The Supreme Court observed that the trial court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain a protest petition contesting its earlier order taking cognizance and modify the earlier order by taking cognizance against more accused.

The Trial Court had first taken cognizance only against one Accused and then against the rest of the Accused after the filing of the protest petition. The Supreme Court allowed the Criminal Appeal challenging the High Court's order upholding the Trial Court's order. The Supreme Court held that the further order of taking cognizance against the rest of the Accused was without due jurisdiction.

The Bench comprising Justice Abhay S.Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal observed, "Such a course was not permissible as it was not open for the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate to entertain a protest petition against his earlier order of taking cognizance. ........ there is no power conferred on the learned Judicial Magistrate to modify earlier order of taking cognizance".

The Court further held, “By referring to the decision of this Court in the case of Nupur Talwar (supra), the High Court observed that it is well settled that once protest petition is filed, depending upon the facts of the case, the Court can proceed on the basis of that protest petition and follow the procedure prescribed under Sections 200 and 202 of the CrPC. In this case, the Court was dealing with a completely different case where protest petition was filed against an order taking cognizance”.

Advocate Mrigna Shekhar appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Vishnu Sharma appeared for the State.

An FIR was filed by the now-deceased Dhananjay Singh, for offences under Sections 326, 307, read with Sections 34 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), and Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959 (AA). The primary accusation in the FIR was directed towards Gupteshwar Singh, with the Appellant being implicated merely for his presence at the crime scene. Subsequently, a charge sheet was filed against all four accused individuals. Following an order from the Chief Judicial Magistrate, the Crime Investigation Department (CID) conducted a reinvestigation and submitted a charge sheet.

The CID's final report indicated a lack of incriminating evidence against the Appellants. However, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, relying on the CID's initial charge sheet, took cognizance against Gupteshwar Singh for offences under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act. In response, a protest petition was filed by the deceased's family, alleging collusion between the CID and the appellants. The protest petition challenged the cognizance order against one accused. They contested that cognizance ought to have been taken against all four individuals. Subsequently, the Chief Judicial Magistrate issued another order on taking cognizance against the rest of the Appellants. Aggrieved, the Appellants challenged the Court before the High Court. The High Court rejected the Appellant's petition. The Appellants then approached the Apex Court challenging the High Court's order.

The Court observed that the lower court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain a protest petition challenging its previous order to proceed with the case. Additionally, it pointed out that the lower court had erred in relying on a case that was irrelevant to the case's facts.

Furthermore, the Court remarked that the High Court had overlooked pertinent legal considerations. The Court referred to the decision in the case of Nupur Talwar v CBI and Anr [(2012) 2 SCC 188]. The Court reiterated that upon the filing of a protest petition, the court is authorized to initiate proceedings based on its contents. Subsequently, following the specifics of the case, the Court may then adhere to the procedural framework outlined in Sections 200 and 202 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Appeal and set aside the impugned order.

Cause Title: Ramakant Singh & Ors. v The State Of Jharkhand & Anr (2023 INSC 1002)

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