SC dismisses AP's appeals against HC order quashing FIRs against private buyers of plots at Amravati

 The Supreme Court has dismissed six appeals filed by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging the High Court order quashing FIRs against private buyers of plots at Amravati who were accused of cheating the sellers by not disclosing the fact that the state capital was to be established there. 

Upholding the Andhra Pradesh High Court's decision, a bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari dismissed the appeals of the state government and said all the transactions were between private individuals involving private lands.

The FIRs were lodged in 2020 on the basis of complaints alleging that the buyers were aware of the fact that the capital city of Andhra Pradesh was going to be established in the area where the land plots were situated. 

Without disclosing this fact, the buyers purchased the land from the sellers in 2014-15 and, hence, cheated the sellers, as the value of such lands was likely to increase manifold, the FIRs alleged. 

Not accepting the contentions of the state government, the bench said “the other part of submissions on the possibility of public officials being arraigned under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 after investigation in this case, suffice it to observe that all the transactions in question are between private individuals involving private lands and, as found by the High Court, the information about the likely location of the capital city was very much in public domain at the time of the transactions in question.”

The High Court had quashed the FIRs lodged for the Indian Penal Code offences of cheating (Section 420), criminal breach of trust (Section 406), breach of trust by public servant (Section 409) and criminal conspiracy (Section 120B).

In its order, the apex court said, “there was also no question of loss being caused to the sellers or any cheating by the buyers because neither by law nor by a legal contract, the buyers were obliged to disclose the likelihood of the location of capital city, which facts were already in public domain.”

"Moreover, there was no such pre-existing legal relationship between the buyers and the sellers for which, the buyers were bound to protect the interest of the sellers," it said. 

The bench examined the high court's verdict and said the it was required to see is as to whether on the facts as narrated in the criminal complaint or an FIR, any case for proceeding against the accused is made out or not. 

“The High Court has considered this aspect at great length and we are of the opinion that there is no perversity or illegality in the findings recorded by the High Court while allowing the Petition and quashing the FIRs and the proceedings pursuant thereto. For the foregoing reasons, we find no merit in this special leave petition which is, accordingly, dismissed,” it said. 

The top court said that present one has not been a case of the High Court embarking upon an inquiry as to whether the evidence in question is reliable or not. 

"What the High Court has examined is as to whether the stated facts of the complaint make out any case of deception or not and thereafter has concluded that no case of constituting offences under Sections 420, 406, 409 and 120B of IPC is made out," the bench said.

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