State of Haryana vs Bhajan Lal

State of Haryana vs Bhajan Lal [1992 Supp (1) SCC 335]

The Supreme Court has held in Bhajan Lal case that the High Court can quash the FIR to protect the accused from malicious prosecution. It has quashed the criminal proceeding against the Bhajan Lal, the then Chief Minister of Haryana. When a criminal proceeding is instituted with mala-fide intention to harass the person, the court can quash the entire proceeding for the ends of justice. The Supreme Court has issued seven guidelines which should be followed by the High Court in the exercise of its inherent power vested by section 482 crpc to quash the pending criminal proceedings.

(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.

(2) Where the allegations in the first information report and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.

(3) Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.

(4) Where the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 155(2) of the Code.

(5) Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.

(6) Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.

(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.

Explanation of aforesaid seven golden rules

The Supreme Court further said that the High Court should quash the criminal proceeding in the rarest of the rare cases. Section 482 crpc does not confer arbitrary jurisdiction of the High Court and it cannot act according to its whim and caprice.

Section 482 crpc: the High Court has inherent power to quash any criminal proceeding which is an abuse of process of the court. Filing false FIR or complaint thereby rope the accused in a false allegation is an abuse of process of the court. A false and frivolous criminal proceeding adversely affects the criminal justice system. 

Power under section 482 crpc is very vast and unfettered. The landmark judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Bhajan Lal case is an attempt to draw a boundary within which the High Court should exercise its inherent power. Bhajan Lal case is known for its “Seven golden rules” to be considered in quashing a criminal proceeding. Here we discuss those seven rules one by one:

Allegations don’t constitute any offence

The High Court can quash the criminal proceeding if it finds that after taking all the allegations made in FIR or Complaint at their face value, it don’t prima facie constitute any offence. Prima facie means “sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted.”

If allegations do not suggest commission of an offence then the court will quash that proceeding. In Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 2021 SC 1, the Supreme Court reiterated the first golden rule of Bhajan Lal’s case. 

FIR does not disclose a cognizable offence

The High Court can quash the FIR if it does not disclose the commission of a cognisable offence. FIR relates with commission of a cognisable offence only. Officer in charge of the police station cannot record any information (FIR) pertaining to the non cognisable offence under  Section 154 of the CrPC. Cognisable offences are serious offences. If FIR does not disclose cognisable offence, the investigation on such an FIR will impede the rights of accused.

After recording the FIR the investigating officer can arrest the accused without warrant or order of the Magistrate. The accused will languish in police custody for some time. Such an illegal police custody will result in physical and mental harassment of the accused. Therefore, the High Court will quash the FIR which does not disclose cognisable offence. 

Uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR

The baseless allegation in FIR is a ground of quashing. There must be some evidence in support of commission of any offence. In devoid of evidence, the prosecution cannot prove that the accused has committed an offence. A criminal proceeding without evidence will not only frustrate the criminal justice system but also invade the fundamental right of accuse. Therefore, the Supreme Court has held in Bhajan Lal’s case that a criminal proceeding shall be quashed if uncontroverted allegations have been made in FIR.

Allegation in FIR constitutes non cognisable offence

A police officer cannot investigate a non-cognisable offence without permission of the Magistrate. Non cognisable offences are less serious offences. It does not harm our society as much as compared to cognisable offences. Therefore, the CrPC embodies some restrictions on the police power towards investigation of non-cognisable offences. 

Carrying out Investigation in non-cognisable offence without permission of Magistrate frustrates the founding principle of the code of criminal procedure. It is an abuse of the process of the court. Hence, the High Court will quash such FIR under section 482 CrPC.

Allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd

The High Court can quash the FIR when allegations are absurd and lacking firm ground to investigate that offence. Allegations in the FIR must be solid and capable of giving a reason for initiating  investigation against the accused. CrPC does not permit launching an investigation upon an absurd FIR. Because a police officer can harass the accused in connivance with the informant. Therefore, an absurd allegation in FIR constitutes a ground for quashing the FIR. 

The High Court can quash the criminal proceeding which is carried on in breach of pre legal requirement. Section 195, 196, 197, 198 & 199 of the Code of Criminal Procedure put some pre-conditions for launching a criminal proceeding against the accused. Breach of such a pre condition will nullify the investigation. Thus such breach will give a ground to quash that criminal proceeding. 

Criminal proceeding with mala-fide intention

When an accused has been falsely implicated by manipulation of facts then it is said to be a mala-fide criminal proceeding. Such a mala fide intention constitutes a ground to quash the proceeding. Filing false FIR is a very easy task in India. Section 482 CrPC provides a protection to the accused from such a mala-fide proceeding. The High Court can quash the proceeding if finds that information has manipulated the fact and launched a criminal case with bad intention. 

shivendra pratap singh advocate

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate (Lucknow)

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