Ghansham Dass vs Sham Sundar Lal

Punjab-Haryana High Court
Ghansham Dass vs Sham Sundar Lal on 4 January, 1982
Equivalent citations: 1982 CriLJ 1717
Author: M Punchhi
Bench: M Punchhi

ORDER M.M. Punchhi, J.

1. In this petition for revision, the summoning and charging of the petitioner to stand trial under Section 500, Indian Penal Code, has been challenged solely on the ground that the Magistrate took cognizance of the offence beyond the period of limitation. It stands undisputed that offence under Section 500, Indian Penal Code, can attract punishment to the accused up to two years’ simple imprisonment and the complaint has to be filed in Court within a period of three years from the date of the commission of the offence. The offence in the instant case was committed by the accused-petitioner on May 20, 1975 by lodging a First Information Report at the Police Station, allegedly containing defamatory statements against the complaint-respondent The trial on that First Information Report was launched in Court On July 13, 1977 but it ended in acquittal of the complainant-respondent on February 11, 1980.

2. Learned counsel for the petitioner contends that the Magistrate was required at the pre-cognizance stage to first settle the question of limitation, as prima facie, the complainant had disclosed that the period of limitation had been computed from the date of the acquittal though erroneously. Reliance has been placed on Surinder Mohan Vikal v. Aschari Lal Chopra 1978 Cri LR (SC) 158 : 1978 Cri LJ 764, where it has been held that the period of limitation commences from the date when the defamatory matter is publicised. In the instant case, it is the First Information Report dated May 20, 1975, which contained the defamatory material. Learned counsel for the petitioner also contends that from that date the complaint was undisputably beyond the period of limitation. It has further been maintained that even if the said statement was taken to be privileged and not published within the meaning of the expression known in Section 500, I. P. C the launching of the prosecution clinched the matter on July 13, 1977 and even then the complaint was filed beyond the period of limitation. On the other hand, learned Counsel for the respondent takes shelter in the provisions of Section 473, Criminal P.C. to contend that the period is extendable not only when the delay is explained but otherwise in the interest of justice. He, however, concedes that no formal application had been made to the Court for extending the period of limitation and the Court itself had not applied its mind with regard to proceeding in the complaint in the interest of justice.

3. Having noticed the respective contentions of the learned Counsel for the parties, it becomes patent that the Magistrate did not apply his mind at all to the question of limitation. This, he had to, at the pre-cognizance stage, which he failed. On his failure to do so, the proceedings become obviously without jurisdiction. Necessarily the sequential orders of summoning the accused-petitioner as also framing the charge against him are beyond jurisdiction and deserve to be quashed for these reasons. The course adopted is unexceptionable, 4 The next question which has been pressed into service by the learned Counsel for the petitioner is that the complaint itself should be thrown out as being beyond limitation, as wag done in Surinder Mohan Vikal’s case 1978 Cri LJ 764 (SC) (Supra). In that precedent it was mentioned that the complainant had not sought the benefit of Section 473, of Criminal P. C, which permitted the extension of the period of limitation in certain cases. It is on those facts that the Supreme Court quashed the order of the Magistrate taking cognizance of the offence against the appellant. The complaint, as such, can also be spelled as to have been left formally on the file of the Magistrate, but without any cognizance having been taken thereon. Learned counsel for the respondent says that if the complainant can now satisfy the Court, by giving reasonable explanation for the delay caused, or otherwise if the Court is satisfied that the complaint need be proceeded with in the interest of justice, it should be left open to the Court to do so. To this course, learned Counsel for the petitioner has objection on the strength of Krishna Singhi v. State of Madhya Pradesh 1977 Cri LJ 90. In that eventuality, the Magistrate will be required to call for the accused petitioner before condoning the delay on either cause.

5. It would seem to me that it would be futile to keep the complaint even on the file to be formally pending at the pre-cognizance stage, all the more when nearly seven years have elapsed from the date of the commission of the offence. There has to be an end to litigation at some point of time. If the complainant had failed to appreciate the starting point of limitation, there would be nothing now for him to explain the delay when he stands confronted that such period commences from the date of making the defamatory statement. There is nothing in the complaint, as also from the judgment of acquittal, to suggest that the interest of justice would require this old matter to be raked up for the sake of satisfying private vendetta. The complainant having neglected to explain the delay rightfully in the first instance cannot be permitted to do now.

6. For the foregoing reasons this petition is allowed. Not only are proceedings from the cognizance stage onwards quashed, but the complaint is dismissed as well. Ordered accordingly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s