In the process of formation of opinion by the court that it is expedient in the interests of justice that an inquiry should be made into, the requirement should only be to have a prima facie satisfaction of the offence which appears to have been committed. It is open to the court to hold a preliminary inquiry though it is not mandatory. In case, the court is otherwise in a position to form such an opinion, that it appears to the court that an offence as referred to under Section 340 CrPC has been committed, the court may dispense with the preliminary inquiry.
Even after forming an opinion as to the offence which appears to have been committed also, it is not mandatory that a complaint should be filed as a matter of course. (See Pritish v. State of Maharashtra [Pritish v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 1 SCC 253: 2002 SCC (Cri) 140].) In the same decision, the Court also took note of the following observations made by a Constitution Bench of this
Court in Iqbal Singh Marwah v. Meenakshi Marwah, (2005) 4 SCC 370 in relation to the scope of Section 340 of the CrPC:
In view of the language used in Section 340 CrPC the court is not bound to make a complaint regarding commission of an offence referred to in Section 195(1)(b), as the section is conditioned by the words “court is of opinion that it is expedient in the interests of justice”. This shows that such a course will be adopted only if the interest of justice requires and not in every case. Before filing of the complaint, the court may hold a preliminary enquiry and record a finding to the effect that it is expedient in the interests of justice that enquiry should be made into any of the offences referred to in Section 195(1)(b). This expediency will normally be judged by the court by weighing not the magnitude of injury suffered by the person affected by such forgery or forged document, but having regard to the effect or impact, such commission of offence has upon administration of justice. It is possible that such forged document or forgery may cause a very serious or substantial injury to a person in the sense that it may deprive him of a very valuable property or status or the like, but such document may be just a piece of evidence produced or given in evidence in court, where voluminous evidence may have been adduced and the effect of such piece of evidence on the broad concept of administration of justice may be minimal. In such circumstances, the court may not consider it expedient in the interest of justice to make a complaint.” (emphasis supplied) Notably, however, the decision in Amarsang Nathaji did not take note of the contrary observations made in Sharad Pawar (supra).
. In any event, given that the decision of the three- Judge Bench in Sharad Pawar (supra) did not assign any reason as to why it was departing from the opinion expressed by a Coordinate Bench in Pritish (supra) regarding the necessity of a preliminary inquiry under Section 340 of the CrPC, as also the observations made by a Constitution Bench of this Court in Iqbal Singh Marwah (supra), we find it necessary that the present matter be placed before a larger Bench for its consideration, particularly to answer the following questions:
(i) Whether Section 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 mandates a preliminary inquiry and an opportunity of hearing to the would-be accused before a complaint is made under Section 195 of the Code by a Court?
(ii) What is the scope and ambit of such preliminary inquiry?
- Accordingly, we direct the Registry to place the papers before the Hon’ble Chief Justice for appropriate orders.
State of Punjab vs Jasbir Singh
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.335 OF 2020
(Supreme Court of India )