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Kerala HC: Non-Compliance of Kerala Criminal Rules of Practice by Court Staff Not Sufficient Ground to Non-Suit Complainant/Party

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Kerala HC Law Insider

Khushi Bajpai

Published on: October 4, 2022 at 23:25 IST

On Friday, the Kerala High Court considered whether the complainant or any party would have adequate grounds to dismiss a lawsuit if the court staff had violated the Kerala Criminal Rules of Practice, but it gave a negative response.

While holding this position, Justice A. Badharudeen observed:

“It is established law that an aggrieved person may not file a lawsuit against the court for any mistakes that were made. The adage “Actus curiae neminem gravabit” encapsulates the aforementioned idea. This means that no one will be prejudiced by the Court’s action. In such a case, the court has a duty to right the wrong.”

However, the Court in this case issued a directive to subordinate courts that the aforementioned Rules 28 and 29 of the Criminal Rules of Practice ought to be strictly adhered to after observing that many complaints and petitions were forwarded to the High Court without seal as required by Rule 28 and taking note of the seriousness of non-payment of court fees in petitions before the criminal court.

The current criminal miscellaneous petition was submitted under Section 482 CrPC to overturn the ruling tolerating the delay in filing a complaint in the absence of a request for it, without providing the accused with notice.

In addition, the petition requested that all cases before the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court-III, Muvattupuzha, be dismissed as a result of the same.

Submission of the Petitioner

Advocates Yash Thomas Mannully and Soman P. Paul argued that despite the 103-day delay in filing the complaint alleging an offense under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, the complaint was filed without a request for a delay pardon, and the court below took cognizance of the matter without pardoning the delay and issued the ruling in a petition that was later added.

As a result, it was said that the same cannot continue.

Additionally, it was noted that even though the 103-day delay was excused in the judgment, no petition to that effect was submitted, and no court fee was also paid.

On this basis, the attorney argued that the court’s whole cognizance was incorrect and that the order was liable to be quashed.

The Attorney additionally argued that the delay petition was false since there was no seal on the delay petition and no evidence of an endorsement of the court fee that was attached in the delay petition in the register relating to the remittance of court fees.

The attorney further argued that Rules 28 and 29 of the Criminal Rules of Practice, which provide for the “Date Stamping of Papers and Initialing of FIR by Magistrates” and “Cancellation of Stamps,” respectively, had not been followed.

Question Before the Court

The Court in this case dealt with the issue as to whether the mistake committed by the court/court staff could amount to be the sole reason to non-suit an aggrieved party before the Court.

Findings of the Court

The court in this case determined that the Magistrate had given notice to the respondent with instructions to take action to the complainant when the delay petition had been submitted to excuse the 103-day delay in submitting the complaint at the outset.

The petition for a delay was scheduled for June 14th, 2019. On that day, it was noted that the notice had been delivered and that the accused was not present despite being called.

This emphasizes the fact that the magistrate had acknowledged the issue after tolerating the delay.

After noting that Rules 28 and 29 of the Criminal Rules of Practice are mandatory provisions, the Court then decided that failure to affix a seal to the complaint, the delay petition, or any other proceedings, as required by the rules, as well as the simple failure to show the court fee paid in a petition in the concerned register by itself, would be sufficient grounds for holding that the delay petition was an after-the-fact addition.

In this case, the Court determined that even if a violation of the rules had occurred, a review of the copy of the Criminal Miscellaneous Petitions Register, which contains the complaint and delay petition numbers, would demonstrate that the complaint and the delay petitions were filed on 17th April 2019 and the Magistrate had also ordered notice.

The petitioner had been given notice to come before the court, but the court highlighted that he did not.

The petitioner failed to show the envelope or its contents to prove that he did not receive notice in the delay petition, therefore the court dismissed his attempts to rely on the mention of the complaint number in the copy of the register to support his claim that he had not received any notice.

Based on this, the Court rejected the petitioner’s claims that no delay petition had been submitted and that the current delay petition had been added later as being unfounded and “without an iota of bona fides.”

Even while the Court accepted that neither the delay petition nor the complaint had a seal attached to them and that the register did not reflect the payment of the court fee for the complaint, these circumstances could not be grounds for the complainant’s non-suit.

The Court determined that after carefully reviewing the papers submitted, there was no evidence to suggest that the delay petition had not been submitted on April 17, 2019, or that the petitioner had not been notified.