The Karnataka High Court in a case relating to the property dispute has quashed the proceedings against two accused persons on the ground that there was misuse of the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 i.e., SC/ST Act.

The Court was deciding a case wherein the petitioners were calling in question the proceedings pending before the Additional City Civil & Sessions Judge and Special Judge for the offences punishable under Sections 465, 468, 471, 420, 506 read with 34 of the IPC and Sections 3(1)(f), (p), (r), (s) and Section 3(2)(va) of the SC/ST Act.

A Single Bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna said, “In the light of the aforesaid facts, glaring enough they are, what would unmistakably emerge is that, this case would form a classic illustration of misuse of the provisions of the Act and the penal provisions under the IPC. It is such cases which clog the criminal justice system and consume considerable time of the Courts, be it the Magistrates Court, Court of Session or this Court, while genuine cases where litigants have actually suffered would be waiting in the pipeline.”

The Bench added that such cases, which on the face of it is an abuse of the process of the law, are necessarily required to be nipped, failing which, it would be a heavy burden on the criminal justice system, apart from it becoming a harassment to the petitioners and ultimately resulting in miscarriage of justice.

Advocate Irfana Nazeer appeared on behalf of the petitioners while HCGP Mahesh Shetty and Advocate Bharath Prakash G. appeared on behalf of the respondents.

Factual Background -

Several properties were purchased in joint names and one such property was the subject property of this dispute. The lands were converted from agriculture to non-agricultural purposes in 1970 and later a partition deed was registered. Several of the properties fell to the share of the complainant’s father and a sale deed came to be registered and pursuant to that, the father of the petitioners became absolute owner and was in possession of the property.

A suit was filed and then an application was filed by the complainant under Order 39 Rules 1 and 2 of the CPC seeking temporary injunction not to alienate or create any charge over the properties. On an allegation that the complainant was trying to continuously harass the petitioner by interference with their peaceful possession, the petitioners registered an independent suit seeking injunction against the complainant which was given by the court. But the complainant filed a complaint under SC/ST Act alleging that he belonged to SC category and hence, the petitioners approached the High Court.

The High Court in view of the above facts noted, “It is not one but there are several hues of abuses of the process of law in the case at hand. The afore-noted proceedings are all a matter of record. Therefore, knowing full well that the father of the complainant had sold the properties to the petitioners or the father of the petitioners, the crime comes to be registered contending that he is not aware of the same and, therefore, the documents are forged. All of them are registered public documents pursuant to which the petitioners or their father have been in possession of the properties for the last 50 years.”

The Court said that it is not understandable as to how a crime could be registered on the aforesaid facts and that the allegations are the ones punishable under Sections 465, 468, 471, 420 and 506 of IPC.

“Sections 465 to 477 all deal with forgery. How on earth forgery can now be alleged of public documents that have been in existence for the last 50 years is what becomes ununderstandable. There is no ingredient of any of the offences under Sections 465, 468 or 471 exist in the lis, be it in the complaint or in the summary of the charge sheet”, observed the Court.

The Court added that Section 3(1)(f) directs whoever wrongfully occupies or cultivates the land owned by a Scheduled Caste. It said that the petitioners are in possession of the property for the last 50 years and they are in peaceful enjoyment of their own land and, therefore, they have not wrongfully occupied the land belonging to either member of an SC or an ST.

“On the entire gamut of consideration made hereinabove, what would unmistakably emerge is misuse and abuse of the provisions of the Act. This case forms a classic illustration of scores and scores of cases where the provisions of the Act are misused for ulterior motives or pressurize the accused in collateral proceedings. Therefore, none of the offences either under the IPC or under the Act are present even on their foundational basis, let alone building a castle on such foundation”, held the Court.

The Court also observed that if further proceedings are permitted to continue, it would be putting a premium on the abuse of the process of law by the complainant in a manner which on the face of it is civil in nature.

“If the impugned crime is not a case where a civil proceeding is dressed with a colour of crime, I fail to understand what else it can be”, further noted the Court.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the criminal petition and quashed the pending proceedings against the petitioners.

Cause Title- Rasik Lal Patel & Anr. v. The State of Karnataka & Anr.

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