Panchayats lack 'exclusive jurisdiction' to try crl cases: SC

New Delhi, July 5: The Supreme Court has said Gram Panchayats have no "exclusive jurisdiction" to try criminal cases and the power of police to probe serious matters cannot be "abridged or taken away".

"It is important to note that no 'exclusive jurisdiction' for trying certain criminal offences has been conferred upon Gram Panchayat under the Punjab Gram Panchayat Act, 1952...," a bench of justices P Sathasivam and M Y Eqbal said on Thursday.

The court, however, said the panches of Gram Panchayats do have civil and criminal jurisdiction but this power does not take away the rights of police to investigate.

"Admittedly, though civil and criminal jurisdiction has been conferred upon the Gram Panchayats, no qualification etc. has been provided for panchas. Therefore, what culled out that the power of police cannot be abridged or taken away under any circumstances," it said.

Discussing various laws, including Punjab Panchayati Raj Act and the CrPC, the bench said the police are not barred from probing and making arrests in a criminal case.

"Till the stage of completion of investigation, Gram Panchayat has no jurisdiction at all," it said, adding the role of Panchayats begins only after police file the charge sheet and the case is transferred to it by a criminal court.

"Unless a case is transferred to Gram Panchayat under the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, the 'Gram Panchayat' does not get any jurisdiction over the said case/investigation," it said.

The observations came in a verdict by which the apex court dismissed the appeals filed by two Punjab residents who, along with two others, are accused in a cheating case as the cheque issued by them was dishonoured.

The accused had approached the apex court challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court order dismissing their pleas for anticipatory bail in which they had said that no probe could be carried by the police as the offence was triable by Gram Panchayat.

The apex court said as the allegations against the accused are serious, they should be tried in a criminal court and the investigation be conducted only by the police.

"Under these circumstances, we hold that in the facts and circumstances of the present case, the investigation is to be conducted by the police authorities only and the offence of Section 420 (cheating) IPC, where the allegations are of a serious nature and the appellants has duped of Rs 30 lakhs from the complainant, should be tried by the regular criminal court only and not by the Gram Panchayat.

"Consequently, both the appeals fail and are accordingly dismissed. Interim protection (against possible arrest) granted earlier shall stand vacated," the bench said on Thursday.

A cheating case was lodged against four accused Sharanjit Kaur, Mukhtiar Singh, Manjit Kaur and Mandeep Kaur on 3rd April last year in Amritsar by Kahan Singh alleging that they had embezzled Rs 30 lakh from him on the pretext of sending his son to America for a permanent job for which he had paid them the amount in several installments.

The complainant alleged as the accused could not send his son to the US, they issued him a cheque of Rs 30 lakh which was dishonoured due to insufficient funds.

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Courtesy:ISTV Imphal


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