The Supreme Court upheld the summoning of a wife in a 'cheating' complaint filed by her husband.

The Court allowed the appeal filed by the husband who challenged the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court that upheld the Sessions Court order quashing the summoning order of the Trial Court under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the wife and Section 420 read with Section 120-B IPC against her family members.

The two-Judge Bench of Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice Rajesh Bindal noted, “The Sessions Judge failed to appreciate the fact that certain events had taken place thereafter, namely, apprising the appellant about the decree of divorce having been passed and showing the forged copy thereof to him on mobile. The Learned Sessions Court has considered the revision against the summoning order as if after trial the findings of conviction or acquittal was to be recorded. It was a preliminary stage of summoning.”

The Bench said that for summoning of an accused, prima facie case is to be made out on the basis of allegations in the complaint and the pre-summoning evidence led by the complainant.

Factual Background -

According to the complainant husband, the marriage between the parties was solemnized in 2018 but the respondent wife was already married and had not obtained divorce from her first husband. Having come to know about this, the appellant husband filed a petition under Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA) before the Principal Judge, Family Court. He sought annulment of marriage between him and the respondent. Subsequently, he preferred a complaint against the respondent and her family members in which the Magistrate directed issuance of process against the respondent for the offences punishable under Sections 494 and 420 read with Section 120-B IPC and against the family members under Section 420 read with Section 120-B IPC.

The aforesaid order was challenged by the accused persons (respondents) by filing a Revision Petition before the Additional Sessions Judge which was partly allowed by the Sessions Court. The impugned order of the Magistrate was set aside to the extent of taking cognizance of the offence under Section 420 IPC against the respondent and for the offence under Section 420 read with Section 120-B of IPC against the family members. The appellant challenged the order of the Sessions Court before the High Court but the same was upheld. Hence, he was before the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court in the above regard observed, “In a challenge by the appellant to the aforesaid order in the quashing petition, the High Court dismissed the petition without recording any reasons. … Considering the material on record, in our opinion the approach of the Learned Sessions Court and the High Court in setting aside the summoning order against the accused persons i.e. respondent nos.1,2 and 3 under Section 420 read with Section 120-B IPC is not legally sustainable.”

The Court concluded that prima facie case was made out for issuing process against the respondents to face trial for the offence under Sections 420 and 120B IPC for which they were summoned.

“The Trial Court shall decide the case on its own merits on the basis of the evidence led by the parties”, it directed.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal, set aside the orders of the High Court and Sessions Court, and restored the order of the Magistrate.

Cause Title- Aniruddha Khanwalkar v. Sharmila Das & Others (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 342)

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