Can civil and criminal proceedings be conducted simultaneously in the same matter?

Can civil and criminal proceedings be conducted simultaneously in the same matter?


Question: Is it possible to file civil and criminal proceedings in the same matter together? In my case, a particular document is forged. I need to file an FIR in respect of such forgery. At the same time, I need to file a civil suit against the opposite party to enforce my rights against the said forged document. Can I file both these proceedings together? If a chargesheet is subsequently filed in the said FIR which I intend to register now in respect of the said forgery, will the trial court proceed with the criminal proceedings at a time when simultaneous civil proceedings are being conducted in respect of the same forged document?

Answer: Yes, it is possible to simultaneously proceed with civil proceedings and criminal proceedings in the same matter, because these are proceedings of different types. The purpose and objective of conducting these proceedings are different.

In fact, in the case of Syed Askari Hadi Ali Augustine Imam v. State (Delhi Admn.), (2009) 5 SCC 528, the Supreme Court has held that:

“Indisputably, in a given case, a civil proceeding as also a criminal proceeding may proceed simultaneously. Cognizance in a criminal proceeding can be taken by the criminal court upon arriving at the satisfaction that there exists a prima facie case.”

The Supreme Court further held that the question as to whether in the facts and circumstances of the case one or the other proceedings would be stayed would depend upon several factors including the nature and the stage of the case. The court further observed that it is, however, now well settled that ordinarily a criminal proceeding will have primacy over the civil proceeding. Precedence to a criminal proceeding is given having regard to the fact that disposal of a civil proceeding ordinarily takes a long time and in the interest of justice the former should be disposed of as expeditiously as possible.

In M.S. Sheriff v. State of Madras, AIR 1954 SC 397, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, while dealing with a question as to whether a civil suit or a criminal case should be stayed in the event both are pending, held that the criminal matter should be given precedence. In regard to the possibility of conflict in decisions if both proceedings are held, it was held that the law envisages such an eventuality when it expressly refrains from making the decision of one court binding on the other or even relevant, except for certain limited purposes, such as sentence or damages. It was held that the only relevant consideration was the likelihood of embarrassment.

In view of these, depending upon facts and circumstances of the case, it may be possible for you to file FIR in the matter of forged document and initiate the criminal proceedings in respect of that, and at the same time to file a civil suit to protect your rights or enforce your rights against such forged document. There is no bar in the law to these two types of proceedings being held simultaneously in a given matter.

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