IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 67 of 2013
Ravinder Singh …Appellant
Sukhbir Singh & Ors. …Respondents
J U D G M E N T
Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN, J.
1. This appeal has been preferred against the impugned judgment and
order dated 14.12.2011, passed by the High Court of Delhi in Crl.M.C.
No. 1262 of 2011, by way of which the High Court has dismissed the
said application preferred by the appellant
for quashing the criminal
proceedings launched by respondent no. 1 under Section 3(1)(viii) of
the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities)
Act, 1989 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Act 1989’).
2. Facts and circumstances giving rise to this appeal are that:
A. The appellant claims to be the owner of agricultural land
measuring 1 bigha and 4 biswas, situated in the revenue estate of
village Nangli Poona, Delhi. Respondent no.1 allegedly made an attempt
to take forcible possession of the said land, and also filed FIR No.
254 of 2005 on 6.4.2005
under Sections 427, 447 and 506, read with
Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as
Though the appellant was arrested in pursuance of the
said FIR, however, subsequently he was enlarged on bail.
B. Aggrieved, the appellant filed a complaint against respondent
no.1, as well as against the police officials involved and in view
thereof, FIR No.569 of 2005 under Sections 447, 323, 429 and 34 IPC
The appellant engaged one Pradeep Rana, Advocate,
respondent no.2 and filed Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 1667 of 2005, inter-
alia, seeking a direction for quashing of FIR No. 254 of 2005.
said writ petition was dismissed in limine vide order dated
In the meantime, in the criminal proceedings launched by
the appellant, a charge sheet was filed against respondent no.1 in
C. After investigating the allegations made in FIR No. 254 of 2005
against the appellant, the police submitted a final report dated
20.2.2006, under Sections 173 and 169 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Cr.P.C.’), in the
court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi.
approached the revenue authorities i.e. Tahsildar, Narela, seeking
the inclusion of his name in the revenue record as a person in
possession/occupation of the said land. However, his claim was
rejected by the Tahsildar vide order dated 22.6.2006.
D. It is at this time, Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 2657 of 2006 was
filed in the name of the appellant by Pradeep Rana, respondent no.2 as
counsel on 18.11.2006, on the basis of the averments made in the
first writ petition i.e. Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 1667 of 2005, and
seeking the same relief sought therein.
The said writ petition was
dismissed in default vide order dated 17.8.2007.
no.1 tried to get his name recorded in the revenue record as being in
cultivatory possession, but the same was rejected again by the
Tahsildar, Narela, vide order dated 13.8.2007.
E. Respondent no.1 filed another complaint under Section 107/150
Cr.P.C. on 18.9.2007, and filed a fresh FIR No.16 of 2007 on 21.9.2007
under Sections 379, 427 and 34 IPC, and subsequently added the
provisions of Section 3(1)(v) of the Act 1989.
Respondent no.1 also
filed an appeal against the order of the Tahsildar, rejecting his
application made for the purpose of recording his name in the
F. Respondent no.1 also filed Contempt Case (Crl.) No.10 of 2007
before the High Court of Delhi against the appellant for filing two
criminal writ petitions seeking the same relief, and for not
disclosing the fact that he had filed the first writ petition, while
filing the second writ petition, owing to which, the said writ
petition stood dismissed in default vide order dated 17.8.2007.
G. On receiving notice from the High Court, the appellant filed a
reply expressing his ignorance regarding the filing of the second
criminal writ petition, and further stated that he was an illiterate
person, owing to which, he had given all requisite papers to Pradeep
Rana, Advocate, respondent no. 2, and that respondent no.2 might have
filed the said petition, in collusion with respondent no.1.
then issued to Pradeep Rana, respondent no.2 by the High Court, who
appeared and tendered an apology for filing the second petition,
without disclosing such facts pertaining to the filing and dismissal
of the first petition.
H. The appellant filed a complaint before the Bar Council of Delhi
against respondent no.2 for filing the second writ petition in
collusion with respondent no.1 on 15.12.2008.
