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Criminal Complaints can now be amended, ‘Cognizance’ elucidated by Supreme Court

July.4.2015: A Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice R. Banumathi addressed the issue whether an amendment to a complaint filed  under  Section  200 Cr.P.C. is  impermissible  in  law. In case titled S.R.Sukumar vs. S.Sunaad Raghuram it was held that if  the  amendment  sought  to  be  made relates to a simple  infirmity  which  is  curable  by  means  of  a  formal amendment and by allowing such amendment, no prejudice could  be  caused  to the  other  side,  notwithstanding  the  fact  that  there  is  no  enabling provision in the Code for entertaining such amendment, the Court may  permit such an amendment to be made.

Simple infirmities in Complaint curable by means of formal Amendment

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

On 9.05.2007, the respondent in the appeal before the SC filed a complaint under  Section  200 Cr.P.C.  against the first appellant and his mother Smt. H.R. Leelavathi alleging  that  they  have  committed  the  offences  punishable  under Sections 120-B, 499 and 500 IPC.

In  the Criminal  complaint,  the  respondent  had alleged that he was born of  the  wedlock  of  his  father  late  Shri  S.G. Raghuram and mother Late Smt. B.S. Girija.  However, his  father  after  the death of his mother Girija, married another divorcee lady namely  Smt.  H.R.Leelavathi who at the time of the second marriage, already had a son aged six years S.H. Sukumar (appellant), born from her  previous  wedlock. The respondent alleged in the complaint that his father’s  name  i.e.  Late Shri S.G. Raghuram has been purportedly used by the appellant portraying  as if he is his natural  father.   Respondent  alleged  that  the  act  of  the appellant using name of respondent’s father as his own father often  created doubts among the near and dear ones about the legitimacy of the  respondent-complainant and integrity and character of his  father  which  had  affected the respondent’s reputation.

Respondent filed the complaint on 9.05.2007 and  his statement was recorded in part on 18.05.2007 and further recorded on 23.05.2007.  Next day i.e. on 24.05.2007, respondent moved an  application  seeking  amendment to the complaint by praying for insertion of paras 11(a) and  11(b)  in  the complaint stating the fact of  poem  named  ‘Khalnayakaru’  written  by  the appellant in connivance with his mother  depicting  the  respondent  as Villain-‘Khalnayak’, with an intention to malign the  character,  image  and status  of  the  respondent.  The  trial  court  allowed  the  amendment  on 24.05.2007 and took the cognizance of the offence and directed  issuance  of the process to the appellant vide Order dated 21.06.2007.

Aggrieved by  the Order the appellant filed petition  for quashing  the  proceedings on the ground that there  is  no  provision  under  the  Code, providing for amendment of the  complaint.  The  High  Court  vide  impugned Order dated  20.01.2012  dismissed  the  petition  filed  by  the  appellant observing that before  the  date  of  allowing  amendment  application  i.e. 24.05.2007, cognizance of case was not taken and therefore no  prejudice  is caused to the appellant.  Further, the High Court was of the  view  that  if amendment is not allowed, then the multiple proceedings  would  have  ensued between the parties.

The Apex court’s ruling came in an appeal which arose out of an order dated  20.01.2012  passed  by the High Court of Karnataka at Bangalorewherein the High Court declined to quash the order thereby confirming the order passed  by  the  VII  Addl. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Bangalore permitting the respondent to  carry out the amendment in a criminal complaint on the premise that the  amendment was made prior to taking cognizance of the offence.

Mrs. Kiran Suri, Senior Advocate, appearing   for  the appellant contended that under the  Criminal  Procedure  Code  there  is  no provision for amendment of complaint and in  the  absence  of  any  specific provision in the Code, courts below  erred  in  allowing  the  amendment  in criminal complaint. Mrs Suri also contended that  the  act  of  taking cognizance of an offence by the Magistrate precedes the examination  of  the complainant under Section 200 Cr.P.C.

Counsel for the  respondent  on the other hand contended  that the respondent-complainant  was  examined  in  Court  on  oath  in  part  on 18.05.2007 and his  examination  was  deferred  to  23.05.2007  for  further inquiry and during the course of  inquiry,  the  amendment  application  was filed  and  the  same  was  allowed  in  order  to  avoid  multiplicity   of proceedings.  It was further contended that on 18.05.2007, no  cognizance was taken and therefore it would be wrong to  suggest  that  cognizance  was taken twice by the Magistrate.  It was submitted that  though  there  is  no enabling provision in the Criminal Procedure Code  to  amend  the  complaint and there is no specific bar in  carrying  out  the  amendment  and  in  the interest of justice, Court has power to do so.

The Bench held that if  the  amendment  sought  to  be  made relates to a simple  infirmity  which  is  curable  by  means  of  a  formal amendment and by allowing such amendment, no prejudice could  be  caused  to the  other  side,  notwithstanding  the  fact  that  there  is  no  enabling provision in the Code for entertaining such amendment, the Court may  permit such an amendment to be made.

SC however added that if the amendment  sought  to be made  in the complaint does not relate either to a curable infirmity   or the same  cannot  be  corrected  by  a  formal  amendment  or  if  there  is likelihood of  prejudice to the other  side, then   the   Court   shall  not allow such amendment in the complaint.

What tantamounts to taking Cognizance

The Court also held that merely because the complainant was examined that does not mean that the Magistrate has taken cognizance of the offence. Taking cognizance of an offence means the Magistrate must have judicially applied the mind to the contents of the complaint and indicates that Magistrate takes judicial notice of an offence.  Mere presentation of the complaint and receipt of the same in the court does not mean that the Magistrate has  taken  cognizance  of  the offence.

The Apex Court also categorically held that a Magistrate can be said to take cognizance of an  offence  when  he  decides  to  proceed against the person accused of having committed that offence and not  at  the time when the Magistrate is just informed either by  complainant  by  filing the complaint or by the police report about the commission of an offence.

Read the Full Judgment here-

 

Amendment of Criminal Complaint

 

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