The Supreme Court recently held that the mere failure to repay a loan would not automatically become a criminal offence unless there is criminal intent underlying the same.
The Court contended that in order to constitute the offence of criminal breach of trust, there must be a handing over of money or property. As for the criminal offence of cheating, there must be a fraudulent or dishonest intention involved to implicate the accused. These elements were absent in the dispute before the Court.
The bench comprised Justices NV Ramana and MM Shantanagoudar pronounced an order clarifying this position while quashing charges of cheating and criminal breach of trust framed by a Magistrate Court under Sections 406, 409, 415 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The appellant before the Court had failed to return a loan taken in 2008. The moneylender (respondent) filed a civil suit for recovery of money in 2011. In 2012, however, the respondent filed a criminal complaint leveling charges of criminal breach of trust and cheating against the appellant. After an unsuccessful plea to quash these charges before the High Court, the appellant approached the Supreme Court. In turn, the Supreme Court found that the Magistrate and the High Court had erred in failing to recognize that there was no criminal element in the failure to repay the loan in this case.
—India Legal Bureau