KANCHAN KUMAR VERSUS THE STATE OF BIHAR

KANCHAN KUMAR VERSUS THE STATE OF BIHAR 

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.  1562 OF 2022
ARISING OUT OF SLP (CRL) NO. 9601 OF 2016
KANCHAN KUMAR                 ...APPELLANT
VERSUS
THE STATE OF BIHAR      ...RESPONDENT

J U D G M E N T
PAMIDIGHANTAM SRI NARASIMHA J. 
1.  Leave granted.
2. This   appeal   is  against   the  concurrent   dismissals  by  the
Trial1
 and the High Court2
 of the application for discharge filed by
the   Appellant   under   Section   227   of   the   Code   of   Criminal
Procedure, 19733
.
1 Special Judge (Vigilance), Patna, in Special Case No. 9 of 2000 dated 28.03.2016. 
2 High Court of Judicature at Patna, in Criminal Miscellaneous No. 23031 of 2016 dated
05.10.2016.
3 hereinafter referred to as the ‘Cr.P.C.’
Page 1 of 16
3.  Facts   leading  to  the  filing  of  this  Appeal:  The Appellant
joined the Bihar State Financial Corporation4
 in the capacity of
an Assistant General Manager on 19.07.1974. After a period of
thirteen years, in 1987, a complaint came to be filed against the
Appellant for having allegedly purchased three houses and two
pieces of land in Bihar, which according to the complainant, was
disproportionate to Appellant’s known sources of income. This
complaint was inquired into, and after a detailed investigation,
the allegations were found to be false. Except for a residential
house   in   Patna,   which   the   Appellant   had   purchased   on
29.08.1988 for Rs. 2,26,500 with the help of a loan from the
BSFC, no other assets could be traced to the ownership of the
Appellant. However, despite finding no merit in the allegation, the
investigation was kept pending. 
4. In the meanwhile, life moved on and in 1996, the Appellant
joined the Oil and Natural Gas Commission5
 as Deputy General
Manager on deputation, keeping his lien with the BSFC.   Four
years after joining ONGC, an FIR came to be registered against
him   on   21.02.2000,  under   Sections   13(l)(d)   and   13(2)   of   the
4 hereinafter referred to as ‘the BSFC’.
5 hereinafter referred to as ‘the ONGC’.
Page 2 of 16
Prevention of Corruption Act, 19886
, on the same allegation that
he possessed assets disproportionate to his known sources of
income. These alleged assets were purportedly acquired during
his tenure with the BSFC, and consequently, the check period in
the   FIR   was   considered   from   the   date   he   joined   BSFC,   i.e.,
19.07.1974 to the date of registration of the residential house
purchased by him, i.e., 29.08.1988. The Appellant wrote a letter
to   the   Director   General   of   Police   (Vigilance),   Patna,   on
18.04.2002, raising a grievance that the calculations in the FIR
undervalued   his   income   and   overvalued   his   assets,   thus
depicting a false and inflated account of his expenditure.
5. Eventually a charge sheet came to be filed on 11.09.2007,
i.e., about seven years after the registration of the FIR, and in
fact, twenty years after the complaint on this very allegation was
found  to  be  false  by the  authorities.  Be that  as  it  may,  the
charge­sheet filed against the Appellant indicated that he earned
a total income of Rs. 3,01,561 and incurred an expenditure of Rs.
5,24,386 during the check period. In view of this, the charge
against   the   Appellant   was   of   having   amassed  Rs.   2,22,825,
disproportionate to his known sources of income.  The charge6 hereinafter referred to as the ‘PC Act’.
Page 3 of 16
sheet indicated two components of his income, being ­ i) savings
of Rs. 1,13,081 (1/3rd of his salary), and ii) home and car loan
from BSFC worth Rs. 1,88,480. On the other hand, the charge
sheet   included   six   components   of   his   expenditure,  being   –   i)
payment of Rs. 2,26,500 towards the construction of his house,
ii) general expenditure during the check period of Rs. 24,800, iii)
amount in bank deposit worth Rs. 55,000, iv) loan repayment of
Rs. 53,467, v) LIC deposit worth Rs. 6,057, and vi) estimated
value of articles found during a search conducted on 21.02.2000,
as being Rs. 1,58,562.
6. At the relevant stage, the Appellant applied for discharge
under “Section 239” of the Cr.P.C (which should have been under
Section 2277
) before the Court of Special Judge (Vigilance), Patna,
alleging   that   there   were   glaring   errors   in   the   calculation.
