the High Courts of India on this point. No hard and fast rule can be laid down but we do not consider that the possibility of conflicting decisions in 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”.

     In Iqbal Singh Marwah & Anr. Vs. Meenakshi Marwah & Anr., (2005) 4 SCC 370, this Court held as under :-

    “Coming to the last contention that an effort should be made to avoid conflict of findings between the civil and criminal courts, it is necessary to point out that the standard of proof required in the two proceedings are entirely different. Civil cases are decided on the basis of preponderance of evidence while in a criminal case the entire burden lies on the prosecution and proof beyond reasonable doubt has to be given. There is neither any statutory provision nor any legal principle that the findings recorded in one proceeding may be treated as final or binding in the other, as both the cases have to be decided on the basis of the evidence adduced therein.”