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when can a High Court quash an F.I.R.

Rupan Deol Bajaj v. K.P.S. Gill AIR 1996 SC 309: (1995) 6 SCC 194: (1995) 3 SCJ 518

FACTS
On July 29, 1988, Mrs. Rupan Deol Bajaj, an I.A.S Officer belonging to the Punjab Cadre and then working as the Special Secretary, Finance, lodged a complaint with the Inspector-General of Police, Chandigarh Union Territory alleging commission of offences under sections 341, 342, 352 354 and 509, IPC by Mr. K.P.S. Gill, the Director-General of Police, Punjab on July 18, 1988 at a dinner party. Treating that complaint as the First Information Report (FIR) a case was registered and investigation was taken up. Thereafter on November 22, 1988, her husband Mr. B.R. Bajaj, who also happens to be a senior I.A.S. officer of the Punjab Cadre, lodged a complaint in the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate for the same offences, alleging, inter alia, that Mr. Gill being a high-ranking Police Officer, the Chandigarh Police had neither arrested him in connection with the case registered by the Police on his wife’s complaint nor conducted investigation in a fair and impartial manner and apprehending that the Police would conclude the investigation by treating the case as untraced he was filing the complaint. On receipt of the complaint the Chief Judicial Magistrate transferred it to a Judicial Magistrate for disposal and the latter, in view of the fact that an investigation by the Police was in progress in relation to the same offences, called for a report from the Investigating Officer in accordance with section 210 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In the meantime, on December 16, 1988, Mr. Gill moved the High Court by filing a petition under section 482, Cr. P.C. for quashing the F.I.R. and the complaint. On that petition an interim order was passed staying the investigation into the F.I.R. lodged by Mrs. Bajaj.

The petition filed by Mr. Gill under section 482, Cr. P.C. came up for hearing before the High Court and was allowed by its order dated May 29, 1989 and both the F.I.R. and the complaint were quashed. Thus, the matter came up before the Supreme Court challenging the said order of the High Court.

ISSUE
Under what circumstances and in what categories of cases the High Court can quash an F.I.R. or a complaint in exercise of its power under article 226 of the Constitution or under section 482, Cr. P.C.?

JUDGMENT
In brief, the statements and allegations as contained in the F.I.R. would read thus:

(i) Around 10 P.M. Dr. Chutani and Shri Gill walked across to and sat in the ladies’ circle of the dinner party;

(ii) Mrs. Rupan Deol Bajaj, who was then talking to Mrs. Bijlani and Mrs. Bhandari, was requested by Mr. Gill to come and sit near him as he wanted to talk to her about something;

(iii) Responding to his such request when Mrs. Bajaj went to sit in a chair next to him Mr. Gill suddenly pulled that chair close to his chair;

(iv) Feeling a bit surprised, when she put that chair at its original place and was about to sit down, Mr. Gill again pulled his chair closer;

(v) Realising something was wrong she immediately left the place and went back to sit with the ladies;

(vi) After about 10 minutes Mr. Gill came and stood in front of her so close that his legs were about 4 inches from her knees;

(vii) He then by an action with the crook of his finger asked her to “get up immediately” and come along with him;

(viii) When she strongly objected to his behaviour and asked him to go away from there he repeated his earlier command which shocked the ladies present there;

(ix) Being apprehensive and frightened she tried to leave the place but could not as he had blocked her way;

(x) Finding no other alternative when she drew her chair back and turned backwards, he slapped her on the posterior in the full presence of the ladies and guests.

In State of Punjab v. Major Singh, AIR 1967 SC 63: 1967 Cr LJ 1, it was held that when any act done to or in the presence of a woman is clearly suggestive of sex according to the common notions of mankind that must fall within the mischief of section 354, IPC. Needless to say, the ‘common notions of mankind’ have to be gauged by contemporary societal standards.

Thus, the ultimate test for ascertaining whether modesty has been outraged in the action of the offender such as could be perceived as one which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman. When the above test is applied in the present case, keeping in view the total fact situation, it cannot but be held that the alleged act of Mr. Gill in slapping Mrs. Bajaj on her posterior amounted to ‘outraging of her modesty’ for it was not only an affront to the normal sense of feminine decency but also an affront to the dignity of the lady – “sexual overtones” or not, notwithstanding.

The sequence of events in the present case indicates that the slapping was the finale to the earlier overtures of Mr. Gill, which considered together, persuade the Court to hold that he had the requisite culpable intention. Even if it is presumed that he had no such intention he must be attributed with the knowledge that by slapping at the posterior of a lady he is likely to outrage her modesty, as the alleged act was committed by him in the presence of a gathering comprising the elite of the society. There is nothing in the F.I.R. to indicate, even remotely, that the indecent act was committed by Mr. Gill, accidentally or by mistake or it was a slip. For the reasons aforesaid, it must also be said that, apart from the offence under section 354, IPC, an offence under section 509, IPC has been made out on the allegations contained in the FIR as the words used and gestures made by Mr. Gill were intended to insult the modesty of Mrs. Bajaj.

Regarding the quashing of F.I.R. and the complaint by the High Court, the High Court has flagrantly disregarded the settled principle of law that at the stage of quashing an F.I.R. or complaint the High Court is not justified in embarking upon an enquiry as to the probability, reliability or genuineness of the allegations made therein. Of course as has been pointed out in State of Haryana v. Ch. Bhajan Lal, AIR 1992 SC 604: 1992 Cr LJ 527, an F.I.R. or a complaint may be quashed if the allegations made therein are so absurd and inherently improbable that no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused but the High Court has not recorded such a finding, obviously because on the allegations in the FIR it was not possible to do so. For the reasons aforesaid the High Court has committed a gross error of law in quashing the F.I.R. and the complaint. Accordingly, the impugned judgment was set aside and the petition filed by Mr. Gill in the High Court under section 482, Cr. P.C. was dismissed.

HELD
At the stage of quashing an F.I.R. or complaint the High Court is not justified in embarking upon an enquiry as to the probability, reliability or genuineness of the allegations made therein. An F.I.R. or a complaint may be quashed if the allegations made therein are so absurd and inherently improbable that no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Chandigarh was directed to take cognizance upon the police report in respect of the offences under sections 354 and 509, IPC and try the case himself in accordance with law.

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