Section 202 of the Code has twin objects; one, to enable the Magistrate to scrutinize carefully the allegations made in the complaint with a view to prevent a person named therein as accused from being called upon to face an unnecessary, frivolous or meritless complaint and the other, to find out whether there is some material to support the allegations made in the complaint. The Magistrate has a duty to elicit all facts having regard to the interest of an absent accused person and also to bring to book a person or persons against whom the allegations have been made.

To find out the above, the Magistrate himself may hold an inquiry under Section 202 of the Code or direct an investigation to be made by a police officer. The dismissal of the complaint under Section 203 is without doubt a pre-issuance of process stage. The Code does not permit an accused person to intervene in the course of inquiry by the Magistrate under Section 202. The legal position is no more res integra in this regard. More than five decades back, the Supreme Court in Vadilal Panchal v. Dattatraya Dulaji Ghadigaonker and another1 with reference to Section 202 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 (corresponding to Section 202 of the present Code) held that the inquiry under Section 202 was for the purpose of ascertaining the truth or falsehood of the complaint, i.e., for ascertaining whether there was evidence in support of the complaint so as to justify the issuance of process and commencement of proceedings against the person concerned.

In Chandra Deo Singh v. Prokash Chandra Bose2, a four-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court had an occasion to consider Section 202of the old Code. The Court referred to the earlier decision of the Apex Court in Vadilal Panchal and few previous decisions, namely, Parmanand Brahmachari v. Emperor3, Radha Kishun Sao v. S.K. Misra and Anr.4Ramkisto Sahu v. The State of Bihar5Emperor v. J.A. Finan6Baidya Nath Singh v. Muspratt and others7 and it was held that the object of provisions of Section 202 (corresponding to present Section 202 of the Code) was to enable the Magistrate to form an opinion as to whether process should be issued or not and to remove from his mind any hesitation that he may have felt upon the mere perusal of the complaint and the consideration of the complainant’s evidence on oath. It was further held that an accused person does not come into the picture at all till process is issued.

Adalat Prasad v. Rooplal Jindal8

 Section 200 contemplates a Magistrate taking cognizance of an offence on complaint to examine the complaint and examine upon oath the complainant and the witnesses present, if any. If on such examination of the complaint and the witnesses, if any, the Magistrate if he does not want to postpone the issuance of process has to dismiss the complaint under Section 203 if he comes to the conclusion that the complaint, the statement of the complainant and the witnesses have not made out sufficient ground for proceeding. Per contra, if he is satisfied that there is no need for further inquiry and the complaint, the evidence adduced at that stage have materials to proceed, he can proceed to issue process under Section 204 of the Code.

Section 202 contemplates “postponement of issue of process”. It provides that if the Magistrate on receipt of a complaint, if he thinks fit, to postpone the issuance of process against the accused and desires further inquiry into the case either by himself or directs an investigation to be made by a police officer or by such other person as he thinks fit for the purpose of deciding whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding, he may do so. In that process if he thinks it fit he may even take evidence of witnesses on oath, and after such investigation, inquiry and the report of the police if sought for by the Magistrate and if he finds no sufficient ground for proceeding he can dismiss the complaint by recording briefly the reasons for doing so as contemplated under Section 203 of the Code.

But after taking cognizance of the complaint and examining the complainant and the witnesses if he is satisfied that there is sufficient ground to proceed with the complaint he can issue process by way of summons under Section 204 of the Code. Therefore, what is necessary or a condition precedent for issuing process under Section 204 is the satisfaction of the Magistrate either by examination of the complainant and the witnesses or by the inquiry contemplated under Section 202 that there is sufficient ground for proceeding with the complaint hence issue the process under Section 204 of the Code. In none of these stages, the Code has provided for hearing the summoned accused, for obvious reasons because this is only a preliminary stage and the stage of hearing of the accused would only arise at a subsequent stage provided for in the latter provision in the Code.

It is true as held by the Supreme Court in K.M. Mathew v. State of Kerala9 that before issuance of summons the Magistrate should be satisfied that there is sufficient ground for proceeding with the complaint but that satisfaction is to be arrived at by the inquiry conducted by him as contemplated under Sections 200 and 202, and the only stage of dismissal of the complaint arises under Section 203 of the Code at which stage the accused has no role to play, therefore, the question of the accused on receipt of summons approaching the court and making an application for dismissal of the complaint under Section 203 of the Code on a reconsideration of the material available on record is impermissible because by thenSection 203 is already over and the Magistrate has proceeded further to Section 204 stage.

It is true that if a Magistrate takes cognizance of an offence, issues process without there being any allegation against the accused or any material implicating the accused or in contravention of provisions of Sections 200 and 202, the order of the Magistrate may be vitiated, but then the relief an aggrieved accused can obtain at that stage is not by invoking Section 203 of the Code because the Criminal Procedure Code does not contemplate a review of an order. Hence in the absence of any review power or inherent power with the subordinate criminal courts, the remedy lies in invoking Section 482 of the Code.”

  1. 1960 AIR 1113.
  2. 1963 AIR 1430.
  3. 116 Ind Cas 46.
  4. AIR 1949 Pat 36.
  5. AIR 1952 Pat 125.
  6. (1931) 33 BOMLR 1182.
  7. (1887) ILR 14 Cal 141.
  8. (2004) 7 SCC 338.
  9. (1992) 1 SCC 217.

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