Criminal Breach of trust and cheating

Ingredients to constitute criminal breach of trust or cheating:

Civil wrong v. Criminal wrong:

Bare perusal of the FIR lodged by the complainant, would indicate that he had got in touch with the appellant so as to extend the benefit of Appellant’s Channel “GOD TV”; to his other brethren residing at Ahmedabad. For the said purposes, he had met the owner of Siti Cable, Bapi Nagar in Ahmedabad and negotiated a settlement for a sum of Rs. 10 lacs on behalf of the Appellant’s Company as the fee to be paid to Siti cable by Appellant for telecast of channel “God TV” in Ahmedabad. Further grievance of the Complainant was that despite the telecast of “GOD TV”, the Appellant, as promised, failed to pay a sum of Rs. 10 lacs to the owners of Siti cables. This is what has been mentioned in nutshell in the complainant’s FIR. We have grave doubt, in our mind whether on such averments and allegations, even a prima facie case of the aforesaid offences could be made out against the present appellant.

The matter appears to be purely civil in nature. There appears to be no cheating or a dishonest inducement for the delivery of property or breach of trust by the Appellant. The present FIR is an abuse of process of law. The purely civil dispute, is sought to be given a colour of a criminal offence to wreak vengeance against the Appellant. It does not meet the strict standard of proof required to sustain a criminal accusation.

Existence of ‘dishonest intention’:

Intention should be dishonest ‘before start of transaction’:

Criminal breach of trust is defined under Section 405 IPC and Section 406 thereof deals with punishment to be awarded to the accused, if found guilty for commission of the said offence i.e. with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Section 420 of the IPC deals with cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property. Cheating has been defined under Section 415 of the IPC to constitute an offence. Under the aforesaid section, it is inbuilt that there has to be a dishonest intention from the very beginning, which is sine qua non to hold the accused guilty for commission of the said offence. Categorical and microscopic examination of the FIR certainly does not reflect any such dishonest intention ab initio on the part of the appellant.

Civil dispute:

In such type of cases, it is necessary to draw a distinction between civil wrong and criminal wrong as has been succinctly held by this Court in Devendra Vs. State of U.P., 2009 (7) SCC 495, relevant part thereof is reproduced hereinbelow:

A distinction must be made between a civil wrong and a criminal wrong. When dispute between the parties constitute only a civil wrong and not a criminal wrong, the courts would not permit a person to be harassed although no case for taking cognizance of the offence has been made out.

Accordingly proceedings were quashed.

[Source: Joseph Salvaraj A. v. State of Gujarat, (2011) 7 SCC 59 (Supreme Court of India)]

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