The Supreme Court observed that the criminal prosecution should not be allowed to continue where object to lodge FIR is for recovery of money under coercion and pressure.

The court emphasized that the police must exercise heightened caution in case of dispute relating to unethical transactions between the private parties.

The Court was deciding a criminal appeal against the judgment of the Chhattisgarh High Court by which it dismissed a writ petition for quashing the criminal proceedings arising out of an FIR.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Satish Chandra Sharma observed, "We are of the view that such criminal prosecution should not be allowed to continue where the object to lodge the FIR is not for criminal prosecution and for punishing the offender for the offence committed but for recovery of money under coercion and pressure.."

As parting suggestions, the court observed further, "... the police should exercise heightened caution when drawn into dispute pertaining to such unethical transactions between private parties which appear to be prima facie contentious in light of previous inquiries or investigations. The need for vigilance on the part of the police is paramount, and a discerning eye should be cast upon cases where unscrupulous conduct appears to eclipse the pursuit of justice. This case exemplifies the need for a circumspect approach in discerning the genuine from the spurious and thus ensuring that the resources of the state are utilised for matters of true societal import.”

The Bench said that as a law enforcement agency, the police force shoulders the vital responsibility of preserving public order, guarding social harmony, and upholding the foundations of justice.

Advocate Sameer Shrivastava appeared for the appellants while Advocate Gautam Narayan appeared for the respondents.

Brief Facts -

A person (appellant) made a complaint to the Collector alleging that a woman (respondent) had allured him that she would secure a job for his brother as she had good contacts with higher officers and hence, demanded substantial amount for the same. He got allured and paid Rs. 80,000/- cash initially and later on further demand, he paid Rs. 20,000/-. When nothing happened and no job was provided to his brother, he approached her for returning his money upon which she threatened him of false implication and later she stopped responding to his calls.

The Collector referred the complaint to the Superintendent of Police and then a report was submitted by the Station House Officer. The report mentioned interesting facts, according to which, both parties were accusing each other of having extracted money for securing job for their relatives. Both alleged that false complaints were made against each other but on enquiry, both failed to provide any details of call records or conversations. Thereafter, an FIR was lodged by the woman aggrieved by which the man approached the High Court. However, his petition was dismissed and therefore, he was before the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case said, “… the current case, full of counter-accusations of financial impropriety and broken promises, highlights the complex matters that occasionally make their way into the hands of the police force. Beyond the immediate contours of the case, a broader question emerges regarding the balancing of interests that ought to be done between addressing unscrupulous private grievances and safeguarding public interests. From the counter-allegations levelled against each other between the parties in the present case, it becomes evident that the police finds itself entangled in the irrelevant and trivial details of such unethical private issues, diverting the resources away from the pursuit of more consequential matters.”

The Court added that the valuable time of the police is consumed in investigating disputes that seem more suited for civil resolution which underscores the need for a judicious allocation of law enforcement resources, emphasizing the importance of channelling their efforts towards matters of greater societal consequence.

“In the complaint made by the appellant in 2021 to the Collector an enquiry has been made by the Station House Officer of the Police Station concerned in which the fact that the respondent no.6 had stated that she had paid Rs.4 lacs to the appellant for providing a job to her daughter was recorded. This clearly means that respondent no.6 was well aware of the complaint made by the appellant and in the enquiry her statement had been actually recorded. The respondent no.6 therefore cannot raise a plea that she had no knowledge of the complaint made by the appellant. Despite the same she did not lodge any complaint against the appellant and his brother and waited for more than a year to lodge the FIR in July, 2022”, it noted.

The Court further took note of the fact that the job was to be provided by the appellant within three months but the respondent did not take any action for a period of three years when FIR was lodged and thus the same suffers from a serious delay which is unexplained.

“A reading of the entire material on record clearly reflects that it was totally an unlawful contract between the parties where money was being paid for securing a job in the government department(s) or private sector. Apparently, a suit for recovery could not have been filed for the said purpose and even if it could be filed, it could be difficult to establish the same where the payment was entirely in cash. Therefore, the respondent no.6 found out a better medium to recover the said amount by building pressure on the appellant and his brother by lodging the FIR. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, maybe the appellant would have tried to sort out and settle the dispute by shelving out some money”, it also said.

The Court observed that the conduct exhibited by the parties involved is tainted with suspicion, casting a shadow over the veracity of their claims and that the report from the previous inquiry reflects a convoluted landscape and unveils a trail of unethical, maybe even criminal, behaviour from both parties.

“The unexplained inordinate delay in bringing these allegations to the police’s attention despite knowledge of previous inquiry, raises even more doubts and adds a layer of scepticism to the authenticity of the claims. The facts stated, as well as the prior inquiry, reveal a shared culpability between the parties, indicative of a complex web of deceit, and unethical transactions where even civil remedies may not be sustainable. Thus, the object of this dispute, manifestly rife with mala fide intentions of only recovering the tainted money by coercion and threat of criminal proceedings, cannot be allowed to proceed further and exploit the time and resources of the law enforcement agency”, it noted.

The Court, therefore, concluded that such criminal prosecution should not be allowed to continue where the object to lodge the FIR is not for criminal prosecution and for punishing the offender for the offence committed but for recovery of money under coercion and pressure.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal and quashed the proceedings.

Cause Title- Deepak Kumar Shrivas & Anr. v. State of Chhattisgarh (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 117)


Appellants: AOR Sameer Shrivastava, Advocates Sangeeta Verma, and Shivendra Dixit.

Respondents: AOR Gautam Narayan, Advocates Asmita Singh, Harshit Goel, Sujay Jain, Sachin Patil, AOR Kailas Bajirao Autade, and Advocate Sunil Kumar Sethi.

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