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Magistrate Can’t Refer Defamation Complaint To Police For Investigation U/S 156(3) CrPC Even If Other Offences Are Also Alleged: Karnataka High Court

[06 June 2022] The Karnataka High Court has said the bar under Section 199 CrPC on a Magistrate from exercising powers under section 156(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) on a complaint involving offences punishable under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, would be applicable even in cases where offences are alleged for other offences in addition with Section 500 of the IPC. Section 199 stipulates that no Court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under Chapter XXI (Defamation) of IPC except upon a “complaint” made by some person aggrieved by the offence. A single judge bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna made the above observation while allowing a petition filed by Divya and another, calling in question proceedings before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Bangalore arising out of a private complaint registered for offences punishable under Sections 211, 500 and 499 of the IPC.
Court findings:
The bench said, “The instant case concerns defamation under Section 499 of the IPC which becomes punishable under Section 500 of the IPC. Therefore, there cannot be any controversy about how the learned Magistrate should take cognizance of the offence. The cognizance shall be taken only on a complaint and not on a report filed by the Police.”

It added, “In the case at hand, when the complaint came to be registered, the learned Magistrate fell in error in directing investigation to be conducted by the Police under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. and thereafter takes cognizance of the offences on filing of the report by the Police.”
The bench then relied on Subramaniam Swamy v. Union of India, (2016) 7 SCC 221, where it was held that where the complaint before the Magistrate involves offence punishable under Section 500 of the IPC, the Magistrate cannot exercise powers under Section 156(3) of the Cr.P.C. so as to direct Police to register a crime and then investigate into the offence, in view of the specific bar contained in Section 199 of the Cr.P.C. This would become applicable even in cases where offences are alleged of other provisions of law along with Section 500 of the IPC.
Accordingly, it held, “In the light of the judgment of the Apex court and that of the learned single Judge of the High Court of Kerala (supra) interpreting Sections 199, 499 and 500 of the IPC, the order of the learned Magistrate directing investigation is rendered unsustainable and all proceedings thereto would be a nullity in law. Therefore, the proceedings are necessarily to be obliterated and the matter remitted back to the learned Magistrate to take up such proceedings bearing in mind the observations made in the course of the order.”
Thus, it allowed the petition and set aside the order of the magistrate court and directed the Magistrate to take up further proceedings in the case from the stage of registration of the complaint and all appropriate action thereon, in accordance with law.

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