The High Court accepted
the version of events submitted by the appellant, and simultaneously,
also the apology tendered by respondent no.2 and thereafter, it closed
the said criminal proceedings at the instance of respondent no.1,
vide order dated 16.2.2009.
I. After a period of six months thereof, respondent no.1 filed a
criminal complaint under Section 3(1)(viii) of the Act 1989, for the
filing of a false criminal writ petition by the appellant in the High
Court of Delhi, and further and more particularly, the second writ
petition, without disclosing the factum of filing and dismissal of the
aforementioned first writ petition.
The Metropolitan Magistrate
rejected the said complaint vide order dated 13.8.2009 on the ground
that the High Court had closed the contempt proceedings initiated
against the appellant, as well as against respondent no.2, at the
instance of respondent no.1.
J. Aggrieved, respondent no.1 filed Revision Petition No.23 of 2009
before the ASJ, Rohini Court, Delhi. As regards FIR No. 16 of 2007,
the Special Judge (SC/ST) refused to proceed against the appellant
and others, making serious comments regarding the conduct of
respondent no.1, as well as that of the investigating officer.
revision petition filed by respondent no.1 against order dated
13.8.2009, was allowed by the revisional court vide order dated
25.10.2010, which was then challenged by the appellant, before the
High Court by way of him filing a petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C.
as Crl.M.C. No.1262 of 2011, which has been dismissed by impugned
judgment and order dated 14.12.2011.
Hence, this appeal.
3. Shri Shekhar Naphade, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf
of the appellant, has submitted that filing the instant complaint case
amounts to abuse of process of the court. The criminal complaint is
barred by the principle of issue estoppel, as the same issue has been
fully adjudicated by the High Court in a criminal contempt case before
it, and the High Court was fully satisfied that the fault lay in the
actions of Pradeep Rana, respondent no.2, counsel for the appellant.
The High Court even accepted the apology of the respondent no.2
thereafter, and closed the said criminal proceedings at the instance
of respondent no.1. As the issue has already been adjudicated, and
finally closed by the High Court, the Magistrate court cannot sit in
appeal against the said order passed by the High Court, closing the
said case of criminal contempt, as the subject matter and allegations
of the case before him, are verbatim and have already been
To invoke the provisions of the Act 1989, it is not enough that
the complainant belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, as it
must further be established that the alleged offence was committed
with the intention to cause harm to the person belonging to such
category. Moreover, the term false, malicious and vexatious
proceedings must be understood in a strictly legal sense and hence,
intention (mens rea), to cause harm to a person belonging to such
category must definitely be established. Where genuine civil matter is
sub-judice, and parties are settling their disputes in revenue
courts, such proceedings must not be entertained. The High Court
therefore, committed an error in rejecting the application for
quashing criminal proceedings.
4. Per contra, Shri Mukul Sharma, learned counsel appearing for
respondent no.1, has defended the impugned judgment and order and
submitted that the findings recorded in the case of criminal contempt
cannot preclude respondent no.1 from initiating such criminal
proceedings and that whether the same are false, malicious and
vexatious, is yet to be established during trial. This is not the
stage where any inference in this regard can be drawn. Furthermore,
pendency of the issue regarding the ownership of the said land before
the revenue court, is no bar so far as criminal proceedings are
concerned. Thus, the appeal is liable to be dismissed.
5. We have considered the rival submissions, and heard both, Shri
Rakesh Khanna, learned ASG for the State of Delhi, and Shri Prasoon
Kumar, Advocate, for respondent no.2, and have also perused the
6. So far as Contempt Case (Crl.) No.10 of 1007 is concerned, it is
evident that the appellant, after becoming aware of the fact that a
second writ petition was filed in his name, filed a complaint before
the Bar Council of Delhi, through its Secretary against respondent
no.2 on 29.12.2007 (Annx. P/11), wherein it was stated that the said
second writ petition No. 1667 of 2005 was filed without his
instructions, using papers signed by him in good faith, in the office
of respondent no.2, at his instance. Upon considering the reply of the
appellant, the High Court issued notice to Pradeep Rana, Advocate,
respondent no.2 in Contempt Case (Crl.) No. 10 of 2007, and
thereafter, respondent no.2 filed his reply, wherein he submitted that
even though the second writ petition was filed on the instructions of
the appellant, however, he inadvertently, failed to mention the fact
that he had filed the earlier writ petition and that the same had been
dismissed, for which he tendered absolute and unconditional apology.
