The Supreme Court apologised recently for the prolonged delay in commencing proceedings in a criminal trial arising out of two contrary orders being passed by a high court judge in two separate but connected cases.
The apex court stated that the two conflicting orders had created a “legal conundrum” since one of the orders restricted further investigation while the other allowed a probe to continue.
The case reached the apex court in 2009. The woman who had initially filed the complaint in 2004 has since passed away, and her legal representative was now appearing for her.
Confusing High Court Orders Delayed Case
A bench comprising justices R K Agrawal and Sanjay Kishan Kaul apologised for the delay adding that “such a confusion has caused more than a decade’s delay in even the criminal trial commencing”.
The bench has allowed the woman’s appeals to proceed.
Shyam Lata of Roorkee in Uttarakhand had filed a complaint with the Haridwar SSP alleging that two of her brothers had forged documents to claim a shop of hers which they alleged that she had given on rent to them.
A criminal case was lodged by her that alleged that they had created a fake rent receipt by forging the woman’s signature and leaving it at her home in order to put in a false claim of tenancy.
In parallel, one of the two brothers filed a civil suit that sought to restrain her from evicting him from the shop premises using the allegedly fake rent receipt to establish claim as a tenant.
After a probe by the police , the investigating officer (IO) petitioned the civil court to send the rent receipt to an expert for comparing the signatures.
The civil court turned down the petition but allowed photographs to be taken of the signature for assessment by a handwriting expert.
But when the handwriting expert belonging to the forensic laboratory of Agra arrived to take pictures, the court denied permission. This resulted in the IO stating in his final report that without permission to get the signatures verified there was no proof of any forgery.
The woman objected to this and challenged the civil court’s denial of permission in a sessions court.
Two Appeals Made Regarding Case At Same High Court
The sessions court admitted the plea and asked that the case record be sent to the judicial magistrate of Roorkee so that necessary photographs be taken for further investigation of the signatures’ veracity.
This order was challenged by the brother in high court.
Meanwhile the judicial magistrate hearing the woman’s objections to the final report of IO, admitted her plea and ordered a probe, but this was again challenged by the brother in the High Court.
With this, there were two appeals in the Uttarakand High Court and they were both heard simultaneously and decided by the judge on the same day in 2006 in two separate judgements
In one verdict, the high court modified the order passed by the sessions court and asked the IO to be present along with a handwriting expert to take photographs of the woman’s signature, which implied that the police continue with the investigation.
But in the second verdict, the judge set aside the judicial magistrate’s order to continue probe by the police.
HC Orders “Contradictory “
The apex court bench said that there was no doubt about the “confusing nature of contradictory orders” given out the high court.
It pointed out that the first verdict in the case would mean in “natural corollary” that further police investigation be carried out. The top court added that the second verdict setting aside the judicial magistrate order was not required at all.