Magisterial Complaints: Section 200, Cr.P.C.

Section 200 of the Cr.P.C. provides as follows:

200. Examination of complainant. A Magistrate taking cognizance of an offence on complaint shall examine upon oath the complainant and the witnesses present, if any, and the substance of such examination shall be reduced to writing and shall be signed by the complainant and the witnesses, and also by the Magistrate: Provided that, when the complaint is made in writing, the Magistrate need not examine the complainant and the witnesses –

(a) if a public servant acting or – purporting to act in the discharge of his official duties or a Court has made the complaint; or
(b) if the Magistrate makes over the case for inquiry or trial to another Magistrate under section 192: Provided further that if the Magistrate makes over the case to another Magistrate under section 192 after examining the complainant and the witnesses, the latter Magistrate need not re- examine them.

These are some recent decisions discussing the scope of the provision.

Krishna Lal Chawla & Ors. v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr. [2021 SCC OnLine SC 191] (Supreme Court, 2-judge bench)

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The Appellants approached the Supreme Court in appeal against an Allahabad High Court judgment. The High Court had denied them the relief of quashing a summoning order passed against them in a complaint case initiated by the Appellants’ neighbour, with whom they had a history of prolonged litigation. On facts, the Supreme Court granted the Appellants relief. The Court held that:

“…on receipt of a private complaint, the Magistrate must first, scrutinise it to examine if the allegations made in the private complaint, inter alia, smack of an instance of frivolous litigation; and second, examine and elicit the material that supports the case of the complainant.” (para 14)

The Supreme Court further held:

Frivolous litigation should not become the order of the day in India. From misusing the Public Interest Litigation jurisdiction of the Indian courts to abusing the criminal procedure for harassing their adversaries, the justice delivery system should not be used as a tool to fulfil personal vendetta. (para 17)

As aforesaid, the trial courts and the Magistrates have an important role in curbing this injustice. They are the first lines of defence for both the integrity of the criminal justice system, and the harassed and distraught litigant. We are of the considered opinion that the trial courts have the power to not merely decide on acquittal or conviction of the accused person after the trial, but also the duty to nip frivolous litigations in the bud even before they reach the stage of trial by discharging the accused in fit cases. This would not only save judicial time that comes at the cost of public money, but would also protect the right to liberty that every person is entitled to under Article 21 of the Constitution. In this context, the trial Judges have as much, if not more, responsibility in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the citizens of India as the highest court of this land. (para 18)

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