7. The High Court, vide judgment and order dated 16.2.2009 disposed
of the said contempt proceedings. The order reads as under:
“Learned counsel for Ravinder Singh admits that Crl. Writ
Petition No. 1667/2005 and Crl. Writ Petition No.2657/2006 were
filed under his signatures but states that he being not well-
versed in English would sign the petition and supporting
affidavits in Hindi and that he was being guided by his counsel
with respect to the contents of the petition.
Mr. Pradeep Rana, learned counsel for Mr. Ravinder Singh
express his regrets and tenders an unqualified apology for
filing two identical petitions one after the other and not
disclosing in the second petition that the first petition was
filed and was dismissed.
Keeping in view the young age of Mr. Pradeep Rana, learned
counsel for the petitioner states that in view of the fact that
Mr. Ravinder Singh has admitted that both petitions were filed
under his signatures and given an explanation as to what had
happened, the petitioner does not want to pursue the remedy
against the counsel, the instant petition may be disposed of as
We dispose of the petition as not pressed.”
8. The aforesaid order hence, makes it crystal clear that the High
Court was satisfied that the appellant had been guided by his counsel
and that he himself was not well-versed with the English language
and had also filed his supporting affidavit in Hindi and further that
it had accepted the unqualified apology tendered by Pradeep Rana,
respondent no.2, and that considering the fact that the advocate was
of a young age, even though both petitions had been filed under the
signature of the appellant, it had decided to drop the said
proceedings, as respondent no.1 did not wish to pursue his remedy any
further. Hence, the petition was disposed of, as the same was not
9. In Masumsha Hasanasha Musalman v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 2000
SC 1876, this Court has dealt with the application of the provisions
of the Act 1989, and held that merely because the victim/complainant
belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, the same cannot be
the sole ground for prosecution, for the reason that the offence
mentioned under the said Act 1989 should be committed against him on
the basis of the fact that such a person belongs to a Scheduled Caste
or Scheduled Tribe. In the absence of such ingredient, no offence
under Section 3 (2)(v) of the Act is made out.
10. Section 3(1)(viii) of the Act 1989 reads as under:
“Punishment for offences of atrocities:(1) Whoever, not being a member
of Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe,-
(i) xx xx xx
viii) institutes false, malicious or vexatious suit or criminal or
other legal proceedings against a member of a Scheduled Caste or
a Scheduled Tribe;
ix) xx xx xx
shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be
less than six months but which may extend to five years and with
11. The dictionary meaning of word `false’ means that, which is in
essence, incorrect, or purposefully untrue, deceitful etc. Thus, the
word ‘false’, is used to cover only unlawful falsehood. It means
something that is dishonestly, untrue and deceitful, and implies an
intention to perpetrate some treachery or fraud. In jurisprudence, the
word ‘false’ is used to characterise a wrongful or criminal act, done
intentionally and knowingly, with knowledge, actual or constructive.
The word false may also be used in a wide or narrower sense. When
used in its wider sense, it means something that is untrue whether or
not stated intentionally or knowingly, but when used in its narrower
sense, it may cover only such falsehoods, which are intentional. The
question whether in a particular enactment, the word false is used in
a restricted sense or a wider sense, depends upon the context in which
it is used.
12. In Commissioner of Sales Tax, Uttar Pradesh v. Sanjiv Fabrics,
(2010) 9 SCC 630, this Court, after relying upon certain legal
dictionaries, explained that the word false describes an untruth,
coupled with wrong intention or an intention to deceive. The Court
further held that in case of criminal prosecution, where consequences
are serious, findings of fact must be recorded with respect to mens
rea in case a falsehood as a condition precedent for imposing any
13. In the event that the appellant preferred an application for the
purpose of quashing the FIR lodged by respondent no.1, and was
unsuccessful therein, the same does not mean that the appellant had
filed a false case against respondent No. 1. There is a difference
between the terms `not proved’ and `false’. Merely because a party is
unable to prove a fact, the same cannot be categorized as false in
each and every case. (Vide: A. Abdul Rashid Khan (dead) & Ors. v.
