Introduction: The phenomenon of implicating family members of the accused in criminal proceedings to settle personal scores has received significant attention in recent times. This practice not only undermines the integrity of the judicial system but also causes undue distress to individuals wrongfully accused. In a landmark judgment by the Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court, titled Pradeep Bafna & Anr vs The State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr (Misc Criminal Case No. 25409 of 2023), the court addressed this critical issue head-on. Reserved on November 9, 2023, and pronounced on February 5, 2024, the judgment unequivocally quashed the criminal proceedings against the parents of the main accused, highlighting the misuse of legal provisions for personal vendettas.
While voicing its very serious concern on the general tendency to implicate family members of accused to settle personal scores, we see that the Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court in a most learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Pradeep Bafna & Anr vs The State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr in Misc Criminal Case No. 25409 of 2023 that was reserved on 09.11.2023 and then finally pronounced on 05.02.2024 minces just no words whatsoever to make it indubitably clear that it is a general tendency of a victim of a crime to implicate all the family members of an accused in order to settle personal scores. The Court minced just no words to hold clearly that, “In such facts and circumstances of the case, the petitioners appear to have been arraigned as accused only because they happen to be the father and mother of the main accused.” No wonder that the Court thus very rightly quashed the criminal proceedings against the parents of the husband. Resultantly, the Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court allowed the petition.
There can be no gainsaying that it is high time and Centre must at least now without fail in the penal laws that it is just on the verge of changing to usher in new laws make the necessary amendments in rape laws and dowry laws which are misused many times by women and her relatives by falsely implicating the men and his parents and relatives which should certainly no longer now go unpunished, unaccounted and unhindered any longer and those lodging vexatious and false complaints must be made to pay very huge compensation and should be jailed also for a term of two to three years at least and similarly where the Court finds clearly that the investigating officer intentionally conducts a mala fide and biased investigation to deliberately frame innocents must be punished most strictly! No denying it!
At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by the Single Judge Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Hon’ble Shri Justice Subodh Abhyankar sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This petition has been filed by the petitioners under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. against the order dated 11.03.2023, passed in S.T. No.52/2021 by First Additional Sessions Judge, Jaora District Ratlam (M.P) wherein the two persons are facing trial under Sections 376(2) (n), 450, 385, 506, 328, 411, 420, 120-B, 354 (G), 201, 176 of IPC and Section 66-E of the Information & Technology Act, 2000.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench envisages in para 2 that, “The allegations against the petitioners are that they happen to be the mother and father of the main accused Nishit @ Mayur and they were proceeded under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C. as the application was filed by the respondent/prosecution under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C. that the petitioners be also prosecuted in the said offence. The application was filed on 11.03.2023, when the matter was already fixed for cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses, and on the same day, it was allowed and the charges were also framed, and the petitioners were asked to cross-examine the accused persons. Against the petitioners, charges under Sections 385, 506-II r/w Section 120-B of the IPC has been framed. Thus, the main allegation is of extortion.”
Be it noted, the Bench notes in para 9 that, “On perusal of the charge sheet, it is found that in the FIR, which was lodged by the prosecutrix on 29.7.2021, in respect of the incident, which took place between 01.03.2019 to 15.7.2021, only Nishit @ Mayur Bafna has been named as an accused along with one unknown person. The aforesaid FIR was lodged on a written complaint made by the prosecutrix herself, and neither in the written complaint nor in the FIR, there is any reference of the present petitioners as the persons who have also threatened the prosecutrix and connived at the offence committed by their son. Although it is mentioned in the written complaint that Nishit @ Mayur Bafna and the other person are responsible for the offence however, there is no reason for this Court to believe that the complainant/prosecutrix would miss the names of the present petitioners while lodging the FIR, especially when they are the father and mother of the main accused Nishit @ Mayur Bafna. Thus, the FIR was lodged on 29.7.2021, but the names of the present petitioners came into light for the first time on 30.07.2021, in the statement recorded by the prosecutrix under Section 164 of the Cr.P.C., and in her court deposition dated 01.11.2022 she has also stated that the present petitioners demanded money and jewelry from her. It is also found prior to that, in her statement under Section 161 of the Cr.P.C. were recorded on 29.7.2021 and thereafter her supplementary statement was recorded 24.8.2021, and the prosecutrix has not named the present petitioners in both her 161 statements, and in the supplementary statement, in which she has only stated that the main accused Nishit’s friends and family members used to come to take jewellery.”
