Srinagar, July 05: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh Tuesday ruled that a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) must be filed within a reasonable time and it should not be vitiated by inordinate delay and laches on the part of the petitioner.
Dismissing a plea challenging the First Information Report (FIR) after 14 years of delay, Justice Sanjay Dhar observed that a party cannot approach the High Court under Section 482 of the Cr PC at his "whim and caprice" merely because "no period of limitation" in filing the petition under the aforesaid provision is provided.
Perusing the material on record, the bench noted that it is absolutely clear that the petitioner has approached this court at a highly belated stage after about 14 years of receiving a copy of the challan.
The court recorded that the petitioner has actively participated in the proceedings before the trial court for all these years and has, "after waking up from deep slumber, approached this court, without an iota of explanation for the delay as per his choice, caprice, and whim."
"Thus, it can by no stretch of imagination be stated that the petitioner has approached this court within a reasonable time," the court said.
Justice Dhar noted that a party who invokes the jurisdiction of the High Court for quashing the FIR and the consequent proceedings on the ground that ingredients of the offense for which he has been booked, are not made out, has to meet the test of expeditious dispatch of approaching the court.
"Within what time a petitioner should approach the Court under Section 482 of the Cr. P. C depends upon the facts and circumstances of the case," the bench said.
It pointed out that reasonable time generally means any time which is not manifestly unreasonable and which is fairly necessary for approaching the Court.
"Reasonable time would mean a time required by a prudent litigant to approach the court in the given facts and circumstances of the case," the bench underscored.
Justice Dhar noted that prosecution evidence is almost complete and now late in the day, the petitioner wants this court to exercise its jurisdiction under Section 482 of Cr. P. C, which, in the facts and circumstances of the case, this court would be reluctant to do.
"Thus, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the submissions made by the petitioner, the instant petition is dismissed being highly belated," the court said
However, the court left it open to the petitioner to take all the contentions raised in the present petition before the court below at the time of final arguments.
The court passed the observations in a plea of Eapen Chakoo, who was functioning as M.D of MIS Tebma and had supplied spares to the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) at exorbitant rates.
Chakoo had challenged FIR No.35/2000 for offenses under Section 5(1)(c)(d) read with 5(2) of the J&K Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 120-B RPC registered with the police station, Vigilance Organization, Kashmir (VoK).
As per the prosecution report, the officials of the Mechanical Division, LAWDA, by misuse of their official position and active connivance with each other, had shown a huge amount of expenditure on fuel and maintenance of mechanical devices engaged for weeding and dredging by fabricating records when actually these amounts were not spent and thereby misappropriated the same.
The FIR contains two sets of allegations, one pertaining to the amount spent on fuel and the other pertaining to expenditure on maintenance of mechanical devices engaged for de-weeding and dredging.
A separate charge sheet relating to the allegation regarding expenditure on account of fuel was filed before the Special Judge, Anti-Corruption, Kashmir, Srinagar, whereas another charge-sheet came to be filed before the same court in respect of the allegations relating to expenditure on account of maintenance of devices engaged for de-weeding and dredging.
The petitioner along with the other two officials of LAWDA, namely, Mohammad Ramzan Bhat, X.En, and AEE, G. L. Chouraisa, were impleaded as accused in the charge sheet relating to expenditure on account of maintenance of devices engaged for de-weeding and dredging.