Power of Magistrate to dismiss private complaint which discloses no offence


Question: If a private complaint is given to the Magistrate which does not disclose any offence on the face of it, can the Magistrate straightaway dismiss the complaint without making any inquiries? Or, the Magistrate is required first to make some inquiries before he could dismiss the complaint?

Answer: The Magistrate has the power to take cognizance of a private complaint under the provisions of clause (a) of Section 190(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code. The relevant extract of this section is as under:

190. Cognizance of offences by Magistrates.— (1) Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, any Magistrate of the first class, and any Magistrate of the second class specially empowered in this behalf under sub-section (2), may take cognizance of any offence—

(a) upon receiving a complaint of facts which constitute such offence;

*** ***.”

So, what is required under Section 190(1)(a) is “…a complaint of facts which constitute such offence”. Therefore, it is essential that the complaint should mention facts which constitute offence. If the facts mentioned in the complaint do not disclose any offence, then there is no need for the Magistrate to take cognizance of such complaint. He may dismiss such complaint without making any inquiries.

In this regard, it may be pointed out that recently, in the case of Mehmood Ul Rehman v. Khazir Mohammad Tunda, (2015) 12 SCC 420, the Supreme Court held that:

“Under Section 190(1)(b) CrPC, the Magistrate has the advantage of a police report and under Section 190(1)(c) CrPC, he has the information or knowledge of commission of an offence. But under Section 190(1)(a) CrPC, he has only a complaint before him. The Code hence specifies that “a complaint of facts which constitute such offence”. Therefore, if the complaint, on the face of it, does not disclose the commission of any offence, the Magistrate shall not take cognizance under Section 190(1)(a) CrPC. The complaint is simply to be rejected.”

“The steps taken by the Magistrate under Section 190(1)(a) CrPC followed by Section 204 CrPC should reflect that the Magistrate has applied his mind to the facts and the statements and he is satisfied that there is ground for proceeding further in the matter by asking the person against whom the violation of law is alleged, to appear before the court. The satisfaction on the ground for proceeding would mean that the facts alleged in the complaint would constitute an offence, and when considered along with the statements recorded, would, prima facie, make the accused answerable before the court. No doubt, no formal order or a speaking order is required to be passed at that stage. The Code of Criminal Procedure requires speaking order to be passed under Section 203 CrPC when the complaint is dismissed and that too the reasons need to be stated only briefly. In other words, the Magistrate is not to act as a post office in taking cognizance of each and every complaint filed before him and issue process as a matter of course. There must be sufficient indication in the order passed by the Magistrate that he is satisfied that the allegations in the complaint constitute an offence and when considered along with the statements recorded and the result of inquiry or report of investigation under Section 202 CrPC, if any, the accused is answerable before the criminal court, there is ground for proceeding against the accused under Section 204 CrPC, by issuing process for appearance. The application of mind is best demonstrated by disclosure of mind on the satisfaction. If there is no such indication in a case where the Magistrate proceeds under Sections 190/204 CrPC, the High Court under Section 482 CrPC is bound to invoke its inherent power in order to prevent abuse of the power of the criminal court. To be called to appear before the criminal court as an accused is serious matter affecting one’s dignity, self-respect and image in society. Hence, the process of criminal court shall not be made a weapon of harassment.”

The above judgment of the Supreme Court, thus, settles this issue. The Magistrate may thus reject a private complaint if it does not disclose any offence on the face of it, without making any formal inquiry.

About Dr. Ashok Dhamija

Dr. Ashok DhamijaDr. Ashok Dhamija is a New Delhi based Supreme Court Advocate, holds Ph.D. in Constitutional Law, is author of 3 law books, and is an ex-IPS officer. He is the founder of this law portal. Read more by clicking here. List of his articles. List of his Forum Replies. List of his Quora Answers. List of his YouTube Videos.

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