By Our Legal Correspondent
NEW DELHI, MARCH 26. Those who forge a will beware. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has provided a remedy of filing a criminal complaint against those who forge a will and present it to the court for being probated.
A Bench, comprising the Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, Justice B.N. Agrawal, Justice H.K. Sema, Justice G.P. Mathur and Justice P.K. Balasubramanyan, held that the provisions of Section 195 of the Civil Procedure Code would not be a bar for the criminal prosecution of forgers of will and the criminal court could take cognisance of such complaints.
(Section 195 says that no court can take cognisance of any offence relating to submission of documents in court as evidence as it would affect administration of justice.) The Bench held that the bar provided under Section 195 "is not applicable to a case where forgery of the document was committed before the document was produced in a court."
The judges said that an offence involving the forgery of a document could not be treated as one affecting the administration of justice merely because the document formed part of the court records.
Since two different Benches of the Supreme Court gave varying interpretations of the issuethe matter was referred to a five-judge Constitution Bench for an authoritative pronouncement.
The Bench did not accept the argument that a person who had presented a forged document could be prosecuted only on the basis of a complaint from the court after a prima facie conclusion of the crime. The Bench pointed out that courts were normally reluctant to direct the filing of a criminal complaint and such a course was rarely adopted. "It will not be fair and proper to give an interpretation which leads to a situation where a person alleged to have committed an offence of forgery of a document is either not placed for trial on account of [the] non-filing of a complaint or if a complaint is filed, the same does not come to its logical end. Judging from such an angle will be in consonance with the principle that an unworkable or impracticable result should be avoided," the Bench said.
On the contention that an effort should be made to avoid the conflict of findings between the civil and criminal courts, the Bench said: "The standard of proof required in the two proceedings are entirely different. Civil cases are decided on the basis of [the] preponderance of evidence while in a criminal case, the entire burden lies on the prosecution and proof beyond reasonable doubt has to be given."
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