P.A.K.A. Shahul Hamid & Ors., (2000) 10 SCC 636).
14. Legitimate indignation does not fall within the ambit of a
malicious act. In almost all legal inquiries, intention as
distinguished from motive is the all important factor. In common
parlance, a malicious act has been equated with an intentional act
without just cause or excuse. (Vide: Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd. v.
Girja Shankar Pant & Ors., AIR 2001 SC 24).
15. In West Bengal State Electricity Board v. Dilip Kumar Ray, AIR
2007 SC 976, this Court dealt with the term “malicious prosecution” by
referring to various dictionaries etc. as :
‘Malice in the legal sense imports (1) the absence of all
elements of justification, excuse or recognised mitigation, and
(2) the presence of either (a) an actual intent to cause the
particular harm which is produced or harm of the same general
nature, or (b) the wanton and wilful doing of an act with
awareness of a plain and strong likelihood that such harm may
‘MALICE’ consists in a conscious violation of the law to
the prejudice of another and certainly has different meanings
with respect to responsibility for civil wrongs and
responsibility for crime.
Malicious prosecution means - a desire to obtain a collateral
advantage. The principles to be borne in mind in the case of
actions for malicious prosecutions are these:—Malice is not
merely the doing of a wrongful act intentionally but it must be
established that the defendant was actuated by malus animus,
that is to say, by spite or ill will or any indirect or improper
motive. But if the defendant had reasonable or probable cause of
launching the criminal prosecution no amount of malice will make
him liable for damages. Reasonable and probable cause must be
such as would operate on the mind of a discreet and reasonable
man; ‘malice’ and ‘want of reasonable and probable cause,’ have
reference to the state of the defendant's mind at the date of
the initiation of criminal proceedings and the onus rests on the
plaintiff to prove them.
16. Mala fides, where it is alleged, depends upon its own facts and
circumstances, in fact has to be proved. It is a deliberate act in
disregard of the rights of others. It is a wrongful act done
intentionally without just cause or excuse. (See : State of Punjab v.
V.K. Khanna & Ors., AIR 2001 SC 343; State of A.P. & Ors. v.
Goverdhanlal Pitti, AIR 2003 SC 1941; Prabodh Sagar v. Punjab SEB &
Ors., AIR 2000 SC 1684; and Chairman and MD, BPL Ltd. v. S.P.
Gururaja & Ors., AIR 2003 SC 4536).
17. The word "vexatious" means ‘harassment by the process of law',
'lacking justification' or with 'intention to harass'. It signifies
an action not having sufficient grounds, and which therefore, only
seeks to annoy the adversary.
The hallmark of a vexatious proceeding is that it has no basis
in law (or at least no discernible basis); and that whatever the
intention of the proceeding may be, its only effect is to subject the
other party to inconvenience, harassment and expense, which is so
great, that it is disproportionate to any gain likely to accrue to the
claimant; and that it involves an abuse of process of the court. Such
proceedings are different from those that involve ordinary and proper
use of the process of the court.
18. The principle of issue-estoppel is also known as ‘cause of
action estoppel’ and the same is different from the principle of
double jeopardy or; autre fois acquit, as embodied in Section 403
Cr.P.C. This principle applies where an issue of fact has been tried
by a competent court on a former occasion, and a finding has been
reached in favour of an accused. Such a finding would then constitute
an estoppel, or res judicata against the prosecution but would not
operate as a bar to the trial and conviction of the accused, for a
different or distinct offence. It would only preclude the reception
of evidence that will disturb that finding of fact already recorded
when the accused is tried subsequently, even for a different offence,
which might be permitted by Section 403(2) Cr.P.C. Thus, the rule of
issue estoppel prevents re-litigation of an issue which has been
determined in a criminal trial between the parties. If with respect to
an offence, arising out of a transaction, a trial has taken place and
the accused has been acquitted, another trial with respect to the
offence alleged to arise out of the transaction, which requires the
court to arrive at a conclusion inconsistent with the conclusion
reached at the earlier trial, is prohibited by the rule of issue
estoppel. In order to invoke the rule of issue estoppel, not only the
parties in the two trials should be the same but also, the fact in
issue, proved or not, as present in the earlier trial, must be
identical to what is sought to be re-agitated in the subsequent trial.
