Proceeding u/s 7A of the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 are deemed judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228 IPC -Supreme Court
ABCAUS Case Law Citation:
ABCAUS 2083 (2017) (09) SC
The Substantial Question of Law framed/urged for determination:
Whether complaint under Section 228 IPC was maintainable in view of the proceeding under Section 7A of the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 (Act) deemed to be a judicial proceeding or whether the proceedings had to be before a court to invoke Section 195(1)(b)(i) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)
Important Case Laws Cited/relied upon by the parties:
Lalji Haridas vs. State of Maharashtra, (1964) 6 SCR 700
Brief Facts of the Case:
The Assistant Provident Fund Commissioner (Commissioner) filed a complaint before the Judicial Magistrate First Class under Section 228 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) alleging that during an adjudication proceeding under Section 7A of the Act, with regard to provident fund claims of the respondent, the respondent had obstructed and interfered with the proceedings by abusing the Presiding Officer, and rushed to assault him, but the complainant was saved by the office staff.
Section 228 of IPC delas with intentional insult or interruption to public servant sitting in judicial proceeding. The section provides that anyone intentionally offersing any insult, or causing any interruption to any public servant, while such public servant is sitting in any stage of a judicial proceeding, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
Acting on the complaint, the Magistrate convicted the respondent till rising of the Court and imposed fine of Rs. 500/- with default stipulation.
However, on appeal, the Sessions Judge while maintaining the conviction released him under the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 on an undertaking of good behavior for a period of one year.
Not satisfied with the relief, the respondent moved the High Court in a revision application. The High Court concluded that the office of the Commissioner was not a court, and therefore, the complaint itself was not maintainable under Section 195(1)(b)(i) of the CrPC
Accordingly the High Court acquitted the respondent of the charge under Section 228 of the IPC on the premise that the adjudication proceedings under Section 7A of the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 not being before a court, the complaint itself was not maintainable.
Aggrieved by order of the High Court, the Commissioner (Appellant in the present case) approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
Observations made by the Supreme Court:
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that Section 2(i) of the CrPC defines a judicial proceeding to include any proceedings in the course of which evidence is or may be legally taken on oath. This power is indisputably statutorily vested in the authority holding proceedings under Section 7A of the Act.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that the legislature, in its wisdom, considering the seriousness of the adjudicatory process under the said provision, vested it with the nature of a judicial proceeding within the meaning of Sections 193 and 228 IPC.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court went on to observe that If the proceedings under Section 7A are deemed to be a judicial proceeding by fiction, it must be carried to its logical conclusion. Therefore, such a judicial proceeding can well be equated for that purpose with a court under Section 195(1)(b)(i). Whether the proceedings under Section 7A will partake the character of a court or not, was not relevant to the controversy.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that the High Court failed to consider the effect of the judicial nature of the proceeding, simply by reference to Section 195(1)(b)(i) Cr.P.C. to hold that the proceedings did not partake the nature of a court, and therefore, the complaint was not maintainable.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court rejected as frivolous the argument that the complaint was required to be filed under Section 340 CrPC before the appellate tribunal and not before the magistrate having jurisdiction.