|AIR 1974 SC 290, 1974 CriLJ 341, (1974) 3 SCC 661, 1974 2 SCR 481
|Date of Judgement
|17th November, 1973
|Supreme Court of India
|Superintendent and Remembrancer
|Birendra Chandra Chakravarty
|J. M Beg, J. Y Chandrachud
|Section 409 of IPC
FACTS OF THE CASE
-The respondent in this case is Birendra Chandra Chakravarty, also known as Balak Brahmachari. The complainant is a widow named Smt. Saila Bala Devi. The dispute also involves several of Smt. Saila Bala Devi’s family members.
-Aswini Kumar Das, a retired Chief Engineer of the Dacca Municipality who passed away in 1934, was married to Smt. Saila Bala Devi. He left behind a number of assets at the time of his passing, including 200 bighas of property in Gangarampur, a dispensary in Nawabpur, and a two-story house in Dacca.
-Following the partition of India, Smt. Saila Bala Devi and her family—which consisted of seven daughters and four sons—moved to Calcutta.
-The respondent, Birendra Chandra Chakravarty (Balak Brahmachari), grew close to Smt. Saila Bala Devi’s family throughout the 1940s. She and her family held him in the highest regard and even saw him as an incarnation of God.
-Under the influence of the respondent, Smt. Saila Bala Devi moved her East Bengal home and paid Rs. 37,000 to Abdul Rahman, whom the respondent had introduced to her.
-However, the respondent himself was made the benamidar of the properties that ought to have been transferred to her in exchange for this payment. The reason got this transfer arrangement is not entirely clear.
-The central issue in this case centers on a set of properties known as the “Bansdroni properties.” At the time of the First Information Report (FIR) dated November 26, 1963, these properties were initially held in the name of the “Ashoke Trust”.
-Smt. Saila Bala Devi believed that when the respondent signed a deed of relinquishment (Ex. 8) on February 24, 1962, her rights to these Bansdroni assets were being acknowledged. However, these assets were reportedly not, however, reportedly weren’t transferred to her and were dishonestly left out.
-Smt. Saila Bala Devi stated that the respondent obstructed her from taking any legal action to achieve the transfer of the Bansdroni estates by using threats and intimidation. She further claimed that the respondent had misappropriated the income generated from these assets’ revenue.
-After learning about the alleged theft from one of her sons, Smt. Saila Bala Devi wrote a letter outlining her complaints to Shri Profulla Chandra Sen, the Chief Minister of West Bengal. The police received this letter and treated it as a FIR dated November 26, 1963.
-In this case, the respondent, Birendra Chandra Chakravarty, was being tried for criminal breach of trust in his capacity as a trustee and agent for the Bansdroni properties.
-In a lengthy ruling, the High Court of Calcutta concluded that the parties’ disagreement was primarily of a civil nature. It did not definitively decide whether there had been a criminal breach of trust with regard to the real estate given to the respondent.
-The respondent and Smt. Saila Bala Devi’s family had a close and long-standing relationship, which the High Court stated made it challenging to determine the true nature of the respondent’s position towards the Bansdroni properties.
– Dissatisfied with the judgment of the High Court the Petitioners filed an appeal with the Supreme Court Of India.
The primary issue raised in the said case was – whether the actions of the respondent, Birendra Chandra Chakravarty, constituted a criminal breach of trust or whether the dispute between the parties was essentially of a civil nature?
According to the prosecution, Birendra Chandra Chakravarty (the respondent) violated a criminal trust. The prosecution argued that by failing to transfer certain “Bansdroni properties” properties known as the “Bansdroni properties” to Smt. Saila Bala Devi as per her understanding, the respondent, acting as the trustee and agent of Smt. Saila Bala Devi had breached his fiduciary responsibility. According to the prosecution, the defendant misappropriated the Bansdroni properties’ income, which was meant to belong to Smt. Saila Bala Devi. Additionally, they stated that the respondent intimidated and threatened Smt. Saila Bala Devi to keep her from filing a lawsuit to obtain the transfer of the Bansdroni assets.
The defense contended that the parties’ disagreement was primarily of a civil nature and focused on ownership and property rights. They contended that there was no convincing evidence proving criminal intent or a breach of trust. The respondent asserted that the Bansdroni properties were actually his own purchases that he had made for his underprivileged pupils and that he now held in trust for charitable reasons. The complainant, Smt. Saila Bala Devi, had the option of resolving the property dispute through a civil lawsuit, and such a legal remedy was open to her, the defense noted. The defense emphasized how arguments involving Smt. Saila Bala Devi’s sons led to disputes and disagreements between the respondent and her. They asserted that there were non-criminal reasons why the respondent’s connection with the family had worsened.
The defense’s main argument was that the case at hand was essentially a civil property dispute and that any criminal liability could only be shown once the underlying property rights and ownership issues had been settled in a civil lawsuit.
The Supreme Court of India affirmed the judgement of the High Court, which had cleared the respondent, Birendra Chandra Chakravarty, of the accusations leveled against him, in the matter of Superintendent and Remembrancer vs. Birendra Chandra Chakravarty.The High Court’s conclusion that the conflict between the parties was primarily of a civil nature was accepted by the Supreme Court. It was mentioned that there had been several property transactions and disputes, as well as complicated and protracted relationships between the complainant’s family and the respondent. Given the parties’ lengthy and close relationship, the court noted that it was challenging to pinpoint the precise nature of the respondent’s position towards the “Bansdroni properties,” which were the subject of the dispute.
The court acknowledged that he complainant, Smt. Saila Bala Devi, had a civil remedy available to her through a civil lawsuit to establish her rights in the disputed properties. The challenged properties were given to the “Ashoke Trust,” which would be required in such a dispute, at the time of the First Information Report (FIR). In the absence of a civil lawsuit establishing unambiguous ownership and rights to the property, the court considered it difficult to prove criminal responsibility beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, the Supreme Court maintained the High Court’s judgment clearing the respondent of the criminal breach of trust-related allegations.
In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s ruling upheld the High Court’s decision that the present disagreement principally included a civil property dispute and stressed the need for a civil lawsuit to settle the fundamental questions of property rights and ownership. As a result, the special leave appeal against the High Court’s verdict was denied.
This Article is written by G Parinitha of St. Joseph’s College of Law, Intern at Legal Vidhya.