Siddharth Mukesh Bhandari Versus The State of Gujarat and Anr

Siddharth Mukesh Bhandari Versus The State of Gujarat and Anr

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1044 OF 2022
Siddharth Mukesh Bhandari …Appellant(s)
Versus
The State of Gujarat and Anr. …Respondent(s)
WITH
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1045 OF 2022
Siddharth Mukesh Bhandari …Appellant(s)
Versus
The State of Gujarat and Anr. …Respondent(s)
AND
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1046 OF 2022
Siddharth Mukesh Bhandari …Appellant(s)
Versus
The State of Gujarat and Ors. …Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
M.R. SHAH, J.
1. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned interim order
dated 14.02.2022 passed by the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad in
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respective Special Criminal Application Nos. 9112 of 2019, 9111 of 2019
and 9475 of 2019 by which the High Court while admitting the special
criminal applications filed under Article 226 of the Constitution read with
Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) has granted the
interim relief and has stayed the further proceedings of respective
criminal inquiry cases against the respondents – accused and whereby
has stayed the further investigation with respect to the criminal
proceedings initiated by the petitioner- complainant against the
respondents – original writ petitioners before the High Court –
respondents herein – original accused, the original complainant has
preferred the present appeals.
2. At the outset, it is required to be noted that Special Criminal
Application Nos. 9111 of 2019 and 9475 of 2019 were arising out of FIR
being M. Case No. 2 of 2019 initiated by the appellant – original
complainant. Special Criminal Application No. 9112 of 2019 before the
High Court was arising out of FIR being M. Case No. 3 of 2019. The
private respondents herein – original accused approached the High
Court by way of Special Criminal Application Nos. 9112 of 2019, 9111 of
2019 and 9475 of 2019 to quash the criminal proceedings in exercise of
powers under Article 226 of the Constitution read with Section 482 of the
Cr.P.C. The said special criminal applications were filed before the High
Court on 01.10.2019. Before any further investigation was carried out by
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the Investigating Officer, the learned Single Judge of the High Court vide
common order dated 10.10.2019 passed ex-parte ad-interim order
directed that there shall not be any coercive steps taken against the
original writ petitioners – accused. The common interim order dated
10.10.2019 passed in the aforesaid special criminal applications was the
subject matter of special leave petitions before this Court. By order
dated 09.12.2019 while issuing notice to the respondents therein, this
Court stayed the interim order dated 10.10.2019.
In continuation of the order dated 09.12.2019, this Court passed a
further order on 17.12.2019 and observed that it shall be open for the
accused – respondents to seek anticipatory bail in accordance with law,
which may be considered expeditiously. Nothing is on record to show
that thereafter any further proceedings were initiated by the respondents
– accused seeking anticipatory bail. The special leave petitions filed
before this Court against the common order dated 10.10.2019 were
converted into Criminal Appeal Nos. 1657, 1658, 1659 and 1660 of
2021. By a detailed judgment and order dated 17.12.2021 and after
considering the decision of this Court in the case of M/s. Neeharika
Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. Vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors., AIR 2021
SC 1918, this Court quashed and set aside the interim orders dated
10.10.2019 passed in respective special criminal applications. Despite
the above order passed by this Court thereafter by the impugned orders,
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while admitting the respective special criminal applications, the learned
Single Judge of the High Court has again granted the impugned interim
reliefs staying further criminal proceedings and resultantly staying further
investigation. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied by the impugned
interim order passed by the High Court granting interim relief and staying
further criminal proceedings and resultantly staying further investigation,
the original complainant has preferred the present appeals.
3. We have heard Shri Harshit Tolia, learned Advocate appearing on
behalf of the petitioner – appellant – original complainant; Shri K.M.
Natraj, learned ASG appearing on behalf of the respondent – State of
Gujarat and Shri P.S. Patwalia and Shri Maninder Singh, learned Senior
Advocates appearing on behalf of the respondents – original writ
petitioners – respondents accused.
