Prosecution for perjury

Scheme of Section 195 read with sec. 340 of Cr. P.C.

The prosecution for perjury should be sanctioned by courts only in those cases where the perjury appears to be deliberate and conscious and the conviction is reasonably probable or likely.

No doubt giving of false evidence and filing false affidavits is an evil which must be effectively curbed with a strong hand but to start prosecution for perjury too readily and too frequently without due care and caution and on inconclusive and doubtful material defeats its very purpose. Prosecution should be ordered when it is considered expedient in the interests of justice to punish the delinquent and not merely because there is some inaccuracy in the statement which may be innocent or immaterial. There must be prima facie case of deliberate falsehood on a matter of substance and the court should be satisfied that there is reasonable foundation for the charge.

[Source: Chajoo Ram v. Radhey Shyam, AIR 1971 SC 1367, 1971 SCR 172]

In view of the language used in Section 340 CrPC the court is not bound to make a complaint regarding commission of an offence referred to in Section 195(1)(b), as the section is conditioned by the words “court is of opinion that it is expedient in the interests of justice”.

This shows that such a course will be adopted only if the interest of justice requires and not in every case. Before filing of the complaint, the court may hold a preliminary enquiry and record a finding to the effect that it is expedient in the interests of justice that enquiry should be made into any of the offences referred to in Section 195(1)(b). This expediency will normally be judged by the court by weighing not the magnitude of injury suffered by the person affected by such forgery or forged document, but having regard to the effect or impact, such commission of offence has upon administration of justice. It is possible that such forged document or forgery may cause a very serious or substantial injury to a person in the sense that it may deprive him of a very valuable property or status or the like, but such document may be just a piece of evidence produced or given in evidence in court, where voluminous evidence may have been adduced and the effect of such piece of evidence on the broad concept of administration of justice may be minimal. In such circumstances, the court may not consider it expedient in the interest of justice to make a complaint.

Section 340 Cr.P.C.not a penal provision but is part of a procedural law, namely, Code of Criminal Procedure which elaborately gives the procedure for trial of criminal cases. The provision only creates a bar against taking cognizance of an offence in certain specified situations except upon complaint by Court. A penal statute is one upon which an action for penalties can be brought by a public officer or by a person aggrieved and a penal act in its wider sense includes every statute creating an offence against the State, whatever is the character of the penalty for the offence. The principle that a penal statute should be strictly construed, as projected by the learned counsel for the appellants can, therefore, have no application here.

Section 195(1)(b)(ii) Cr.P.C. would be attracted only when the offences enumerated in the said provision have been committed with respect to a document after it has been produced or given in evidence in a proceeding in any Court i.e. during the time when the document was in custodia legis.

[Source: Iqbal Singh Marwah v. Meenakshi Marwah]

While examining a similar contention in an appeal against an order directing filing of a complaint under Section 476 of old Code, the following observations made by a Constitution Bench in give a complete answer to the problem posed :

“…. As between the civil and the criminal proceedings we are of the opinion that the criminal matters should be given precedence. There is some difference of opinion in the High Courts of India on this point. No hard and fast rule can be laid down but we do not consider that the possibility of conflicting decisions in the civil and criminal Courts is a relevant consideration. The law envisages such an eventuality when it expressly refrains from making the decision of one Court binding on the other, or even relevant, except for certain limited purposes, such as sentence or damages. The only relevant consideration here is the likelihood of embarrassment.

…… Another factor which weighs with us is that a civil suit often drags on for years and it is undesirable that a criminal prosecution should wait till everybody concerned has forgotten all about the crime. The public interests demand that criminal justice should be swift and sure; that the guilty should be punished while the events are still fresh in the public mind and that the innocent should be absolved as early as is consistent with a fair and impartial trial. Another reason is that it is undesirable to let things slide till memories have grown too dim to trust.

This, however, is not a hard and fast rule. Special considerations obtaining in any particular case might make some other course more expedient and just. For example, the civil case or the other criminal proceeding may be so near its end as to make it inexpedient to stay it in order to give precedence to a prosecution ordered under S. 476. But in this case we are of the view that the civil suits should be stayed till the criminal proceedings have finished.”

[Source: M.S. Sheriff vs. State of Madras AIR 1954 SC 397]

The mere fact that a deponent has made contradictory statements at two different stages in a judicial proceeding is not by itself always sufficient to justify a prosecution for perjury under Section 193 IPC but it must be established that the deponent has intentionally given a false statement in any stage of the `judicial proceeding’ or fabricated false evidence for the purpose of being used in any stage of the judicial proceeding. Further, such a prosecution for perjury should be taken only if it is expedient in the interest of justice.

[Source: K.T.M.S. Mohd. and Another v. Union of India, AIR 1992 SC 1831, 1992 SCR (2) 879 ]

Even after the above position has emerged also, still the court has to form an opinion that it is expedient in the interests of justice to initiate an inquiry into the offences of false evidence and offences against public justice and more specifically referred in Section 340(1) of the CrPC, having regard to the overall factual matrix as well as the probable consequences of such a prosecution.

No doubt, such an opinion can be formed even without conducting a preliminary inquiry, if the formation of opinion is otherwise possible. And even after forming the opinion also, the court has to take a decision as to whether it is required, in the facts and circumstances of the case, to file the complaint. Only if the decision is in the affirmative, the court needs to make a complaint in writing and the complaint thus made in writing is then to be sent to a Magistrate of competent jurisdiction. Under Section 343 of the CrPC, the Magistrate has to deal with the complaint referred to in Section 340 of the CrPC as if it was instituted on a police report. Therefore, on the offences referred to under Section 195(1)(b)(i) of the CrPC, all falling within the purview of warrant case, the Magistrate has to follow the procedure for trial of warrant cases under Chapter XIX Part A comprising of Sections 238 to 243 of the CrPC. It is only in view of such seriousness of the matter, Section 340 of the CrPC has provided for a meticulous procedure regarding initiation of the inquiry.

[Source: Amarsang Nathaji v. Hardik Harshadbhai Patel decided by SC on on 23 November, 2016]

When the election petition itself has been dismissed and considering the entirety of the matter, it would not be expedient to initiate proceedings under Section 340 Cr.P.C. read with Section 195(1)(b)(i) of Cr.P.C.

[Source: Prof. Chintamani Malviya vs High Court Of Madhya Pradesh decided by SC on 27 April, 2018]
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