The Himachal Pradesh High Court held that a person cannot be dragged to face a criminal trial just because he is instrumental in attestation of mutation based on the sale deeds obtained by fraud and manipulation committed by another accused person.

The Court held thus in the instant petition filed by the persons being co-accused in an FIR registered under Sections 420, 467, 468, and 471 read with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

A Single Bench of Justice Vivek Singh Thakur observed, “Only for the reason that petitioners were instrumental in attestation of mutation, on the basis of sale deeds obtained by fraud and manipulation committed by other accused persons, it cannot be a ground, in absence of material establishing conspiracy, to drag the petitioners to face trial, particularly when there is no evidence at all on record to establish a conspiracy between petitioners and other co-accused. In my opinion, there is no sufficient material to continue trial against the petitioners.”

The Bench said that it is not certain that the petitioners were also involved in the conspiracy.

Advocate R.D. Sharma appeared for the petitioners while Additional Advocate General Manoj Chauhan and Advocate Vijay Bir Singh appeared for the respondents.

Factual Background -

A criminal case was pending against the petitioners i.e., co-accused before the Judicial Magistrate First Class and hence, they were before the High Court for quashing and setting aside the proceedings against them. A complainant made a complaint to the police stating that his father was the owner of the land and he lived with him till his death in 2016. It was alleged in the complaint that in 2007, two persons in connivance with witnesses and scribe, prepared two false sale deeds and got them registered. Thereafter, they got mutations sanctioned and attested in their favour.

It was also alleged that the father of the complainant neither ever visited the Tehsil office nor executed the sale deeds in reference and signatures on the same were different than the admitted signatures of him. The accused persons somehow managed to get the photographs of the complainant’s father pasted on the sale deeds and committed fraud. As per the complainant, after his father’s death, he visited the village for attestation of mutation in his favour based on the will executed by his father and at that time he came to know that his father’s property was illegally transferred in name of the accused persons.

The High Court, in view of the facts and circumstances of the case, noted, “Mutations were attested on the basis of registered sale deeds and sale deeds were having photographs of a person impersonated as Dharam Singh and on comparison of photograph with the person who attended the Court, it was likely to give an impression that vendor was present in person whose photograph was there on the sale deeds. Moreover, vendor was identified by Chowkidar Gian Chand, who was expected to know all persons of his area.”

The Court added that in such eventuality, it cannot be said that the petitioners were acting in furtherance of criminal conspiracy, though it can be said that there should have been more careful scrutiny of the material placed before them, identification of vendor by local Chowkidar. It also said that it is natural that someone may prefer to verify the facts further, whereas, other person may be satisfied with material placed before him about genuineness of sale deeds as well as persons appearing before him for attestation of mutation based on the registered sale deed.

“In aforesaid facts and circumstances and material available on record, I am of the considered opinion that it is a case where not only a prima facie case is not made out, but ex facie petitioners appear to be innocent. On the basis of record made available, no sufficient material is there to continue proceedings against the petitioners”, the Court concluded.

Accordingly, the High Court disposed of the petition and quashed the FIR against the petitioners.

Cause Title- Jai Pal & Others v. State of Himachal Pradesh & Another (Neutral Citation: 2023:HHC:14382)

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