If the cause of action was determined to exist, i.e., judgment was
given on it, the same is said to be merged in the judgment. If it was
determined not to exist, the unsuccessful plaintiff can no longer
assert that it does; he is estopped per rem judicatam. (See: Manipur
Administration, Manipur v. Thokchom, Bira Singh, AIR 1965 SC 87; Piara
Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1969 SC 961; State of Andhra Pradesh v.
Kokkiligada Meeraiah & Anr., AIR 1970 SC 771; Masud Khan v. State of
U.P., AIR 1974 SC 28; Ravinder Singh v. State of Haryana, AIR 1975 SC
856; Kanhiya Lal Omar v. R.K. Trivedi & Ors., AIR 1986 SC 111; Bhanu
Kumar Jain v. Archana Kumar & Anr., AIR 2005 SC 626; and Swamy
Atmananda and Ors. v. Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam and Ors., AIR 2005 SC
19. While considering the issue at hand in Shiv Shankar Singh v.
State of Bihar & Anr., (2012) 1 SCC 130, this Court, after considering
its earlier judgments in Pramatha Nath Talukdar v. Saroj Ranjan
Sarkar AIR 1962 SC 876; Jatinder Singh & Ors. v. Ranjit Kaur AIR 2001
SC 784; Mahesh Chand v. B. Janardhan Reddy & Anr., AIR 2003 SC 702;
Poonam Chand Jain & Anr. v. Fazru AIR 2005 SC 38 held:
“It is evident that the law does not prohibit filing or
entertaining of the second complaint even on the same facts
provided the earlier complaint has been decided on the basis of
insufficient material or the order has been passed without
understanding the nature of the complaint or the complete facts
could not be placed before the court or where the complainant
came to know certain facts after disposal of the first complaint
which could have tilted the balance in his favour. However,
second complaint would not be maintainable wherein the earlier
complaint has been disposed of on full consideration of the case
of the complainant on merit.”
20. In Chandrapal Singh & Ors. v. Maharaj Singh & Anr., AIR 1982 SC
1238, this court has held that it is equally true that chagrined and
frustrated litigants should not be permitted to give vent to their
frustration by enabling them to invoke the jurisdiction of criminal
courts in a cheap manner. In such a fact-situation, the court must not
hesitate to quash criminal proceedings.
21. There can be no dispute with respect to the settled legal
proposition that a judgment of this Court is binding, particularly,
when the same is that of a co-ordinate bench, or of a larger bench.
It is also correct to state that, even if a particular issue has not
been agitated earlier, or a particular argument was advanced, but was
not considered, the said judgment does not lose its binding effect,
provided that the point with reference to which an argument is
subsequently advanced, has actually been decided. The decision
therefore, would not lose its authority, “merely because it was badly
argued, inadequately considered or fallaciously reasoned”. The case
must be considered, taking note of the ratio decidendi of the same
i.e., the general reasons, or the general grounds upon which, the
decision of the court is based, or on the test or abstract, of the
specific peculiarities of the particular case, which finally gives
rise to the decision. (Vide: Smt. Somavanti & Ors. v. The State of
Punjab & Ors., AIR 1963 SC 151; Ballabhdas Mathuradas Lakhani & Ors.
v. Municipal Committee, Malkapur, AIR 1970 SC 1002; Ambika Prasad
Mishra v. State of U.P. & Ors., AIR 1980 SC 1762; and Director of
Settlements, A.P. & Ors. v. M.R. Apparao & Anr., AIR 2002 SC 1598).
