10 June 2024


Supreme Court

S.P. Mani And Mohan Dairy vs. Dr. Snehalatha Elangovan




For quashing of complaint, it must be shown that no offence is made out against the Director or Partner

Present appeal is at the instance of the original complainant of a complaint filed under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (“the NI Act”) and is directed against the order passed by the High Court whereby the High Court allowed the application and quashed the criminal proceedings initiated against the Respondent.

It is not in dispute, that no reply was given by the Respondent to the statutory notice served upon her by the Appellant. In the proceedings of the present type, it is essential for the person to whom statutory notice is issued under Section 138 of the NI Act to give an appropriate reply. The person concerned is expected to clarify his or her stance. Once the necessary averments are made in the statutory notice issued by the complainant in regard to the vicarious liability of the partners and upon receipt of such notice, if the partner keeps quiet and does not say anything in reply to the same, then the complainant has all the reasons to believe that what he has stated in the notice has been accepted by the noticee.

When in view of the basic averment process is issued the complaint must proceed against the Directors or partners as the case may be. But, if any Director or Partner wants the process to be quashed by filing a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) on the ground that only a bald averment is made in the complaint and that he is really not concerned with the issuance of the cheque, he must in order to persuade the High Court to quash the process either furnish some sterling incontrovertible material or acceptable circumstances to substantiate his contention. Quashing of a complaint is a serious matter. Complaint cannot be quashed for the asking. For quashing of a complaint, it must be shown that no offence is made out at all against the Director or Partner.

The primary responsibility of the complainant is to make specific averments in the complaint so as to make the accused vicariously liable. For fastening the criminal liability, there is no legal requirement for the complainant to show that the accused partner of the firm was aware about each and every transaction. On the other hand, the first proviso to sub¬section (1) of Section 141 of the Act clearly lays down that if the accused is able to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that the offence was committed without his/her knowledge or he/she had exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence, he/she will not be liable of punishment.

The final judgement and order would depend on the evidence adduced. Criminal liability is attracted only on those, who at the time of commission of the offence, were in charge of and were responsible for the conduct of the business of the firm. But vicarious criminal liability can be inferred against the partners of a firm when it is specifically averred in the complaint about the status of the partners ‘qua’ the firm. This would make them liable to face the prosecution but it does not lead to automatic conviction. Hence, they are not adversely prejudiced, if they are eventually found to be not guilty, as a necessary consequence thereof would be acquittal. The impugned order passed by the High Court is set aside. Appeal allowed.

Tags : Proceedings Quashing of Legality

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