Magistrates Must Wait for Police Report Before Issuing Summons

Supreme Court rules magistrates can't issue summons without police report in Shiv Jatia v. Gian Chand Malick; emphasizes careful consideration in commercial disputes.

The Supreme Court, in the case of Shiv Jatia versus Gian Chand Malick & Ors. (Criminal Appeal No. 776 of 2024), rendered a significant decision regarding the issuance of summons by magistrates in criminal cases. The case revolved around allegations of breach of trust and commercial disputes between a gas supplier company (the accused) and a distributor gas company (the complainant).

Initially, the magistrate had issued summons against the accused based on the complaint filed by the distributor gas company. However, the accused challenged this decision, contending that the summoning order was illegal as there were no allegations constituting an offense against them. Furthermore, they argued that the dispute was purely of a civil nature arising from a commercial transaction, and thus, it should not be given a criminal color.

The Supreme Court, while scrutinizing the matter, emphasized several crucial points:

  1. Role of Magistrates: The Court underscored that once a magistrate calls for a police report under Section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), they cannot issue a summons until the report is submitted by the police. This ensures that the magistrate has adequate information before proceeding with the case.
  2. Application of Mind: The issuance of summons by a magistrate carries significant consequences, and therefore, it requires careful consideration and application of mind. The magistrate must be satisfied that there is sufficient material to justify the summoning order.
  3. Commercial Disputes: Disputes arising from commercial transactions should not be hastily treated as criminal offenses. The Court emphasized that in cases like these, where the dispute is essentially of a civil nature, the criminal process should not be invoked without proper grounds.
  4. Abuse of Process: Continuing with a criminal case in such circumstances may amount to an abuse of the legal process. Therefore, the Court held that if no case is made out against the accused based on the complaint and evidence presented, the complaint should be quashed to prevent misuse of legal proceedings.

In light of these observations, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal and quashed the criminal case against the accused. The Court emphasized the need for magistrates to exercise caution and discretion in summoning accused persons, especially in cases involving commercial disputes, to prevent the misuse of the legal process.