Limited Possibility of Amending a Criminal Complaint


A civil suit, as everyone knows, can be amended as per the provisions of
law but the criminal law code provides absolutely no provision for
amending a criminal complaint. However the Supreme Court and some of the
High Courts have read down the criminal law in some cases in such a way
it allows formal amendment of criminal complaints to a certain extent.

In [S R Sukumar Vs Sunad
( Crl A
No 844 of 2015) the Supreme Court held that if the amendment sought to
be made relates to a simple infirmity which is curable by means of a
formal amendment and by allowing such an amendment no prejudice could be
caused to the other side, the court can permit amendment of a criminal
petition despite the fact that there is absolutely no enabling provision
in the law code. However the court added that if the amendment is
related to an incurable infirmity or it cannot be corrected by a formal
amendment or if there is likelihood of the amendment being prejudicial
to the other side, then the court shall not permit such an amendment in
the criminal complaint.

Taking the same reasoning forward, the Supreme Court later on 18^th^
April 2016 in Kunnapa Reddy @ Nookaa Shanka Balaji Vs Kunnapa Reddy

held that the petition of a complaint under Domestic Violence Act can be
amended and court is not powerless to allow such an amendment
application. But the court cautioned that the amendment should be
allowed only sparingly and with utmost caution under limited
circumstances. The court held that one of the circumstances where such
an amendment is to be allowed is to avoid multiplicity of the
proceedings. The verdict says, “What we are emphasising is that even in
criminal cases governed by the Code, the Court is not powerless and may
allow amendment in appropriate cases. One of the circumstances where
such an amendment is to be allowed is to avoid the multiplicity of the
proceedings. The argument of the learned counsel for the appellant,
therefore, that there is no power of amendment has to be negated

Similarly, the Madras High Court in Chinnappaiyan Reddy Vs
, held on 3^rd^
February 2010 that a petition for amendment of a quasi -­ civil
complaint filed under Section 125 CrPC is maintainable. If the amendment
sought for would not change the nature and character of the suit or
proceedings the same can be allowed.

Subsequently in Mr. Amol Shripal Sheth vs M/S. Hari Om Trading Co. &
decided on 3/10/2012, the
Bombay High Court held that the magistrate has incidental and ancillary
power to allow an amendment to a petition of criminal nature filed under
Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.


In short, even though amendment to a criminal complaint is not permitted
by criminal law in India, the case laws allow limited and non-serious
amendments so as to prevent unintended perversity in justice and reduce
unnecessary multiplicity of court proceedings.