[NI Act] Affidavit-Based Witness Evidence Is Acceptable For Section 202 CrPC Inquiry: Supreme Court Reaffirms
The Supreme Court has reaffirmed that for the Section 202, CrPC inquiry, the evidence of witnesses on behalf of the complainant can be taken through affidavits. In this case, the High Court had held that the failure to comply with the mandate of Section 202(1) CrPC rendered the process issuance illegal, leading to the order being set aside. However, the High Court had not specified any further action regarding the Section 202 inquiry.
A two-judge Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal relied on guidelines in In Re: Expeditious Trial of Cases Under Section 138 of N.I. Act, 1881, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 325, wherein it was held -
"For the conduct of inquiry under Section 202 of the Code, evidence of witnesses on behalf of the complainant shall be permitted to be taken on affidavit. In suitable cases, the Magistrate can restrict the inquiry to examination of documents without insisting for examination of witnesses."
In this case, the appellant, who is also the complainant, filed a complaint under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. The Judicial Magistrate issued process on the complaint on June 26, 2021. The High Court determined that since the respondent's office was located outside the Magistrate's jurisdiction, an inquiry under Section 202 of CrPC was necessary.
Advocate Shashibhushan P. Adgaonkar (AOR) appeared for the Appellants.
The Supreme Court noted that earlier the Apex Court, in In Re: Expeditious Trial of Cases Under Section 138 of N.I.Act, 1881, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 325 laid out guidelines for complaints under Section 138 of the NI Act. Among these guidelines, the Constitution Bench had directed that for the Section 202 inquiry, the evidence of witnesses on behalf of the complainant can be taken through affidavits. In some cases, the Magistrate may limit the inquiry to examining documents without insisting on witness examinations.
The Supreme Court modified the High Court's judgment relying on the above discussion. The trial Court was directed to proceed with the Section 202 inquiry as expeditiously as possible, adhering to the Constitution Bench's guidelines.
The appeal was partly allowed by the Court.
Cause Title: Vishwakalyan Multistate Credit Co-Op Society Ltd. v. Oneup Entertainment Private Limited