4. Shri K.M. Natraj, learned ASG appearing on behalf of the State,
has filed a Status Report on the investigation carried out by the I.O. after
the order passed by this Court dated 09.12.2019 staying the earlier
interim order passed by the High Court dated 10.10.2019. From the
Status Report, it can be seen that the actual investigation has started
only after June, 2020. Even thereafter also, the investigation can be
said to be proceeding in a snail pace. It appears that at every stage, the
investigation has been stalled. It can also be seen that the investigation
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has been stalled earlier and even thereafter pursuant to the impugned
order, which cannot be said to be in the interest of the prosecution
and/or investigating agency. As observed by this Court in the earlier
round of litigation (Criminal Appeal Nos. 1657, 1658, 1659 and 1660 of
2021), the investigating agency has the right to investigate the criminal
proceedings and only in rarest of rare cases, the same can be stalled
and/or stayed.
5. After making some submissions, Shri Maninder Singh and Shri
Patwalia, learned Senior Advocates, appearing on behalf of the original
writ petitioners – accused have stated at the Bar that they do not invite
any further reasoned order if this court is intending quashing and setting
aside the impugned interim order passed by the High Court dated
14.02.2022 passed in respective Special Criminal Application Nos. 9112
of 2019, 9111 of 2019 and 9475 of 2019. However, they have requested
for making suitable observations to the effect that the respective special
criminal applications be decided and disposed of in accordance with law
and on its own merits. In that view of the matter, we are not passing any
further detailed reasoned order while quashing and setting aside the
impugned interim order passed by the High Court. However, suffice is to
say that the learned Single Judge of the High Court has seriously erred
in passing the impugned interim orders, which can be said to be in the
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teeth of our earlier judgment and order in the case of M/s. Neeharika
Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra) and even in Criminal Appeal Nos. 1657
to 1660 of 2021.
6. It appears from the impugned order passed by the High Court that
the learned Single Judge has not properly appreciated and/or
considered our earlier judgment and order passed in M/s. Neeharika
Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra). Even the learned Single Judge has
also not properly understood the ratio of the decision of this Court in the
case of M/s. Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra). It appears that
the learned Single Judge seems to be of the opinion that after giving
reasons, the High Court can grant an interim stay of further investigation
in a petition seeking quashing of the criminal complaint filed under Article
226 of the Constitution read with Section 482 Cr.P.C. The High Court
has not properly appreciated the principles and the law laid down by this
Court in the case of M/s. Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra).
What is emphasized by this Court in the case of M/s. Neeharika
Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra) is that grant of any stay of investigation
and/or any interim relief while exercising powers under Section 482
Cr.P.C. would be only in the rarest of rare cases. This Court has also
emphasized the right of the Investigating Officer to investigate the
criminal proceedings. In our earlier judgment and order, in fact, we
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abstracted the principles laid down by this Court in the case of M/s.
Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra) in paragraph 4.
7. Despite the earlier judgment and order passed by this Court in the
very criminal proceedings quashing and setting aside the earlier interim
orders passed by the High Court, which came to be set aside by this
Court, again, the learned Single Judge has granted the very same
interim relief, which as observed hereinabove, can be said to be in teeth
of and contrary to our earlier judgment and order in the case of M/s.
Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. (supra). We are not observing
anything further as the learned Senior Advocates appearing on behalf of
the original writ petitioners – accused have prayed not to pass any
further reasoned order.
8. In view of the above stand taken by the learned Senior Advocates
appearing on behalf of the original writ petitioners before the High Court
and the private respondents herein – original accused recorded
hereinabove and the specific submission made, we set aside the
impugned order dated 14.02.2022 passed in respective Special Criminal
Application Nos. 9112 of 2019, 9111 of 2019 and 9475 of 2019. Meaning
thereby, there shall not be any interim relief during the pendency of the
aforesaid special criminal applications. The Investigating Officer is
directed to complete the investigation at the earliest and preferably
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within a period of three months from today and file appropriate
report/charge sheet before the concerned Criminal Court having
jurisdiction. It goes without saying that the High Court shall consider the
special criminal applications in accordance with law and on its own
merits. It is also observed that it will be open for the respective accused
– original writ petitioners to move appropriate applications for seeking
anticipatory bail, as we have observed so in our earlier order dated
17.12.2019 and, if filed, the same be considered in accordance with law
and on its own merits.
Present Appeals are Allowed accordingly. Pending application, if
any also stands disposed of.
………………………………….J.
 [M.R. SHAH]
NEW DELHI; ………………………………….J.
AUGUST 02, 2022. [B.V. NAGARATHNA]
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