The Bombay High Court held that a chamber of principal in college can be considered as a public place for the offence under Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The Nagpur Bench observed thus in a criminal writ petition challenging the judgment of the Additional Sessions Judge by which the order of the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) was set aside.

A Single Bench of Justice Anil L. Pansare held, “In the present case, abusive words uttered by the Respondent No.2 are, “Whether your wives had come to me for sleeping to tell you that I am of bad character,” … As regards public place, the act has been committed in the Respondent No.2’s Chamber, which is situated in the College premises. The College premises is admittedly a public place, as the students, teachers, staff and other such persons connected with the College have access to the building, in which the Chamber of the Principal is located. In that sense, the Chamber of the Principal could be said to be a public place. The Sessions Court, however, took an erroneous view that the Principal’s Chamber is not a public place.”

Advocate S.M. Vaishnav represented the petitioner while APP A.R. Chutke represented the respondents.

Facts of the Case -

The petitioner was a Librarian in a college and the respondent was Principal in the said college. According to him, the principal was habitual of using abusive and filthy language against him as well as the teaching staff. One day, he along with other give staff members preferred a complaint to the Vice Chancellor of a University complaining about the abusive behaviour of the principal. The principal was annoyed by such a complaint and only with a view to teach a lesson to librarian, he called him in the chamber where the Peon was also present.

The principal used filthy and abusive language against him and used terminology like, “you people have lodged complaint to the Vice Chancellor. I am capable of committing four murders and hence the Petitioner should be cautious.” He also questioned, “whether the Petitioner’s wife had been to him (Respondent No.2) to sleep to tell as to how bad he is.” Thereafter, a report was lodged with the Police Station and the same was registered under Section 155 of CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) for the offences punishable under Sections 504 and 506 of the IPC. The proceedings were registered as criminal revision application but the Sessions Court quashed the order of the Magistrate.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel noted, “The experience shows that the Investigating Officer would seldom approach the jurisdictional Magistrate and seek permission to investigate a non-cognizable case. In fact, I haven’t come across a case where the investigating officer has approached the Magistrate to seek such permission. The usual practice is to leave the things to the informant to take the case further, if he so desires. … In my view, this mindset should change. In appropriate cases, the Investigating Officer should approach the jurisdictional Magistrate and seek permission to investigate the offence. The question may come in the mind of the investigating officer as to what parameters should be applied to determine an appropriate case.”

The Court clarified that the appropriate case would be the one, in which the non-cognizable offence has been committed, not in the spur of moment but otherwise i.e., a case where the investigating agency need not approach the jurisdictional Magistrate to seek permission to investigate the crime and will be justified in leaving the things to be carried forward by of the informant, who may then file application under Section 155(2) of the CrPC with the jurisdictional Magistrate and seek direction against the investigating agency to investigate the offence.

“This act can be said to be an obscene act. The averments in the complaint allege that along with the Petitioner three more persons were present in the Chamber, and therefore, when the aforesaid abusive language used by the Respondent No.2 in presence of the other persons, the act committed can be said to be an obscene act committed to the annoyance of the others”, said the Court.

Before parting with the judgment, the Court commented upon the scope of Section 155 of CrPC. It said that as per Section 155(2), no Police Officer shall investigate non-cognizable case without the order of a jurisdictional Magistrate and the experience shows that the Investigating Officer would seldom approach the jurisdictional Magistrate and seek permission to investigate a non-cognizable case.

“The informant/complainant may also file complaint under Section 200 of the Code in this regard. Thus, there are two options available to the informant/complainant, one is to submit application under sub-section (2) of Section 155 of the Code seeking direction to investigate the offence; and the other is to file complaint under Section 190/200 of the Code”, further observed the Court.

The Court also noted that the petitioner chose to file complaint under Section 200 of the Code and the Investigating Officer concerned, for the reasons best known to him, firstly did not register the offence under Section 294 of IPC; and secondly, did not seek permission of the jurisdictional Magistrate to investigate the offence.

“Considering the ambiguous status, I deem it necessary to issue directions to the Director General of Police, State of Maharashtra, Mumbai to issue Circular/Notification stating therein that in appropriate cases (which should be made identifiable), the investigating agency should approach the jurisdictional Magistrate under sub-section (2) of Section 155 of the Code, seeking permission to investigate the non-cognizable offence. The investigating officer should be mindful of the fact that even the non-cognizable offences are punishable, and therefore, in appropriate cases, he is duty-bound to investigate even such offences and ensure that the investigation reaches logical end”, it directed.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the writ petition, set aside the judgment of the Sessions Court, and restored the order of JMFC.

Cause Title- Nitin Shivdas Satpute v. The State of Maharashtra & Anr. (Neutral Citation: 2023:BHC-NAG:17640)

Click here to read/download the Judgment