Allahabad High Court quashes 11-year-old criminal proceedings against Senior Mobile Lab Officer of Hindustan Petroleum

The Allahabad High Court has quashed the 11-year-old criminal proceedings against a Senior Mobile Lab Officer of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited.

A Single Bench of Justice Prashant Kumar passed this order while hearing an application under section 482 filed by Vivek D Wakechaure.

The application under Section 482 Cr.P.C has been filed for quashing of the charge sheet including entire proceeding emanating therefrom being Case u/s 418, 420, 427, 465, 467, 471, 472, 474 IPC, P.S- Chiragon, District- Jhansi pending before A.C.J.M- Ist, Jhansi.

Counsel for the applicant submitted that the applicant is a ‘Senior Mobile Lab Officer’ in Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd and he was assigned the job of checking the dispensing units of distributors (petrol pump) as well as quality check of petroleum products being sold from the petrol pumps pertaining to Agra Region.

On 12.09.2009, the applicant along with his team, inspected a petrol pump in District- Jhansi (Agra Region) i.e M/s Bhagwan & Company, and it was found that the dispensing unit of the first informant’s petrol pump are malfunctioning from the nozzle and quality of the diesel was also found malfunctioning. The same was sent to the lab for further investigation. A random inspection report dated 12.09.2009 was prepared by the applicant mentioning therein “HSD DU Short delivering 70 ml per strike short”.

Thereafter, the sales and supplies of the petrol pump of the first informant was suspended. The recovered articles were sent to the respective labs immediately and as per report of the Quality Control Lab of the Corporation at Mathura, vide dated 17.09.2009 (as per marketing discipline guidelines), it was found that the sample does not meet the specification as per IS-1460-2005 (latest version) in Sulphur content and it was found that the FBP is 360o C and the total recovery is 96%.

Thereafter, show cause notice was issued to the first informant, and after giving full opportunity of hearing to him, the dealership agreement was terminated by the Senior Regional Manager, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation vide order dated 08.12.2010.

Though, in the dealership agreement dated 19.12.1982, it was clearly mentioned that in case of any dispute, the matter would be referred back to the sole arbitrator under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 for adjudication and this arbitration clause was also mentioned in the termination letter. The informant instead of availing the arbitration, after three years of passing of termination order, made an appeal on 02.04.2013 before the Executive Director- Retail and Appellate Authority, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation.

During pendency of the aforesaid appeal, the first informant filed an application under Section 156(3) CrPC dated 13.08.2013 before the Judicial Magistrate, Jhansi, in which, it was alleged that the dealership was allotted to the opposite party no 2 in the year 1982 in the category of SC/ST. Since then, the officials of the corporation had been harassing him to get any partnership with a general category person.

Due to this harassment, they came to the petrol pump of the applicant and as a part of the harassment, the applicant had investigated the petrol pump and initiated proceedings against him.

The counsel for the applicant further submitted that the applicant had carried out his duty in the official capacity and no FIR could have been lodged against the person for carrying on his official duty. This was treated as a complaint by the court below vide order dated 06.09.2013. After that, the statement of the first informant was recorded under Section 200 CrPC.

After the order, the opposite party no 2 again approached the court below. The counsel for the applicant further submits that the trial court has issued a re-investigation order by misreading the order passed by the Court. Thereafter, the police of Chirgaon Police Station, District- Jhansi proceeded and registered the matter as Crime under Sections 120-B, 418, 420, 427, 465, 467, 468, 471 & 474 IPC.

During the pendency of the investigation, an appeal filed by the opposite party no 2 with the Executive Director- Retail and Appellate Authority, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation which was dismissed vide order dated 07.02.2014.

The applicant challenged the FIR by filing a Criminal Petition, in which, the court had protected the applicants from arrest vide order dated 02.06.2014.

The counsel for the applicant further submitted that the police, without investigating the matter properly, filed a charge-sheet in a very cursory manner under Sections 418, 420, 427, 465, 467, 468, 471 & 474 IPC. Thereafter, the Magistrate without applying its judicial mind took cognizance vide order dated 07.01.2016 in a printed profarma.

He further submitted that a bare perusal of the summoning order shows that the name of the parties and the date were filled on a printed profarma and the same was passed without application of mind.

The Court observed that,

From perusal of the summoning order issued on 06.10.2015 clearly shows that it is a printed profarma and on that printed profarma, the court concerned had filled up by hand the case number, parties name, sections, crime number, date of issuance and the next date of hearing. The order clearly shows that the same has passed without any application of mind. The matter is squarely covered by the judgement passed by the Supreme Court in the matter of Suneel Bharti Mittal v CBI, AIR 2015 SC 923.

As far as the delay is concerned, there is no reason given by the opposite party no 2 in the complaint justifying the delay of four years in moving an application under Section 156(3) CrPC. The application is hopelessly barred. The Supreme Court in the matter of Sekaran v The State of Tamil Nadu, 2023 INSC 1062 has observed that “if the delay is not satisfactory explained and it appears to the Court that cause for the delay had been necessitated to frame anyone as an accused, there is no reason as to why the delay should not be considered as fatal forming past of several factors to vitiate the conviction.”

The Court further observed that,

A plain reading of the complaint clearly shows that prima facie no case is said to have been made out against the applicant even taking the complaint as a gospel truth.

In view of the aforesaid facts and circumstances, the FIR lodged by the opposite party no 2 is nothing but a pure abuse of process of law and has been filed only to went on the vendetta as the applicant has carried out the inspection in the official capacity and because of his inspection, his illegal activity was unearthed which resulted into termination of his dealership.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the application and the entire proceedings arising out of the same are hereby quashed.

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