Inquiry : Chapter XV of the Code deals with the complaints to Magistrates. It has four Sections, 200 to 203, which read as under:
“S. – 200. Examination of Complainant.–A Magistrate taking cognizance of an offence on complaint shall examine upon oath the complainant and the witnesses present, if any, and the substance of such examination shall be reduced to writing and shall be signed by the complainant and the witnesses, and also by the Magistrate:
Provided that, when the complaint is made in writing, the Magistrate need not examine the complainant and the witnesses-
(a) If a public servant acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duties or a court has made the complaint; or
(b) If the Magistrate makes over the case for inquiry, or trial to another Magistrate under section 192:
Provided further that if the Magistrate makes over the case to another Magistrate under section 192 after examining the complainant and the witnesses, the latter Magistrate need not re-examine them.
S. 201. Procedure by Magistrate not competent to take cognizance of the case.- If the complaint is made to a Magistrate who is not competent to take cognizance of the offence, he shall, –
(a) If the complaint is in writing, return it for presentation to the proper court with an endorsement to that effect;
(b) If the complaint is not in writing, direct the complainant to the proper court.
S. 202. Postponement of issue of process.– (1) Any Magistrate, on receipt of a complaint of an offence of which he is authorised to take cognizance or which has been made over to him under Section 192, may, if he thinks fit, and shall, in a case where the accused is residing at a place beyond the area in which he exercises his jurisdiction postpone the issue of process against the accused, and either inquire into the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by a police officer or by such other person as he thinks fit, for the purpose of deciding whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding:
Provided that no such direction for investigation shall be made–
(a) Where it appears to the Magistrate that the offence complained of is triable exclusively by the Court of Sessions; or
(b) Where the complaint has not been made by a Court, unless the complainant and the witnesses present (if any) have been examined on oath under section 200.
(2) In an inquiry under sub-section (1), the Magistrate may, if he thinks fit, take evidence of witness on oath:
Provided that if it appears to the Magistrate that the offence complained of is triable exclusively by the Court of Session, he shall call upon the complainant to produce all his witnesses and examine them on oath.
(3) If an investigation under sub-section (1) is made by a person not being a police officer, he shall have for that investigation all the powers conferred by this Code on an officer in charge of a police station except the power to arrest without warrant.
S. 203. Dismissal of complaint.–If, after considering the statements on oath (if any) of the complainant and of the witnesses and the result of the inquiry or investigation (if any) under Section 202, the Magistrate is of opinion that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding, he shall dismiss the complaint, and in every such case he shall briefly record his reasons for so doing.”
Sections 200 to 203 Cr.P.C. ensure that false and frivolous complaints are nipped in the bud. The object under the said provisions is to distinguish baseless cases from genuine grievances. After considering the statements on oath of the complainant and the witnesses, if any, and the result of the enquiry or investigation under Section 202 Cr.P.C., if the Magistrate is of the opinion that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding, he shall dismiss the complaint and shall briefly record his reasons for such dismissal.
Moreover, Section 202 of the Code has twin objects; one, to enable the Magistrate to scrutinize carefully the allegations made in the complaint with a view to prevent a person named therein as accused from being called upon to face an unnecessary, frivolous or meritless complaint and the other, to find out whether there is some material to support the allegations made in the complaint. The Magistrate has a duty to elicit all facts having regard to the interest of an absent accused person and also to bring to book a person or persons against whom the allegations have been made.
To find out the above, the Magistrate himself may hold an inquiry under Section 202 Cr.P.C. or direct an investigation to be made by a police officer. The dismissal of the complaint under Section 203 Cr.P.C. is without doubt a pre-issuance of process stage. The Code does not permit an accused person to intervene in the course of inquiry by the Magistrate under Section 202 Cr.P.C.
