Temple Land Forgery Case: Court Says Both Civil And Criminal Cases Valid

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The High Court of Karnataka has held that both a civil suit and a criminal complaint are maintainable in a case where forged documents were allegedly used to transfer the property of a temple.
YN Sreenivasa and his wife Suraksha had approached the High Court challenging a criminal complaint filed against them by Latha Manjari and her son YA Chetan Kumar.

It was claimed in the complaint that the husband of Latha Manjari — L N Ashwathama — and Mr Sreenivasa jointly owned one acre and 11 guntas land (40 guntas make one acre).

The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) acquired this land, leaving out 14 guntas.

A temple was built on this land, which was managed by Mr Ashwathama and Mr Sreenivasa. Mr Ashwathama died on October 30, 2010.

It is alleged that in 2018, Mr Sreenivasa executed a gift deed of a portion of this land in the name of his wife Suraksha and another portion in the name of his son.

Later, an absolute sale deed was executed by the Trust represented by the husband and wife in favour of their son on March 31, 2018. Allegedly fabricated ‘khatha’ and tax-paid certificates were used to register this deed.

A criminal complaint was filed under Sections 419, 420, 468, and 471 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in the Sanjay Nagar police station. These are related to cheating, cheating by personation, forgery, and using forged documents.

In the High Court, Mr Sreenivasa and Suraksha contended that a civil suit over the same issue was pending before a civil court and therefore a criminal case on the same ground could not have been initiated.

However, Justice Suraj Govindaraj said in his recent judgement that both were maintainable.

The petition had also challenged the criminal complaint on the ground that since the sub-registrar was the aggrieved party, only he can file a criminal complaint under Section 177 of the IPC, which deals with fabricated documents presented to a civil servant.

The High Court, however, pointed out that only in respect of Section 177 a complaint has to be filed by a civil servant who is affected. But complaints regarding other sections of the IPC would not be affected.

“A private individual would not be barred from initiating proceedings under Section 419, 420, 468, and 471 of the IPC on account of fabrication having occurred before a sub-registrar, which is a separate offence under Section 177 of IPC,” the court said.

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