However, the Court summarily dismissed the application by  its
order   dated   28.03.2016,   without   analysing   or   examining   the
documents produced and the arguments advanced. The Court
held that:
7 Though the Appellant stated that the application is under Section 239 of the Cr.P.C., as
Special   Judges  appointed   under  the   PC  Act   are  deemed   to  be   Court  of   Session,  the
discharge application should have been filed under Section 227 of the Cr.P.C., and not
under Section 239 therein. The Ld counsel for the Appellant Shri Sunil Kumar, Senior
Advocate clarified this position of law while making his submissions.
Page 4 of 16
“Perused the record and I find that there is
sufficient materials against accused in this case
at   least   prima   facie   at   this   stage   to   frame
charge against the accused against whom there
is allegation that he during the check period
amassed. Although certain explanations have
been advanced by the learned counsel for the
petitioner but the same appears to be looked
into and appreciated during the course of trial
when the accused petitioner wife have a chance
to   prevents   innocence   producing   his   oral   or
documentary evidences. For the present I am
not satisfied with the explanation so produced
by the accused in his favour in support of his
discharge application.
Considering   the   aforesaid   facts   and
circumstances   the   charge   petition   of   the
accused petitioner namely Kanchan Kumar is
hereby   rejected.   Put   up   on   22.04.2016   for
framing of charge. The accused is directed to
remaining   physically   present   on   the   date   so
fixed by this court for framing of charge.”
7. Aggrieved by the dismissal of his application for discharge,
the   Appellant   moved   the   High   Court.   After   recounting   the
chronology   of   events,   the   High   Court   proceeded   to   quote
judgment   after   judgment,   and   finally   dismissed   the   revision
application by merely holding that: 
“15.  In   the   aforesaid   circumstances,   even   if
considering the submissions made on behalf of
petitioner,   for   argument’s   sake   needs   proper
verification   attracting   roving   enquiry   which
could be permissible only during course of trial.
Page 5 of 16
16. Much emphasis has been laid at the end of
the petitioner relating to valuation. With the cost
of repetition, the contention of the petitioner is
that as the raid was conducted on 21.02.2000,
on account thereof, the valuation having been
shown against the article so seized at the end
of the Vigilance must be considered to be in
consonance   with   the   date   of   recovery.   That
argument   happens   to   be   fallacious   in   the
background of the fact that from the case diary,
it is evident that valuation has been estimated
only. There happens to be complete absence of
prima facie material whereupon one could infer
that the value so affixed at that very moment
was   prevailing   rate   on   the   alleged   date   of
seizure. Furthermore, to ascertain genuineness
on this score will again attract roving enquiry
which for the present stage is found forbidden. 
17. Consequent thereupon, the instant petition
is  found  devoid  of  merit  and  is, accordingly,
rejected.”
8. It   is   against   the   aforesaid   order   that   the   Appellant   has
approached this Court.  
9. Submissions of parties: The Ld. Senior Counsel Shri Sunil
Kumar has submitted that the basic objection relating to the
calculation and wrongful inclusion of certain items was sufficient
for the Trial Court to discharge the Appellant. In a simple and
straight forward submission, he took us through certain glaring
errors that were evident from the record of the case before the
Page 6 of 16
Special Judge (Vigilance). In support of his submissions, he also
referred to the decisions of this Court in Union of India v. Prafulla
Kumar Samal and Anr.8
 and Ghulam Hassan Beigh v. Mohammad
Maqbool Magrey9
.
10. The counsel for the Respondent Shri Abhinav Mukerji AOR,
has contended that the Trial Court was right in dismissing the
discharge application. He submitted that the Courts could not
have   conducted   a   roving   inquiry   while   adjudicating   an
application under Section 239 of the Cr.P.C.
11. Issue:  The   short   question   arising   for   consideration   is
whether   the   Appellant   is   entitled   to   be   discharged   of   the
proceedings initiated against him under the PC Act. 
12. Legal provision and precedents: Section 227 of the Cr.P.C
relating to discharge is as under: 
“227.  Discharge  —  If, upon consideration of
the   record   of   the   case   and   the   documents
submitted   therewith,   and   after   hearing   the
submissions of the accused and the prosecution
in this behalf, the Judge considers that there is
not sufficient ground for proceeding against the
accused, he shall discharge the accused and
record his reasons for so doing.”
8 (1979) 3 SCC 4.
9 2022 SCC OnLine SC 913.
Page 7 of 16
13. The   threshold   of   scrutiny   required   to   adjudicate   an
application under Section 227 of the Cr.P.C., is to consider the
broad probabilities of the case and the total effect of the material
on record, including examination of any infirmities appearing in
the case.  In Prafulla Kumar Samal (supra), it was noted that:
“10. Thus, on a consideration of the authorities
mentioned   above,   the   following   principles
emerge:
(1)   That   the   Judge   while   considering   the
question   of   framing   the   charges   under
Section 227 of the Code has the undoubted
power to sift and weigh the evidence for the
limited purpose of finding out whether or not
a prima facie case against the accused has
been made out.
