The Rajasthan High Court deprecated the practice of taking cognizance by filling blank spaces in a printed pro-forma.

The Court also emphasized that the magistrate should not act as a mouthpiece or a post office for the prosecution but should apply a judicial mind at the stage of cognizance.

On a bare first look of the order taking cognizance, the Bench of Justice Anil Kumar Upman said, "It reveals that the judicial mind was not applied by the learned magistrate while taking cognizance. In printed pro-forma, cognizance has been taken by filling the blank spaces. Such practice adopted by the learned trial court cannot be endorsed rather it should be deprecated."

"Initiation of the criminal proceedings is not mere formality for the learned magistrates and when charge-sheet or complaint is submitted before them then learned magistrate is not to act as a mouth piece or as a post office for the prosecution," the Court said.

The Bench observed, "At the stage of cognizance, it is expected from the learned magistrate to examine the material produced by the investigation agency or complainant and to examine basic infirmities which appear in the prosecution case. It is true that at the stage of cognizance, meticulous examination of evidence is not required but for limited purpose of issuance criminal process, the learned magistrates are at least, required to apply judicial mind as initiation of criminal prosecution is a very serious issue because criminal action against a party means they have to deal with police, court hearings, loss of reputation and a variety of other kinds of pressure."

The Court was hearing a Criminal Writ Petition seeking the quashing of an FIR registered at Police Station Vaishali Nagar, District Jaipur, and all consequential proceedings arising from it, including the Order taking cognizance dated October 4, 2017 passed by the Additional Civil Judge cum Metropolitan Magistrate, Jaipur Metropolitan in Criminal Case No.670/17.

The Petitioners contended that the impugned FIR was filed with malice and ulterior motive due to strained relations between the couple. They alleged that false and frivolous allegations were made to humiliate and harass the husband and his relatives. The Petitioners argued that the police proceedings were illegal and violated mandatory sections of The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 .

After the charge-sheet was filed, the trial court took cognizance of the offences punishable under Sections 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 of the PITA Act on 04.10.2017. The Petitioners criticized the trial court for mechanically passing the order taking cognizance without applying its mind, merely filling in blanks in a stereotyped format .

The Court opined that merely filling up the date, name of the accused person/s, mentioning offences and case number in printed pro-forma and then putting signatures by the concerned Presiding Officer reflect complete non-application of mind because the cognizance order must reflect prima-facie opinion of the learned Magistrate on the material collected during investigation. "Order of issuance of process is not an empty formality as it may affect the personal liberty of a person. Article 21 of Constitution of India guarantees personal liberty of a person and same cannot be deprived of, without due procedure of law. Apart from this, summoning of accused to appear before criminal court after taking cognizance is a serious matter, affecting the dignity, self-respect and his/her image in society. Therefore, proper process by the criminal court must be followed at the time of taking cognizance and summoning the accused," it said.

Consequently, the Court partly allowed the Writ Petition and directed the Trial Court to pass a fresh order on the issue of cognizance in light of the legal principles laid down in relevant case laws. "The order taking cognizance dated 04.10.2017 passed by learned Additional Civil Judge cum Metropolitan Magistrate No.14, Jaipur Metropolitan in Criminal Case No.670/17 is quashed and set aside. The learned trial court is directed to pass a fresh order on the issue of cognizance in light of the law laid down in the afore-cited case laws," the Court ordered.

The Court further directed the Registrar General to circulate a copy of the order among all judicial magistrates of the Rajasthan State Judiciary to avoid the practice of filling in blanks in printed formats. "Registrar General is directed to circulate copy of this order among all judicial magistrates of Rajasthan State Judiciary, so that such practice of filling in the blanks in printed formats may be avoided," it ordered.

Cause Title: Prateek Sood and Others v. State of Rajasthan and Anr. [Neutral Citation: 2024:RJ-JP:19800]


Petitioner: Advocate Samarth Sharma

Respondent: Advocate M.K Sheoran (PP)

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