‘Read Between The Lines’ Principle Of Quashing Criminal Cases U/S 482 CrPC

The Supreme Court, in its judgment delivered today in Achin Gupta vs State Of Haryana 2024 INSC 369, while quashing an FIR registered under Section 498A IPC reiterated its ‘read between the lines’ principle of quashing criminal proceedings.

Last year, in Mahmood Ali & Ors. v. State of U.P, it was observed thus: When an accused comes before the High Court, invoking either the inherent power under Section 482 CrPC or the extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, to get the FIR or the criminal proceedings quashed, essentially on the ground that such proceedings are manifestly frivolous or vexatious or instituted with the ulterior motive of wreaking vengeance, then in such circumstances, the High Court owes a duty to look into the FIR with care and a little more closely.

Justice JB Pardiwala, who authored the said judgment, observed that, in such a case, it will not be enough for the Court to look into the averments made in the FIR/complaint alone for the purpose of ascertaining whether the necessary ingredients to constitute the alleged offence are disclosed or not as, in frivolous or vexatious proceedings. The court owes a duty to look into many other attending circumstances emerging from the record of the case over and above the averments and, if need be, with due care and circumspection, to try and read between the lines, it was observed.

This principle has been reiterated today by the Supreme Court (judgment authored by Justice Pardiwala himself) while dealing with a case under Section 498A IPC.

“If the Court is convinced by the fact that the involvement by the complainant of her husband and his close relatives is with an oblique motive then even if the FIR and the chargesheet disclose the commission of a cognizable offence the Court with a view to doing substantial justice should read in between the lines the oblique motive of the complainant and take a pragmatic view of the matter”, the court said.

The Court said that if the wife on account of matrimonial disputes decides to harass her husband and his family members then the first thing, she would ensure is to see that proper allegations are levelled in the First Information Report.

“Many times the services of professionals are availed for the same and once the complaint is drafted by a legal mind, it would be very difficult thereafter to weed out any loopholes or other deficiencies in the same. However, that does not mean that the Court should shut its eyes and raise its hands in helplessness, saying that whether true or false, there are allegations in the First Information Report and the chargesheet papers disclose the commission of a cognizable offence..”, it added.

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