What Constitutes 'Prima Facie Satisfaction' Of Magistrate To Issue Process Against An Accused U/S 204 CrPC?: Allahabad HC Explains


Chambers of Ishaan Garg

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

+91 8851742417, +91 8800386163

The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday explained what constitutes a 'prima facie case' or 'prima facie satisfaction' and when it can be said to have been made out before a Magistrate proceeds to summon/issue process against an accused under section 204 CrPC.

A bench comprising Justice Jyotsna Sharma observed that before issuing a process against an accused, the Magistrate has to hold an inquiry as envisaged under section 202 CrPC, to look for 'sufficient ground to proceed' (as per Section 204 CrPC) against the accused, which is nothing but a 'prima facie satisfaction' of the Magistrate.

For context, Section 204 of CrPC talks of the issue of the process by laying down that if the Magistrate, taking cognizance of an offence, is of the view that there is sufficient ground for proceeding then he may issue summons for the attendance of the accused in a summons-case. If it is a warrant case, then the Magistrate can issue a warrant for causing the attendance of the accused.

To elaborate upon the words ''prima facie satisfaction', the Court referred to Allahabad HC's 2023 Judgment in the case of Dr DivyaNand Yadav and Another vs. State of U.P. and Another wherein the Court had relied upon the judgment of the Supreme Court passed in Fiona Shrikhande vs.State of Maharashtra and Another (2013).

Essentially, in Fiona Shrikhande's case (supra), the Supreme Court had observed that at the complaint stage, the Magistrate is merely concerned with the allegations made out in the complaint and has only to "prima facie satisfy" whether there are "sufficient grounds to proceed" against the accused.

In this case, the Court had categorically held that it is not the province of the Magistrate to enquire into a detailed discussion on the merits or demerits of the case as the scope of enquiry under Section 202 is extremely limited in the sense that the Magistrate, at this stage, is expected to only examine prima facie the truth or falsehood of the allegations made in the complaint.

Justice Sharma further noted that in Divya Nand Yadav's(supra) case, the Allahabad HC had held that the Magistrate shall proceed against an accused u/s 204 CrPC only if he finds that there is sufficient ground for the same.

“…the Magistrate shall assess all the material before it and apply its mind to find out whether time has come to proceed and take cognizance. In that view of the matter the Supreme Court in the case as aforesaid has instead of using the word "prima facie case" has found fit to use the phrase "prima facie satisfaction" and of course this satisfaction has to be arrived at while acting within the four corners of law i.e., by adopting the procedure as provided under Sections 200 and 202 CrPC,” the Court quoted from Divya Nand Yadav's (supra) case.

Taking a clue from the judgments mentioned above, Justice Sharma opined that ordinarily in a case exclusively triable by the Sessions Court, the complainant has to produce all the witnesses and in case he is unable to produce any of the witnesses on the premise that such witnesses are not under his command or are not his witnesses, even then, the Magistrate who is conducting the inquiry, may summon those witnesses for the purpose of recording his "prima facie satisfaction" with regard to summoning of the accused.

“The powers of the inquiry court are not fettered in any manner and it may call the witnesses, if in its view their evidence may prove useful for just decision in the matter for the purpose of summoning the accused persons,” the Court added.

Our readers may note that the Supreme Court has held in several cases that while issuing process against an accused, the Magistrate has to only see whether, on a cursory perusal of the complaint and the evidence recorded during the preliminary inquiry under Sections 200 and 202 of the CrPC, there is prima facie evidence in support of the charge levelled against the accused or not.

In other words, all that he has to see is whether or not there is “sufficient ground for proceeding” against the accused. At this stage, the Magistrate is not to weigh the evidence meticulously as if he were the trial court.

The case in brief

The observations were made by the Court while dealing with a petition filed by one Amit Kumar to quash a CJM Court's order wherein the petitioner was summoned under Section 204 CrPC for offences under Sections 307, 504, 506 IPC.

It was the primary contention of the counsel for the accused that the CJM Court, while treating the protest as a complaint, called upon the complainant to produce his witness under section 202 CrPC and only based upon the examination of 3 PWs, the accused was summoned.

While doing so, the CJM Court noted that at the stage of summoning, a prima facie case only has to be established and that there is no need to examine the rest of the witnesses.

It was also the contention of the petitioner's counsel that the doctor who examined the injured the victim had not been summoned and examined under section 202 CrPC by the Court before issuing a summons against him.

Court's observations

Taking into account the facts of the case, the Court noted that Section 202(2) CrPC enjoins the Magistrate to call upon the complainant to produce all of his witnesses and examine them on oath, however, in the instant case, the Magistrate did not find necessary to call upon the complainant to examine all his witnesses on a premise that for establishing a prima facie case, there is no need to examine all the witnesses.

The Court added that the trial court as well as the court of revision (which upheld the summoning order), ignored the important provisions of law under section 202(2) CrPC.

Finding the approach of the Courts to be casual and cavalier, the Court emphasised that even the doctor who had examined the injured was not summoned even though the examination was quite important to draw an inference whether prima facie an offence under section 307 IPC is made out against the accused persons.

Lastly, holding that any summoning order passed ignoring the mandatory provisions of law is vulnerable and is liable to be set aside, the Court allowed the petition and the impugned orders were set aside.

The Court further remanded the matter back to the trial court concerned for passing a fresh order in accordance with law.

Case title - Amit Kumar vs. State of U.P. and Another 2024 LiveLaw (AB) 101 [CRIMINAL MISC. WRIT PETITION No. - 20280 of 2013] (2024 All HC)