Making references to civil cases being passed off as criminal cases by persons with vested interests, Justice K Murali Shankar pointed out that there were instances when such persons rush to the criminal court in cases of civil nature where the police do not entertain the complaint, and files a petition under Section 156 (3) of CrPC that empowers the magistrate to investigate a criminal case where a cognisable offence is made out.
Citing such pleas moved under the section, the judge said, “Magistrates are duty-bound to see as to whether the averments in the petition would constitute cognisable offences and the same is supported by any materials. More importantly, mere allegation about the commission of the offence without any material in support thereof would not justify the order for investigation under Section 156 (3) CrPC.”
The magistrates should apply their mind to discern whether the allegations prima facie make out a criminal case. They should not mechanically pass orders directing the police to investigate the case. But if the allegations constitute a cognisable offence, then the magistrate is duty-bound to forward the complaint to the police for the registration of an FIR and further investigation, Justice Murali Shankar held.
The orders were passed on an appeal challenging a magistrate’s order refusing to order a probe on a complaint filed in 2016 alleging trespass, verbal abuse, hurt and criminal intimidation in a property dispute. The magistrate’s order, which was upheld by the single bench, had held the complaint to be of a civil nature stemming from a dispute over property rights.