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Magistrates should exercise caution in applying judicial minds: SC

Supreme Court,india The Supreme Court has termed as “unfortunate” that in a number of cases, magistrates across India are not guided by concrete precedents set by it in exercising caution while applying their judicious mind.

Talking about the maxim that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done, the top court said the magistrates are expected to apply their independent mind while taking cognisance of a matter and such a view, should be reflected in the order.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana and S Abdul Nazeer termed it as “unfortunate” that a number of cases which are brought before the top court, reflect otherwise.

“We may note that the magistrates across India have been guided on a number of occasions by concrete precedents of this Court to exercise utmost caution while applying their judicious mind in this regard. Unfortunately, we may note that number of cases which are brought before us reflect otherwise,” it said.

“It is wrought in our constitutional tradition that we imbibe both substantive fairness as well as procedural fairness under our criminal justice system, … in the making of decisions which affect rights, interests and legitimate expectations, subject only to the clear manifestation of a contrary statutory intention,” the bench said.

The bench set aside the order of Madhya Pradesh high court on a land dispute by which it had set aside the order of a magistrate saying that cognisance should not have been taken of the complaint in violation of law.

After setting aside the order of high court, the top court remanded the matter back to the lower court for adjudicating the issue afresh.

The case related to a fraud and forgery complaint filed by a man under various provisions of IPC and SC/ST Act with a first class judicial magistrate at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh alleging that a piece of land was falsely mutated and threats were extended to belittle his caste.

The magistrate on April 21, 2012 dismissed the criminal complaint on the ground that there was no sufficient evidence on record to prove that the complainant belonged to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe and the dispute between the parties was of civil nature.

The magistrate’s order was challenged in the Sessions Court which on December 7, 2012, set aside the magisterial order and held that the man belonged to the scheduled caste community and the facts indicated that the land was transferred in an illegal manner. The sessions court had then remanded the matter back to trial court for further enquiry.

When the matter was remanded back, the magistrate on January 23, 2013, took cognisance and lodged the complaint.

However, the high court on July 8, 2014, quashed the order of cognisance passed by the magistrate and the Sessions Court order of remanding back the matter to trial court.

After perusing the order, the top court said “the observations made by the Sessions Court were only a justification for a remand and the same did not amount to taking cognisance. In view of the above, the High Court clearly misconstrued the Sessions Court order and proceeded on an erroneous footing,” it said.

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