(2)   Where   the   materials   placed   before   the
Court   disclose   grave   suspicion   against   the
accused   which   has   not   been   properly
explained the Court will be fully justified in
framing a charge and proceeding with the
trial.
(3) The test to determine a prima facie case
would   naturally   depend   upon   the   facts   of
each case and it is difficult to lay down a
rule of universal application. By and large
however if two views  are  equally possible
and the Judge is satisfied that the evidence
produced   before   him   while   giving   rise   to
some   suspicion   but   not   grave   suspicion
against the accused, he will be fully within
his right to discharge the accused.
Page 8 of 16
(4)  That in exercising his jurisdiction under
Section   227   of   the   Code   the   Judge   which
under   the   present   Code   is   a   senior   and
experienced   court   cannot   act   merely   as   a
Post   Office   or   a   mouthpiece   of   the
prosecution, but has to consider the broad
probabilities of the case, the total effect of the
evidence and the documents produced before
the Court, any basic infirmities appearing in
the case and so on. This however does not
mean that the Judge should make a roving
enquiry into the pros and cons of the matter
and   weigh   the   evidence   as   if   he   was
conducting a trial.”      
                                        (emphasis supplied)
14. In  Sajjan  Kumar  v.  Central  Bureau  of  Investigation10
,  the
Court cautioned against accepting every document produced by
the prosecution on face value, and noted that it was important to
sift the evidence produced before the Court. It observed that:
“21.  On consideration of the authorities about
the scope of Sections 227 and 228 of the Code,
the following principles emerge:
...
(v) At the time of framing of the charges, the
probative value of the material on record cannot
be gone into but before framing a charge the
court   must   apply   its   judicial   mind   on   the
material placed on record and must be satisfied
that the commission of offence by the accused
was possible.
(vi) At the stage of Sections 227 and 228, the
court is required to evaluate the material and
10 (2010) 9 SCC 368.
Page 9 of 16
documents on record with a view to find out if
the facts emerging therefrom taken at their face
value   disclose   the   existence   of   all   the
ingredients constituting the alleged offence. For
this   limited   purpose,   sift   the   evidence   as   it
cannot be expected even at that initial stage to
accept all that the prosecution states as gospel
truth even if it is opposed to common sense or
the broad probabilities of the case...” (emphasis
supplied)
15. Summarising the principles on discharge under Section 227
of   the   Cr.P.C,   in  Dipakbhai   Jagdishchandra   Patel  v.  State   of
Gujarat,
11 this Court recapitulated:
“23. At   the   stage   of   framing   the   charge   in
accordance with the principles which have been
laid   down   by   this   Court,   what   the   court   is
expected to do is, it does not act as a mere post
office. The court must indeed sift the material
before it. The material to be sifted would be the
material which is produced and relied upon by
the   prosecution.   The   sifting   is   not   to   be
meticulous in the sense that the court dons the
mantle   of   the   trial   Judge   hearing   arguments
after   the   entire   evidence   has   been   adduced
after a full­fledged trial and the question is not
whether the prosecution has made out the case
for   the   conviction   of   the   accused.  All   that   is
required is, the court must be satisfied that with
the materials available, a case is made out for
the accused to stand trial. A strong suspicion
suffices. However, a strong suspicion must be
founded on some material. The material must
be such as can be translated into evidence at
11 (2019) 16 SCC 547.
Page 10 of 16
the stage of trial. The strong suspicion cannot
be the pure subjective satisfaction based on the
moral notions of the Judge that here is a case
where   it   is   possible   that   the   accused   has
committed the offence. Strong suspicion must be
the   suspicion   which   is   premised   on   some
material which commends itself to the court as
sufficient to entertain the prima facie view that
the   accused   has   committed   the   offence.”
(emphasis supplied)
16.1 Analysis:  Without getting into too many details, we
consider it to be appropriate and in fact sufficient to confine our
inquiry to three heads of expenditure indicated in the chargesheet itself. This limited inquiry will also satisfy the requirements
of Section 227 of the Cr.P.C. 
16.2 The first objection pertains to the inclusion an amount
of Rs. 55,000, recorded as the balance amount in the Appellant’s
bank account during the check period, and accordingly counted
as   an   expenditure   in   the   charge   sheet.   However,   the   Bank
Passbook   filed   by   the   Appellant,   which   was   available   to   the
Investigation Officer and the Special Judge (Vigilance), evidently
records a balance amount of only Rs. 11,998 during the checkperiod. The difference in the figures was not explained by the
Prosecution. Accordingly, the Special Judge (Vigilance) and the
Page 11 of 16
High Court failed to reconcile such a simple and straightforward
inconsistency in the Prosecution’s evidence. We are of the opinion
that only an amount of Rs. 11,998, recorded in the Appellant’s
Bank Passbook during the check­period as the balance amount,
is validly admissible as expenditure under this head.
