The law must not be used as a tool to harass the accused and courts must always ensure that frivolous cases do not “pervert” its sacrosanct nature, the Supreme Court has said.
The top court, which quashed the criminal proceedings pending at a Chennai court against two people, said law is meant to exist as a shield to protect the innocent rather than being used as a sword to threaten them.
A bench of Justices Krishna Murari and S R Bhat delivered its verdict on an appeal against the August last year judgement of the Madras High Court which had dismissed a plea seeking quashing of a criminal complaint regarding alleged contravention of the provision of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
The top court noted there was a gap of over four years between the initial investigation and filing of the complaint, and even after the lapse of substantial amount of time, no evidence was provided to sustain the claims in the complaint.
It said while inordinate delay in itself may not be a ground for quashing a criminal complaint, “unexplained inordinate delay” of such length must be taken into consideration as a very crucial factor as grounds for quashing it.
“At the cost of repetition, we again state that the purpose of filing a complaint and initiating criminal proceedings must exist solely to meet the ends of justice, and the law must not be used as a tool to harass the accused,” the bench said in its verdict delivered on December 16.
The top court said while it is true that quashing of a criminal complaint must be done only in the rarest of rare cases, it is still the duty of the high court to look into each and every case in great detail to prevent miscarriage of justice.
“The law is a sacrosanct entity that exists to serve the ends of justice, and the courts, as protectors of the law and servants of the law, must always ensure that frivolous cases do not pervert the sacrosanct nature of the law,” it said, while setting aside the high court order.
The bench noted that one of the appellants before it is the proprietor of a firm, a trader of raw material and chemicals used in food, food supplements, medicinal preparations etc.
In November 2013, the drug inspector had inspected his premises and alleged contravention of the provision of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
The drug inspector had issued a show cause memo in March 2016 and the appellants submitted their reply to the same, the bench noted.
It also noted that in August 2017, a complaint was filed against the appellants.
The high court had dismissed the plea filed by the appellants seeking quashing of the compliant on the ground that a trial was necessary to ascertain the facts of the case.
The top court observed it is apparent from the record that even though the complaint was made by the drug inspector, no evidence was provided by the officer to sustain the complaint.
“In the present case, the respondent has provided no explanation for the extraordinary delay of more than four years between the initial site inspection, the show cause notice, and the complaint. In fact, the absence of such an explanation only prompts the court to infer some sinister motive behind initiating the criminal proceedings,” the bench said, while allowing the appeal.