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Sunday, 1 November 2020

Don’t lodge FIRs in civil disputes: High Court

Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 31

In a judgment which is liable to change the way the criminal justice delivery mechanism is overburdened with unjustifiable registration of FIRs in civil disputes, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the police department "at the appropriate level" to look into the matter before taking remedial steps.

Being painted as criminal acts

  • The direction came after the Bench took cognisance of the prevailing tendency to paint civil disputes as criminal acts
  • As of now, 6,21,162 cases are pending before the HC

"It is being noticed that in a number of cases involving pure and simple money recovery, specific performance issues or such matters, FIRs are being registered by the police authorities. In order to avoid harassment in the matters involving civil disputes, it is the need of the hour that the police department at the appropriate level looks into the process of registering FIRs, especially in matters having tone of a civil dispute," Justice Avneesh Jhingan asserted.

The direction by Justice Jhingan came after the Bench took cognisance of the prevailing tendency to paint civil disputes as criminal acts. As of now, 6,21,162 cases are pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Of the total, the number of pending criminal cases is 2,53,808. Though the exact number of cases with criminal complexion having civil overtone is hard to compute, it is believed that the figure is substantive.

Justice Jhingan asserted the endeavour was to somehow wriggle the other party in the criminal proceedings for applying pressure to settle the issue. The alternative route adopted was considered to be a shortcut to civil litigation.

Justice Jhingan said such tendencies had been deprecated by the apex court. The distinction between the civil dispute and criminal proceeding was no longer res integra or a case or a question that had not been examined. In fact, various apex court judgments had dealt with the issue. "Without making any further comments, it is expected that the matter would be looked into and necessary steps would be taken," Justice Jhingan asserted. The matter was brought to the HC's notice after an accused filed an anticipatory bail plea in a cheating and criminal breach of trust case registered on February 21 under Sections 406 and 420 of the IPC.

The Bench was told that an agreement to sell was entered for a property, which was subjudice and the complainant was been deprived of his money. Allowing the plea, Justice Jhingan asserted the matter had traits of a civil dispute.

from The Tribune

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