The legal position is no more res integra in this regard. More than five decades back, the Apex Court in Vadilal Panchal Vs.. Dattatraya Dulaji Ghadigaonker and another (1961) 1 SCR 1 with reference to Section 202 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 (corresponding to Section 202 of the present Code) held that the inquiry under Section 202 was for the purpose of ascertaining the truth or falsehood of the complaint, i.e., for ascertaining whether there was evidence in support of the complaint so as to justify the issuance of process and commencement of proceedings against the person concerned.
In Chandra Deo Singh Vs. Prokash Chandra Bose and another 1964 (1) SCR 639, a four-Judge Bench of the Apex Court had an occasion to consider Section 202 of the old Code. While referring to Vadilal Panchal (supra) and few previous decisions, namely, Parmanand Brahmachari Vs. Emperor, AIR (1930) Patna 30, Radha Kishun Sao Vs. S.K. Misra and Anr., AIR (1949) Patna 36, Ramkisto Sahu Vs. The State of Bihar, AIR (1952) Patna 125, Emperor Vs. J.A. Finan, AIR (1931) Bom 524 and Baidya Nath Singh Vs. Muspratt and others, ILR (1886) XIV Cal 141, it was held that the object of provisions of Section 202 (corresponding to present Section 202 of the Code) was to enable the Magistrate to form an opinion as to whether process should be issued or not and to remove from his mind any hesitation that he may have felt upon the mere perusal of the complaint and the consideration of the complainant’s evidence on oath.
In the case of “Pepsi Foods Limited & Another Vs. Special Judicial Magistrate & Others”, (1998) 5 SCC 749, the Apex Court, inter alia, observed as under:
“Summoning of an accused in a criminal case is a serious matter. Criminal law cannot be set into motion as a matter of course. It is not that the complainant has to bring only two witnesses to support his allegations in the complaint to have the criminal law set into motion. The order of the Magistrate summoning the accused must reflect that he has applied his mind to the facts of the case and the law applicable thereto.
He has to examine the nature of allegations made in the complaint and the evidence both oral and documentary in support thereof and would that be sufficient for the complainant to succeed in bringing charge home to the accused. It is not that the Magistrate is a silent spectator at the time of recording of preliminary evidence before summoning of the accused.
Magistrate has to carefully scrutinise the evidence brought on record and may even himself put questions to the complainant and his witnesses to elicit answers to find out the truthfulness of the allegations or otherwise and then examine if any offence is prima facie committed by all or any of the accused.”
This judgment only emphasizes the need for the Magistrate to be an active participant and not merely a silent spectator at the time of examination of the complainant and his witnesses and to apply his mind to the facts of the case instead of passing mechanical orders.
In Adalat Prasad Vs. Rooplal Jindal and Others, (2004) 7 SCC 338, a three-Judge Bench of Apex Court held as under:-
“Section 200 contemplates a Magistrate taking cognizance of an offence on complaint to examine the complaint and examine upon oath the complainant and the witnesses present, if any. If on such examination of the complaint and the witnesses, if any, the Magistrate if he does not want to postpone the issuance of process has to dismiss the complaint under Section 203 if he comes to the conclusion that the complaint, the statement of the complainant and the witnesses have not made out sufficient ground for proceeding. Per contra, if he is satisfied that there is no need for further inquiry and the complaint, the evidence adduced at that stage have materials to proceed, he can proceed to issue process under Section 204 of the Code.
Section 202 contemplates “postponement of issue of process”. It provides that if the Magistrate on receipt of a complaint, if he thinks fit, to postpone the issuance of process against the accused and desires further inquiry into the case either by himself or directs an investigation to be made by a police officer or by such other person as he thinks fit for the purpose of deciding whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding, he may do so.
In that process if he thinks it fit he may even take evidence of witnesses on oath, and after such investigation, inquiry and the report of the police if sought for by the Magistrate and if he finds no sufficient ground for proceeding he can dismiss the complaint by recording briefly the reasons for doing so as contemplated under Section 203 of the Code.”
[The above discussion on Inquiry is extracted from a recent decision of the Delhi High Court in Kumar Saumitra Vs. State dated 13 October 2015]