Do note, the Bench notes quite significantly in para 10 that, “A perusal of the charge sheet also reveals that admittedly, no incriminating material has been seized from the present petitioners. In such facts and circumstances of the case, the petitioners appear to have been arraigned as accused only because they happen to be the father and mother of the main accused.”
Most forthrightly, it cannot be just glossed over that the Bench propounds in para 11 that, “In the considered opinion of this Court, merely because the complainant/prosecutrix has named the petitioners in her statement under Section 164 of the Cr.P.C. dated 01.11.2022, as also in the trial court in her deposition dated 24.8.2021, in the absence of their names being disclosed in the FIR dated 29.7.2021, which was lodged on the basis of a written complaint submitted by the prosecutrix on the same day, which was already delayed by around 2 and half years, and in her statement recorded under Section 161 of the Cr.P.C. dated 29.07.2021 and supplementary statement dated 24.8.2021, the prosecutrix has also not named the petitioners, it is difficult to assume that the petitioners were also involved in the present case.”
Most significantly, we observe that the Bench then mandates in para 12 holding that, “This Court is cognizant of the fact that it is a trite law that the FIR is not an encyclopedia, however, considering the fact that there is a general tendency of a victim of crime to implicate all the family members of the main accused in order to settle the personal score, this Court is also required to look into the matter from the perspective of a reasonable man, as to how he would have behaved or acted in the given circumstances, and thus, seen from the said perspective, it is difficult for this court to assume that when the crime is said to have committed during the period of around two and a half years, while lodging the written complaint, the prosecutrix would miss the names of the petitioners who are none other than the parents of the main accused, and from whom no recovery has also been made. In such circumstances, in the considered opinion of this court, it is difficult to arrive at a satisfaction that the petitioners have committed the offence.”
As a corollary, the Bench then observes in para 13 that, “Resultantly, the impugned order dated 11.3.2023 cannot be sustained in the eyes of law and is hereby quashed. The consequential proceedings so far as they relate to the present petitioners in Sessions Trial No.52/2021 before the First Additional Sessions Judge, Jaora, District-Ratlam (M.P.) are also hereby quashed and the petitioners are discharged from the aforementioned offences.”
In addition, the Bench then hastens to add in para 14 that, “So far as the case of Yashodhan Singh (supra) is concerned, the same is distinguishable on facts as in that case, the challenge was made on the ground that the accused was not heard before the cognizance u/s.319 of Cr.P.C. was taken by the trial court, and the Supreme Court held that there is no necessity to give any notice to the accused.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 15 that, “So far as the other accused persons are concerned, the trial court shall proceed against them in accordance with law. With the aforesaid, the present petition stands allowed.”
In a nutshell, we thus see that the Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court has taken a very strong exception to the general tendency that has developed to implicate most wrongly all the family members of the accused to settle personal scores. It is high time and the time is ripe to now put a permanent lid to such most gross abuse of laws that are meant for the safety of women and worst of all those women and her relatives who abuse such laws are not punished at all which is just not tenable under any circumstances! It is high time to jail those women at least for few years and simultaneously direct such women and her relatives to pay huge compensation of money also so that no woman can ever dare to most maliciously lodge false complaint against a men or his parents or his relatives which takes a huge toll on their whole life and yet neither women nor her parents and relatives who abetted her to file false cases are ever brought to book! While taking the most pragmatic approach, the Court after perusing the facts of the case and all the material placed before it, we thus see quite clearly that the Court very rightly quashes the criminal proceedings against the in-laws. No denying it!
The Pradeep Bafna & Anr vs The State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr judgment marks a significant milestone in the Indian judiciary’s efforts to curb the misuse of the law. By quashing the criminal proceedings against the innocent parents of the accused, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has sent a clear message about the importance of judicial integrity and the need for legal reforms to protect individuals from unjust persecution. This judgment not only provides relief to the wrongfully accused but also paves the way for a more equitable and just legal system. It highlights the urgent need for legislative changes to ensure that the laws meant to protect the vulnerable are not used as weapons for personal vendettas, thereby safeguarding the fundamental principles of justice and fairness.