Section 156(3) Cr.P.C.- Application should be supported by an affidavit duly sworn by the applicant who seeks the invocation of the jurisdiction of the Magistrate.
Section 401 (2) Cr.P.C.- The persons who are arraigned as accused in the complaint have a right to be heard in such revision petition. This is a plain requirement of Section 401(2) of the Code.
Regard being had to the aforesaid enunciation of law, it needs to be reiterated that the learned Magistrate has to remain vigilant with regard to the allegations made and the nature of allegations and not to issue directions without proper application of mind. He has also to bear in mind that sending the matter would be conducive to justice and then he may pass the requisite order.
The present is a case where the accused persons are serving in high positions in the bank. We are absolutely conscious that the position does not matter, for nobody is above law. But, the learned Magistrate should take note of the allegations in entirety, the date of incident and whether any cognizable case is remotely made out.It is also to be noted that when a borrower of the financial institution covered under the SARFAESI Act, invokes the jurisdiction under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. and also there is a separate procedure under the Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, an attitude of more care, caution and circumspection has to be adhered to.
25.Issuing a direction stating “as per the application” to lodge an FIR creates a very unhealthy situation in the society and also reflects the erroneous approach of the learned Magistrate. It also encourages the unscrupulous and unprincipled litigants, like the respondent no.3, namely, Prakash Kumar Bajaj, to take adventurous steps with courts to bring the financial institutions on their knees. As the factual exposition would reveal, he had prosecuted the earlier authorities and after the matter is dealt with by the High Court in a writ petition recording a settlement, he does not withdraw the criminal case and waits for some kind of situation where he can take vengeance as if he is the emperor of all he surveys. It is interesting to note that during the tenure of the appellant No.1, who is presently occupying the position of Vice-President, neither the loan was taken, nor the default was made, nor any action under the SARFAESI Act was taken.However, the action under the SARFAESI Act was taken on the second time at the instance of the present appellant No.1. We are only stating about the devilish design of the respondent No.3 to harass the appellants with the sole intent to avoid the payment of loan.
When a citizen avails a loan from a financial institution, it is his obligation to pay back and not play truant or for that matter play possum. As we have noticed, he has been able to do such adventurous acts as he has the embedded conviction that he will not be taken to task because an application under Section 156(3)Cr.P.C. is a simple application to the court for issue of a direction to the investigating agency. We have been apprised that a carbon copy of a document is filed to show the compliance of Section154(3), indicating it has been sent to the Superintendent of police concerned.
26. At this stage it is seemly to state that power under Section156(3) warrants application of judicial mind. A court of law is involved. It is not the police taking steps at the stage of Section154 of the code. A litigant at his own whim cannot invoke the authority of the Magistrate. A principled and really grieved citizen with clean hands must have free access to invoke the said power. It protects the citizens but when pervert litigations takes this route to harass their fellows citizens, efforts are to be made to scuttle and curb the same.
27.In our considered opinion, a stage has come in this country where Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. applications are to be supported by an affidavit duly sworn by the applicant who seeks the invocation of the jurisdiction of the Magistrate. That apart, in an appropriate case, the learned Magistrate would be well advised to verify the truth and also can verify the veracity of the allegations. This affidavit can make the applicant more responsible. We are compelled to say so as such kind of applications are being filed in a routine manner without taking any responsibility whatsoever only to harass certain persons. That apart, it becomes more disturbing and alarming when one tries to pick up people who are passing orders under a statutory provision which can be challenged under the framework of said Act or under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. But it cannot be done to take undue advantage in a criminal court as if somebody is determined to settle the scores.
We have already indicated that there has to be prior applications under Section 154(1) and 154(3) while filing a petition under Section156(3). Both the aspects should be clearly spelt out in the application and necessary documents to that effect shall be filed.The warrant for giving a direction that an the application under Section 156(3) be supported by an affidavit so that the person making the application should be conscious and also endeavour to see that no false affidavit is made. It is because once an affidavit is found to be false, he will be liable for prosecution in accordance with law.
This will deter him to casually invoke the authority of the Magistrate under Section 156(3). That apart, we have already stated that the veracity of the same can also be verified by the learned Magistrate, regard being had to the nature of allegations of the case. We are compelled to say so as a number of cases pertaining to fiscal sphere, matrimonial dispute/family disputes,commercial offences, medical negligence cases, corruption cases and the cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, as are illustrated in Lalita Kumari are being filed. That apart, the learned Magistrate would also be aware of the delay in lodging of the FIR.
28.The present lis can be perceived from another angle. We are slightly surprised that the financial institution has been compelled to settle the dispute and we are also disposed to think that it has so happened because the complaint cases were filed. Such a situation should not happen.
29.At this juncture, we may fruit fully refer to Section 32 of the SARFAESI Act, which reads as follows :
“32. Protection of action taken in good faith.- No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against any secured creditor or any of his officers or manager exercising any of the rights of the secured creditor or borrower for anything done or omitted to be done in good faith under this Act.”
30.In the present case, we are obligated to say that learned Magistrate should have kept himself alive to the aforesaid provision before venturing into directing registration of the FIR under Section156(3) Cr.P.C. It is because the Parliament in its wisdom has made such a provision to protect the secured creditors or any of its officers, and needles to emphasize, the legislative mandate, has to be kept in mind.
31.In view of the aforesaid analysis, we allow the appeal, set a side the order passed by the High Court and quash the registration of the FIR in case Crime No.298 of 2011, registered with Police Station, Bhelupur, District Varanasi, U.P.
32.A copy of the order passed by us be sent to the learned Chief Justices of all the High Courts by the Registry of this Court so that the High Courts would circulate the same amongst the learned Sessions Judges who, in turn, shall circulate it among the learned Magistrates so that they can remain more vigilant and diligent while exercising the power under Section 156(3) Cr.P.C. …………………..J.
[Prafulla C. Pant]
March 19, 2015.