Magistrates Should Summon Accused Only After Recording Satisfaction About Sufficient Grounds To Proceed : Supreme Court


Chambers of Ishaan Garg

Ch. No. 217, Western Wing, District & Sessions Court, Tis Hazari, New Delhi, Delhi 110054

+91 8851742417, +91 8800386163

Recently, the Supreme Court observed that a Magistrate, while issuing the summoning order, shall not act in a casual manner; rather they should be satisfied that there exists a sufficient ground for proceedings against the accused.

The recording of the satisfaction of the Magistrate while issuing the summons should not be in a cryptic manner but only when a prima facie case is made out from the allegations.

Setting aside the concurrent findings of the High Court and the Trial Court, the Bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sanjay Kumar, noted that detailed reasoning is not required from the Magistrate while issuing summons, but the Magistrate also needs to record satisfaction that there exists a sufficient ground for proceedings. “While it is true that at the stage of issuing summons, a Magistrate only needs to be satisfied with a prima facie case for taking cognizance, the duty of the magistrate is also to be satisfied whether there is sufficient ground for proceeding.”

The aforesaid observation of the Supreme Court came in a criminal case, where a commercial dispute was alleged to be given a criminal colour by the complainant.

The petition of complaint reflects that the dispute between the parties centred around the rate at which the assigned work was to be done.

The complainant alleged that the accused-appellant had not paid the sum of the purchase order.

The Magistrate, after recording the statements of the complainant and his father, issued summons to the appellant-accused to face the trial under Sections 406, 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). Aggrieved by the Summon, the appellant preferred an application before the High Court for quashing of the criminal complaint. However, the High Court dismissed the application by noting that the subject matter of the complaint involved adjudication of disputed questions of fact, hence it requires adjudication.

It is against the impugned order of the High Court, that the accused preferred an appeal before the Supreme Court.

At the outset, after perusing the allegations made against the accused in the complaint, the Supreme Court noted that there exists no prima facie case against the accused for which the Magistrate has issued the summons to the accused to appear for the trial.

According to the court, the Magistrate has failed to apply his mind in issuing summons by not recording the satisfaction that the allegations made by the complainant do not give rise to the offences for which the appellant has been summoned for trial. 

“The learned Magistrate's order issuing summons records the background of the case in rather longish detail but reflects his satisfaction in a cryptic manner. At the stage of issue of summons, detailed reasoning as to why a Magistrate is issuing summons, however, is not necessary. But in this case, we are satisfied that the allegations made by the complainant do not give rise to the offences for which the appellant has been summoned for trial.”, the court observed while placing reliance on its Judgment in the case of Pepsi Foods Ltd. and Anr. vs Special Judicial Magistrate and Ors. (1998) 5 SCC 749.

According to the Court, “a commercial dispute, which ought to have been resolved through the forum of Civil Court has been given criminal colour by lifting from the penal code certain words or phrases and implanting them in a criminal complaint.” 

The court noted that the accused cannot be tried for the offence under Sections 405 and 406 of IPC. The court placed reliance on its judgment in the case of Deepak Gaba and Ors. vs State of Uttar Pradesh and Another 2023 SC, where it held as follows:

“A mere wrong demand or claim would not meet the conditions specified by Section 405 IPC in the absence of evidence to establish entrustment, dishonest misappropriation, conversion, use or disposal, which action should be in violation of any direction of law, or legal contract touching the discharge of trust.”

“We do not find any material to come to a prima facie finding that there was dishonest misappropriation or conversion of any material for the personal use of the appellant in relation to gas supplying work done by the respondent no.2. The said work was done in course of regular commercial transactions. It cannot be said that there was misappropriation or conversion of the subject property. The dispute pertains to the revision of rate per unit in an ongoing commercial transaction. What has emerged from the petition of complaint and the initial deposition made in support thereof that the accused-appellant wanted a rate variation and the entire dispute arose out of such stand of the appellant. On the basis of these materials, it cannot be said that there was evidence for commission of offence under Section 405/406.”, the court observed while placing reliance on Deepak Gaba.

So far as the allegation of criminal intimidation against the accused is made in the complaint statements made by the appellant, the court noted that no particulars thereof have been given by the complainant. “Both in the complaint petition and the initial deposition of one of the witnesses, there is only reproduction of part of the statutory provision giving rise to the offence of criminal intimidation. This would constitute a mere bald allegation, short of any particulars as regards to the manner in which threat was conveyed.”

The court also criticized the High Court for not applying the test proposed in the case of Dalip Kaur and Ors. vs Jagnar Singh and Anr (2009) 14 SCC 696, where the court held as follows:

“The High Court, therefore, should have posed a question as to whether any act of inducement on the part of the appellant has been raised by the second respondent and whether the appellant had an intention to cheat him from the very inception. If the dispute between the parties was essentially a civil dispute resulting from a breach of contract on the part of the appellants by non-refunding the amount of advance the same would not constitute an offence of cheating. Similar is the legal position in respect of an offence of criminal breach of trust having regard to its definition contained in Section 405 of the Penal Code.”

In light of the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court set aside the impugned judgment and quashed the Criminal Complaint Case as also the summoning order issued against the accused appellant.


Citation : 2024 SC