The Delhi High Court in a landmark verdict ended the current practice of the Delhi Police to lodge a single FIR in case of cheating of a large number of investors/depositors where for instance, the lone home buyer is treated as a complainant while other affected persons are shown as witnesses in a criminal case.
In such situations, many homebuyers are left in the lurch when the complainant withdraws the case or more often chooses to settle outside court.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and I S Mehta termed as “clearly erroneous and not sustainable in law” the practice“of registering a single FIR on the basis of the complaint of one of the complainants/ victims, and of treating the other complainants/victims as witnesses” as reported by the Times of India.
The court said “ it raises a very serious issue with regard to the deprivation of rights of such complainants to pursue their complaints and to ensure that the complainants are brought to justice.”
Spelling out the law in this regard, HC was categorical that in a case of inducement, allurement and cheating of a large number of investors/ depositors, “each deposit by an investor constitutes a separate and individual transaction.” and noted that “all such transactions cannot be amalgamated and clubbed into a single FIR by showing one investor as the complainant and the rest as the witnesses”
The court rejected the police stand that only a single FIR is required in cases where all investors/depositors were cheated in pursuance of a single conspiracy. The EOW went on to argue that the commision of multiple acts did not require the registration of separate FIRs for each victim.
The court’s answer came on a reference sent to it by additional district and sessions Judge Kamini Lau while dealing with a case involving 1,852 different victims cheated in a ponzi scheme.
In the process the High Court made it clear that such offences can have multiple FIRs registered against it.
The HC also held that a limit on the quantum of sentence imposed by the CrPC (where courts award concurrent jail terms in a single trial for more than one IPC section) won’t apply to these cases, where an economic offenders faces multiple trials which can result in more than one conviction.This means trial courts can now give consecutive prison terms where the second term starts only once when the first term ends.