The Karnataka High Court recently held that magistrates have to record reasons and apply their mind while rejecting a 'B' summary report (closure report) filed by the police [Nagaraj Rao C.H. v. State By Its S.P.P. Bangalore]
Single-judge Justice M Nagaprasanna said that when a Magistrate does not accept the ‘B’ report and only accepts the version of the complainant and issues summons setting the criminal trial in motion, he has to apply his mind and give reasons for such a decision.
the judgment said that the order must bear the application of mind as to why ‘B’ report is not acceptable to the Magistrate and why the evidence and the complaint of the complainant is overwhelming order to demonstrate the application of mind, the order of the Magistrate has to contain reasons as it is the only way in which one can construe whether the Magistrate has applied his mind or not, the Court added.
The Court was hearing a plea by one Nagaraj Rao challenging the decision of the Magistrate to reject the B-summary report filed by the Police. He was booked for the offense of criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code.The genesis of the case was when the wife of the second respondent/ complainant, Manjunath borrowed money from Karnataka State Finance Corporation (KSFC) and established a printing business in Brahmavar town.
Pursuant to a default in repayment of the loan, the property was put up for auction and the petitioner was the highest bidder. Subsequently, the property was sold to him. However, Manjunath contended the said property was worth more than Rs 55 lakh and had been sold at Rs 29 lakh by KSFC. He, therefore, objected to the auction proceedings.
On November 13, 2009, Manjunath filed a complaint under section 506 of the Indian Penal Code (criminal intimidation) against Rao alleging that Rao had threatened him not to interfere with the auction proceedings. However, police filed a ‘B’ report, stating there was no evidence against Rao. The complainant then proceeded to file a protest petition against acceptance of the 'B' report.
The Magistrate recorded the sworn statement of the complainant and after examining the report, directed registration of a criminal case against the petitioner and issued a summons. Aggrieved by this, the petitioner moved to the High Court. Advocate KN Nitish, appearing for the petitioner contended that the complaint was motivated and was filed only because the petitioner had purchased the property which earlier belonged to the complainant. Pertinently, it was pointed out that the Magistrate, while rejecting the 'B' report, did not apply his mind with regard to the offense alleged and did not give any reasons for rejecting the closure report. Government Pleader BG Namitha Mahesh, on the other hand, argued that since the Police have conducted an investigation and the Court has not accepted the 'B' report, it is a matter for trial.At this stage, the Magistrate need not apply his mind as everything would be considered during the trial and the petitioner can prove his innocence in the trial court. The Court after examining the contentions noted that the respondent had registered a bald complaint after having lost his property at the auction order of the magistrate, the court opined, indicated non-application of mind. Merely because the complainant files a protest petition, the Magistrate should not sway in that direction, the Court said. The Magistrate has the obligation to examine the closure report, the evidence on record, and then set out reasons on why he is choosing to reject the closure report.
The court stated that merely because a complainant files a protest petition and gives a statement with regard to his protest petition, the learned Magistrate ought not to be swayed away by such a protest petition. It is incumbent upon the learned Magistrate to consider the 'B' report, protest petition, and the evidence on record and record his finding as to why he rejects the 'B' report and accepts the protest petition.At this juncture, the Court also pointed out another omission in the case. In the present case the allegation against the petitioner being a non-cognizable offense punishable under Section 506 of the IPC, the procedure under Section 155 of the Cr. P.C, ought to have been followed by the police. The registration of FIR could not have been done by the Police without at the outset referring the matter to the learned Magistrate.In this regard, the Court placed reliance on the Supreme Court order in the case of Chandrapal Singh And Others V. Maharaj Singh And Another, which said, The learned Magistrate before whom the proceedings are instituted must have exercised care and caution while taking cognizance of the allegation of such offense.
In normal circumstances, when the order taking cognizance bears the stamp of non-application of mind, the matter could be remitted back to the Magistrate for consideration afresh.
However, noting that there is an error even in the registration of FIR and the complaint itself was not linking even in the remotest sense to the offense alleged, the Court refrained from remitting the matter back to the hands of the Magistrate for fresh consideration, instead of proceeding to quash the case itself.