Published on: 19 September 2023 at 12:22 IST
The Supreme Court of India underlined the importance of delivering substantial justice despite technical defects or irregularities, as it restored a cheque bounce case that had been effectively closed due to territorial jurisdiction issues [Bijoy Shankar Mishra vs State of Jharkhand and anr].
A bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti invoked the Court’s plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to revive the case. The Court also took note of the complainant’s lack of adequate legal representation in the matter.
Previously, in the cheque bounce case, the accused had been discharged by a magistrate court during the final arguments stage, citing a lack of territorial jurisdiction to hear the case.
The Supreme Court’s decision to restore the case was issued on September 12.
“We feel that the appellant – Bijoy Shankar Mishra should not suffer on account of lack of proper legal assistance. Procedural defect/lapse, had a remedy, and was not substantial as to constitute lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The (Criminal Procedure) Code is procedural in nature, and technical defects and irregularities should not obstruct substantial justice,” the Supreme Court asserted.
The Court also noted that the magistrate had passed its order without fully considering the legal implications and the fact that the trial had been pending for over four years.
The Supreme Court made this observation while granting an appeal challenging a December 2021 decision by the Jharkhand High Court, which had declined to intervene in the magistrate’s 2020 ruling.
The cheque bounce complaint, involving an amount of approximately ₹45.20 lakhs, was initially registered in 2016. A magistrate in Jamshedpur had taken cognizance of the case and issued summons.
In January 2018, the accused’s statement was recorded. However, in February 2020, the magistrate determined that it lacked territorial jurisdiction to continue hearing the case, suggesting that it should be handled by courts in another district. Consequently, the magistrate discharged the accused.
The Supreme Court has now set aside this hasty magistrate’s order, deeming it peculiar. The Court concluded that this case warranted the exercise of its power under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, read in conjunction with Section 406 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which pertains to the Supreme Court’s authority to transfer cases and appeals.
In accordance with its decision, the Supreme Court annulled the contested order and directed the trial to resume before the magistrate in Jamshedpur.
The Court, however, clarified that this order should not be considered as precedent for future cases.