The procedure to be adopted when a complaint is lodged, as laid down in Ss. 200-203, is briefly as follows:
(i) Under S. 200, the Magistrate must examine on oath, the complainant and his witnesses, if any, at sufficient length, to satisfy himself as to the veracity of the complaint, or as to any points on which it is silent, or on which there may be any doubt. (The object of this provision is to find out whether the allegations make out a prima facie case to enable him to issue a process.)
(ii) If the Magistrate finds no prima facie reason to distrust the complainant, and the facts constitute an offence under the law, he must issue a process forthwith.
(iii) If he distrusts the complainant altogether, or if no offence is made out, he must dismiss the complaint.
(iv) If, however, his distrust is not sufficiently strong to warrant action upon it, he can postpone the issue of process, pending further inquiry under S. 202.
If the complaint is made to any Magistrate, who is not competent to take cognizance of the offence, he must-
(a) If the complaint is in writing, return it for presentation to the proper Court, with an endorsement to that effect;
(b) If the complaint is not in writing, direct the complainant to the proper Court.
It is also provided (by S. 202) that the Magistrate may also postpone the issue of process against the accused, and either inquire into the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by a Police Officer, or any other person as he may think fit, for the purpose of deciding whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding in the matter. However, no such direction for investigation can be made—
(a) Where it appears to the Magistrate that the offence complained of is triable exclusively by the Court of Sessions; or
(b) Where the complaint has not been made by a Court, unless the complainant and the witnesses present (if any) have been examined on oath under S. 200.
S. 203 provides that if, after considering the statements of the complainant and witnesses and the result of the inquiry or investigation, if any, the Magistrate is of the opinion that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding further in the matter, he must dismiss the complaint, and must also briefly record his reasons for doing so.
Broadly speaking, a Magistrate may dismiss a complaint in the following three cases:
(i) If, upon the statement of the complainant recorded under S. 200, he finds that no offence has been committed.
(ii) If he distrusts the statement made by the complainant.
(iii) If he distrusts such a statement, but his distrust not being strong enough to warrant him to act upon it, he directs further inquiry (under S. 202), and after that, finds that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
The Supreme Court has held that if the bare perusal of a complaint or the evidence shows that the essential ingredients of the alleged offence are absent, or that the dispute is only of a civil nature, or that there are such patent absurdities in evidence that it would be a waste of time to proceed further, the complaint would properly be dismissed. (Debendranath,—A.I.R. 1972 S.C. 1607)
The Courts have held the view that the Magistrate should not dismiss a complaint without hearing the witnesses of the complainant who are present in Court. In other words, the complainant should be given an opportunity of establishing the truth of his allegations by having his witness’ evidence tested by the Court. However, the Magistrate would be justified in dismissing a complaint without examining the witnesses who are merely cited by the complaint, but who are not present in the Court.
In one case of murder, the complainant had come with a list of nine witnesses. However, only six witnesses were examined. It was held that the omission to make a statement or give in writing that the complainant did not propose to examine the other three witnesses would not vitiate the order for summoning the accused persons.
In such a case, it can be presumed that the complainant examined only six witnesses who he would have been entitled to examine in the Sessions Court. When the case is heard by the Sessions Court, the complainant cannot be permitted to examine these three witnesses. (Leela Dhar v. State of U.P., 1991 Cr. L.J. 2857)
If a complaint is in respect of a dispute of a civil nature, it ought to be dismissed, even if dressed up as a crime. If, on the other hand, the allegations contained in the complaint disclose a criminal offence, the Magistrate should not dismiss the complaint, simply because technical language is not used in the complaint.
The Nagpur High Court has held that a Magistrate is entitled to use his power under this section when he considers that there is grave and gross exaggeration. It is in the interest of justice that complaints should not be entertained when allegations considered to be utterly false and liable to lead to perjury are made, which may ruin the prosecution case, even as regards those parts of the complaint which may be reasonably true. (Narayan,—A.I.R. 1949 Nag. 318)
The Madras High Court has ruled that where according to the muchilika, the complainant was to appear in Court at 10 a.m. but he appeared at 11 a.m., which was the appointed hour for the sitting of the Court, the dismissal of the complaint was not justified. (Thanikachala,—A.I.R. 1947 Mad. 389)
If the Magistrate dismisses the complaint under S. 203, he must record his reasons for doing so, for, if he does not, it would not be possible for the High Court to consider whether the Magistrate has properly exercised his discretion. Failure to record the reasons, therefore, is not a mere irregularity, but amounts to a direct disobedience of the law by the Magistrate.