Nahar Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and Another [Criminal Appeal No. 443 of 2022]
This case commentary has been written by Ms. Prerna Deep. She is a British Council GREAT Scholar, currently working as a Judicial Law Clerk at the Supreme Court of India.
Section 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (“CrPC”) empowers the Magistrates to take cognizance of criminal cases. A Magistrate can take cognizance of a case on the receipt of a complaint or a report by the police or information received from a person other than the police officer or upon his own knowledge. This article discusses the law laid down by the Supreme Court in a recent landmark judgment.
The Apex Court Bench comprising Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose, JJ. in the case of Nahar Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and Another [Criminal Appeal No. 443 of 2022] has held that the Magistrate has power under Section 190 of the CrPC to issue summons against persons who have not been charge-sheeted or arraigned in the First Information Report (“F.I.R.”) as accused. Firstly, the article presents the relevant provision and in-depth factual matrix of the case; secondly, it discusses the judicial evolution of law; and lastly, it highlights the decision of the Supreme Court.
(1) All Magistrates of the first class or any other Magistrate specially empowered by the Provincial Government on the recommendation of High Court may take cognizance of any offence:
- upon receiving a complaint of facts which constitute such offence;
- upon a report in writing of such facts made by any police officer;
- upon information received from any person other than a police officer, or upon his knowledge or suspicion;
that such offence has been committed which he may try or send to the Court of Sessions for trial.
(2) A Magistrate taking cognizance under sub-section (1) of an offence triable exclusively by a Court of Session shall, without recording any evidence send the case to the Court of Session for trial.
The name of the accused was neither mentioned in the F.I.R. nor in the chargesheet. Hence, the de facto complainant (mother of the prosecutrix in the present case) filed a protest petition before the Magistrate seeking relief of issuing summons to Nahar Singh (appellant before the Supreme Court) as his name came up in the statement recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC. The Magistrate dismissed the application holding that there was not enough evidence against the accused. Being aggrieved, the de facto complainant preferred appeal in which the Chief Judicial Magistrate (“CJM”) held that the Magistrate does not have to see the seriousness of the intent or the adequacy of the evidence against the person to take cognizance under Section 190(1)(b) CrPC. Upon the directions of the CJM, the Magistrate observed that the prosecutrix had stated the name of Nahar Singh in her statement under Section 164 CrPC. Therefore, on the basis of the statement of prosecutrix, it appeared that cognizance should be taken against Nahar Singh under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and it is a fit case to be tried. Accordingly, Nahar Singh should be summoned for Trial.
Being aggrieved, Nahar Singh filed an appeal which was dismissed holding that no illegality has been committed in relying on the statement of the prosecutrix recorded under Section 164 CrPC. Pursuantly, the appellant filed an appeal before the Hon’ble High Court which was dismissed. Being aggrieved by the decision of the High Court, the appellant approached the Supreme Court by way of a Special Leave Petition. In appeal before the Bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Aniruddha Bose, the accused argued that exercise of jurisdiction by CJM under Section 190(1)(b) is impermissible in this case because he was not named in the chargesheet.
In the case of Dharam Pal and Others vs. State of Haryana and Another [(2014) 3 SCC 306], it has been clearly laid down that in the event that the Magistrate disagrees with the police report, he may act on the basis of an application filed to commit the case to the Court of Session. The view taken in the case of SWIL Ltd. vs. State of Delhi and Anr. [(2001) 6 SCC 670] dealt with a similar situation:
“There is no bar under Section 190 CrPC that once the process is issued against some accused, on the next date, the Magistrate cannot issue process to some other person against whom there is some material on record, but his name is not included as accused in the charge-sheet.”
The Power of Magistrate is also well discussed in the case of Raghubans Dubey vs. State of Bihar [1967 (2) SCR 423] as the Court observed:
“Magistrate takes cognizance of the offence, not the offender…The summoning of the additional accused is part of the proceeding initiated by his taking cognizance of an offence.”
Though this judgment dealt with the provisions of the 1898 Code, it was upheld by the Division Bench of the Supreme Court in Kishun Singh and others vs. State of Bihar [(1993) 2 SCC 16]. A Coordinate Bench in the case of Balveer Singh and Another vs. State of Rajasthan and Another [(2016) 6 SCC 680] has followed both Dharam Pal and Kishun Singh. The Supreme Court in Hardeep Singh vs. State of Punjab and Ors. [(2014) 3 SCC 92] held that if the name of a person does not figure either in an F.I.R or a charge sheet but during the course of trial his role comes to light, he would be subject to the same trial too.
In the present case, the High Court in the impugned judgment has held that:
“..at the time of taking cognizance, the Magistrate has only to see whether prima facie there are cogent reasons for issuing the process. The Magistrate is fully competent to take cognizance of an offence and there is no bar under Section 190 CrPC that once the process is issued against some of the accused persons, the Magistrate cannot issue process to some other person against whom the chargesheet was not submitted and against whom there is some material on record.”
The Supreme Court observed that the principle of law as enunciated in Raghubans Dubey, Dharam Pal and Hardeep Singh are uniform that the Magistrate does not have to confine his committal power to the persons named in the chargesheet whether as accused or in the column (2). The steps taken by the magistrate in pursuance of the protest petition was within his jurisdiction both the Sessions Court and the Hight Court had correctly construed the legal position. The Supreme Court while upholding the decision of the High Court of Judicature of Allahabad laid down that:
“for summoning persons upon taking cognizance of an offence, the Magistrate has to examine the materials available before him for coming to the conclusion that apart from those sent up by the police some other persons are involved in the offence. These materials need not remain confined to the police report, charge sheet or the F.I.R. A statement made under Section 164 of the Code could also be considered for such purpose.”
The Supreme Court has taken a crucial step in criminal jurisprudence by clarifying the ambit of jurisdiction of the Magistrate, and added another level of check that where a person who is not named in the F.I.R. or the chargesheet can be summoned if otherwise, prima facie materials are present against him (for instance, statement recorded under Section 164 of CrPC in the present case). Further, in cases where the victim is of the opinion that despite prima facie case being made against a particular person, the police has deliberately dropped his name from the F.I.R. or the report due to pressure, it now provides the victim another opportunity to file application against such person before the Magistrate for issuance of summons.