The utilization of criminal law for the purpose of vengeance in a case which is clearly of a civil nature is a misuse of the process of law and deserves deprecation.

Criminal Appeal No. 1452 of 2023, also known as Special Leave Petition (CRL.) No. 2480 of 2021, is an appeal filed by Sri Gulam Mustafa against the State of Karnataka and Smt. Jayamma. The appeal challenges the Final Judgment and Order of the High Court of Karnataka, which rejected the appellant’s petition to quash the First Information Report (FIR) filed against him. The case revolves around a dispute over the title of land and allegations of criminal conspiracy, cheating, and trespassing. The appellant argues that the matter is purely civil in nature and that the FIR is an abuse of process filed by the complainant’s family members. The respondents, on the other hand, contend that the investigation should be allowed to proceed and that the FIR discloses cognizable offenses. The State maintains that the case involves disputed facts best left to the police for investigation.

” What is evincible from the extant case-law is that this Court has been consistent in interfering in such
matters where purely civil disputes, more often than not, relating to land and/or money are given the colour of criminality, only for the purposes of exerting extra-judicial pressure on the party concerned, which, “We reiterate, is nothing but abuse of the process of the court. In the present case, there is a huge, and quite frankly, unexplained delay of over 60 years in initiating dispute with regard to the ownership of the land in question, and the criminal case has been lodged only after failure to obtain relief in the civil suits, coupled with denial of relief in the interim therein to the respondent no.2/her family members. It is evident that resort was now being had to criminal proceedings which, in the considered opinion of this Court, is with ulterior motives, for oblique reasons and is a clear
case of vengeance.”

“This Court would indicate that the officers, who institute an FIR, based on any complaint, are duty-
bound to be vigilant before invoking any provision of a very stringent statute, like the SC/ST Act, which
imposes serious penal consequences on the concerned accused. The officer has to be satisfied that the
provisions he seeks to invoke prima facie apply to the case at hand. “

decided by the Supreme Court of India on May 10, 2023.


Sanjiv Narang Adv. is an Advocate on Record in the Supreme Court of India. His qualifications include an LLB from University of Delhi and a Masters degree in Personnel Management from Panjab University,Chandigarh.In his more than 3 decades of experience, he has practiced law at the District, High Court and Supreme Court levels.He also has more than a decade of experience in the field of Management. He is the author of two books namely Laws for Women in India and Innovation, Why What and How.