16.3 The second objection relates to  the inclusion  of an
amount of Rs. 53,467 as expenditure towards repayment of the
loan from the BSFC. However, the amount repaid towards loan
instalments was already deducted from Appellant’s gross salary,
and the deducted figure was recorded as the total disposable
income with the Appellant during the check period. Hence, the
loan repayment cannot be separately counted as an expenditure
yet again. This is a glaring mistake. The Special Judge (Vigilance)
as well as the High Court did not consider this objection on the
ground   that   a   roving   inquiry   is   not   permissible   the   stage   of
discharge. 
16.4 The   third   objection   relates   to   the   inclusion   of   Rs.
1,58,562 as   the   value   of   the  articles   found   during   a   search
conducted in Appellant’s house on 21.02.2000, twelve years after
the check period of 1974 to 1988. There is nothing to indicate,
Page 12 of 16
even prima facie, that these articles found during the search in
the year 2000 were acquired during the check period. In the
absence of any material to link these articles as having been
acquired during the check period, it is impermissible to include
their value in the expenditure. We are therefore of the opinion
that the Appellant’s objection about inclusion of this amount in
the list of expenditure is fully justified. Unfortunately, even this
objection, which did not require much scrutiny of the material on
record, was not considered by the Special Judge (Vigilance) or the
High Court.
17.  The three heads of expenditure discussed hereinabove must
be excluded from Appellant’s total alleged expenditure during the
check   period.   First,   the   Appellant’s   actual   balance   amount
reflected in the Bank Passbook, i.e., Rs. 11,998, as against the
purported account balance of Rs. 55,000, must be taken into
account. Further, the second and third amounts, as indicated
above,   must   be   excluded   from   Appellant’s   total   expenditure
mentioned in the charge­sheet. Accordingly, the total expenditure
comes only to Rs. 2,69,355, and not Rs. 5,24,386, which is based
on certain mistakes that we have indicated hereinabove. It is this
Page 13 of 16
expenditure of Rs. 2,69,355 which is to be contrasted with the
income   of   Rs.   3,01,561   during   the   check­period.   These   facts
clearly demonstrate that there is no prima facie case made out by
the prosecution and therefore the Appellant was entitled to be
discharged. 
18. The conclusions that we have drawn are based on materials
placed before us, which are part of the case record. This is the
same record that was available with the Special Judge (Vigilance)
when the application under Section 227 of the Cr.P.C. was taken
up.  Despite  that,  the   Special   Judge  (Vigilance)  dismissed  the
discharge application on the simple ground that a roving inquiry
is   not   permitted   at   the   stage   of   discharge.   What   we   have
undertaken is not a roving inquiry, but a simple and necessary
inquiry for a proper adjudication of an application for discharge.
The Special Judge (Vigilance) was bound to conduct a similar
inquiry for coming to a conclusion that a prima facie case is made
out for the Appellant to stand trial. Unfortunately, the High Court
committed   the   same   mistake   as   that   of   the   Special   Judge
(Vigilance).
Page 14 of 16
19. Apart from the above analysis, we would note with great
distress   that   the   allegation   relating   to   Appellant’s
disproportionate income in the period between 1974 and 1988
was levelled in an FIR filed twelve years after the said period
concluded. The charge­sheet came to be filed seven years after
the registration of the FIR. The application for discharge came to
be dismissed on 28.03.2016, almost after a decade of filing of the
charge   sheet.   The   dismissal   was   affirmed   by   the   High   Court
seven months thereafter, i.e., on 05.10.2016. Finally, and most
unfortunately,   the   present   SLP   has   been   pending   before   this
Court for the last six years. In the meanwhile, the Appellant
superannuated from service in 2010, but had no option except to
contest   the   case.   He   is   now   72   years.   Continuation   of   the
prosecution, apart from the illegality as indicated hereinabove,
would also be unjust. 
20. For the reasons stated above, we allow the Criminal Appeal
arising out of SLP (Crl) No. 9601 of 2016, and set aside the
judgment and order of the High Court of Patna in CRLM No.
23031 of 2016 dated 05.10.2016, and that of the Court of Special
Page 15 of 16
Judge (Vigilance), Patna in  Special Case No. 09 of 2000, dated
28.03.2016, and discharge the Appellant.  
21. No order as to costs.
……………………………….J.
                                                            [B.R. GAVAI]
……………………………….J.
[PAMIDIGHANTAM SRI NARASIMHA]
NEW DELHI;
SEPTEMBER 14, 2022             
Page 16 of 16

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