The Allahabad High Court, in noting the role of a magistrate, emphasized the necessity for a delicate equilibrium of prudence, discernment, and realism in deciding whether to proceed with criminal proceedings against an Individual under Sections 203 and 204 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC).

The Court allowed a Petition against the order of the Revision Court, that affirmed the summoning orders against the Accused under section 504 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), in response to a complaint.

The Court noted that Section 203 and 204 of Cr.P.C. are two sides of the same coin and the real test of a judicial mind lies in understanding the interplay between them.

There cannot be two opinions that a Magistrate shall not proceed in a casual and cursory manner. He is, of course expected to apply its judicial mind and the application of judicial mind suggests that he is well within his powers to go through the evidence for the purpose of ascertaining the credibility, truthfulness, inherent improbabilities, if any, although he has to refrain from threadbare analysis of evidence or splitting of hairs. A Magistrate ought to be prudent, a discerner and realistic. A fine balance has to be maintained in order to decide whether or not to proceed any further. Section 203 Cr.P.C and Section 204 Cr.P.C. are two sides of the same coin and here lies the real test of a judicial mind”, the Bench of Justice Jyotsna Sharma observed.

Advocate Manoj Kumar Mishra appeared for the Petitioner and Advocate Surendra Yadav appeared for the Respondent.

The Petitioner initiated an Article 227 petition to challenge the Trial Court's order, which summoned the accused under section 504 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), in response to a complaint filed by Dashrath Kumar Dixit. The complaint alleged the misuse of funds for handicapped welfare by Sangeeta J.K. and others.

The Petitioner claimed insult during an inquiry, misleading actions, and threats. Specifically, the Trial Court summoned only Sangeeta J.K., and the Petitioner contested both the summoning order and the Revisional Court's affirmation in the petition. The Petitioner sought the annulment of the orders and the quashing of the entire proceedings in the complaint case.

The Court framed the following issues:

Whether an offence under section 504 IPC is made out based on the statements of the complainant and witnesses, assuming their truthfulness;

Whether the learned Magistrate applied judicial discretion to attain the necessary satisfaction before deciding to take cognizance.

The Court emphasized the equivalence of the phrase 'sufficient ground to proceed' with the term 'satisfaction,' a prerequisite for the Court or Magistrate before issuing process under section 204 CrPC. Section 204 CrPC serves as the initial section in Chapter XVI, governing the commencement of proceedings before Magistrates. At this juncture, the Magistrate is urged to exercise caution before taking cognizance and proceeding against the accused.

Furthermore, the Court noted that the Magistrate is expected to apply judicial discretion as balancing the mandate to determine if an offence is disclosed with the prohibition against meticulous evidence analysis or a mini-trial. The Magistrate should avoid a casual and cursory approach, instead applying a prudent and realistic assessment of the evidence to decide whether to proceed further. Sections 203 and 204 CrPC constitute two sides of the same coin, representing the real test of a judicial mind.

The Court reiterated that during summoning, the trial Court must confine itself to the evidence presented by the complainant. However, when the accused is summoned and opts for revision, the revisional Court has an advantageous position, being able to hear both sides-complainant and the accused. This positions the revisional Court to form an independent perspective based on the available material.

The Bench emphasized the importance of the magistrate conducting an inquiry as outlined in Section 202 CrPC, highlighting the potential issues arising when the magistrate fails to fulfil this role, leading to a situation where a one-sided view may be taken based on plain statements from the complainant and witnesses.

Regarding the intentional insult under Section 504 IPC, the Court underlined that it must provoke the insulted person to break public peace or commit another offence. The only allegation was that, during an inquiry initiated based on multiple complaints against the accused and her society, Sangeeta J.K. stated in front of several others that the complainant was mad.

The Court noted that the circumstances indicated that this was a stray, carelessly made statement, not intended to incite a breach of peace. Even if, for argument's sake, these words were considered intentional insult, their degree did not appear sufficient to provoke a person to cause a breach of peace. The statement seemed to be an unintended, spontaneous remark in the informal atmosphere of the inquiry. While inappropriate and rude, the circumstances did not establish an intention to incite a breach of peace. The Courts involved in this case were considered to have failed to apply the law correctly.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Petition and set aside the impugned orders.

Cause Title: Judith Maria Monika Killer @ Sangeeta J.K. v State of UP and Another (2024:AHC:2907)

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