22. In The Direct Recruit Class-II Engineering Officers’ Association
& Ors. v. State of Maharashtra & Ors., AIR 1990 SC 1607, a
Constitution Bench of this Court has taken a similar view, observing
that the binding nature of a judgment of a court of competent
jurisdiction, is in essence a part of the rule of law on the basis of
which, administration of justice depends. Emphasis on this point by
the Constitution is well founded, and a judgment given by a competent
court on merits must bind all parties involved until the same is set
aside in appeal, and an attempted change in the form of the petition
or in its grounds, cannot be allowed to defeat the plea. (See also:
Daryao & Ors. v. State of U.P. & Ors., AIR 1961 SC 1457; and Forward
Construction Co. & Ors. v. Prabhat Mandal (Regd.), Andheri & Ors. AIR
1986 SC 391).
23. The instant case is required to be decided taking into
consideration the aforesaid settled legal propositions.
The complaint in dispute filed by the respondent no.1 is based
on the ground that there has been a false declaration by the appellant
while filing the second writ petition as he suppressed the truth that
earlier for the same relief a writ petition had been filed and it was
done so to gain a legal advantage and therefore, it was a false,
vexatious and malicious one attracting the provisions of Section
3(1)(viii) of the Act 1989. The High Court while dealing with the
contempt case did not record such a finding. The first writ petition
was dismissed in limine while the second was dismissed in default.
The issue of filing a false affidavit has been dealt with by the High
Court in contempt case which the respondent no.1 did not press
24. The facts on record make it evident
that the land on which both
parties claim title/interest had initially been allotted to one Anant
Ram, a member of the Schedule Caste community, under the 20 Point
Programme of the Government of India (Poverty Elevation Programme) and
he sold it to one Ram Lal Aggarwal in the year 1989, who further
transferred it to his son Anil Kumar Aggarwal in the year 1990.
Anil Kumar Aggarwal sold the same to appellant Ravinder Singh in the year
Respondent No. 1, who at the relevant time was holding a very
high position in the Central Government, claimed that initial transfer
by Anant Ram, the original allottee, in favour of Ram Lal Aggarwal was
he could not transfer the land allotted to him by the
Government under Poverty Elevation Programme and further that as the
said land had been encroached upon by his father, he had a right to
get his name entered in the revenue record.
Thus, it is clear that
the respondent no. 1, became the law unto himself and assumed the
jurisdiction to decide the legal dispute himself to which he himself
had been a party being the son of a rank trespasser.
Transfer by the
original allottee at initial stage, even if illegal, would not confer
any right in favour of the respondent no.1.
Thus, he adopted
intimidatory tactics by resorting to revenue as well as criminal
proceedings against the appellant without realising that even if the
initial transfer by the original allottee Anant Ram was illegal, the
land may revert back to the Government, and not to him merely because
his father had encroached upon the same.
25. The High Court has dealt with the issue involved herein and the
matter stood closed at the instance of respondent no.1 himself.
Therefore, there can be no justification whatsoever to launch criminal
prosecution on that basis afresh.
The inherent power of the court in
dealing with an extraordinary situation is in the larger interest of
administration of justice and for preventing manifest injustice being
Thus, it is a judicial obligation on the court to undo a wrong
in course of administration of justice and to prevent continuation of
unnecessary judicial process. It may be so necessary to curb the
menace of criminal prosecution as an instrument of operation of
A person cannot be permitted to unleash vendetta
to harass any person needlessly. Ex debito justitiae is inbuilt in the
inherent power of the court and the whole idea is to do real, complete
and substantial justice for which the courts exist. Thus, it becomes
the paramount duty of the court to protect an apparently innocent
person, not to be subjected to prosecution on the basis of wholly
In view of the above, the judgment of the High Court impugned
herein dated 14.12.2011 as well as of the Revisional Court is set
aside. Order of the Metropolitan Magistrate dated 13.8.2009 is
restored. The complaint filed by respondent no.1 under the provisions
of Section 3(1)(viii) of the Act 1989 is hereby quashed. The appeal
is thus allowed.
Before parting with the case, it may be necessary to observe
that any of the observations made herein shall not affect by any means
either of the parties in any civil/revenue case pending before an
(Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN)
(V. GOPALA GOWDA)
January 11, 2013