SUPREME COURT HOLDS THAT SESSIONS COURT FAILED TO ENSURE A FAIR TRIAL, AS ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE ACCUSED WERE NOT PROPERLY ADDRESSED
A two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal passed a Judgement dated 11/05/2023 in the case of Raj Kumar @ Suman V/s State (NCT of Delhi), Criminal Appeal No. 1471 of 2023, and held that the Sessions Court failed to ensure a fair trial against the Appellant-Accused, as the allegations made against him were not addressed properly under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) (Power to examine the accused).
1) In the present case, one, Raj Kumar, the Appellant herein along with other Accused persons were accused of committing the offence of criminal intimidation and murder of one, Jawahar Lal (Deceased) and his relatives on 01/10/1995 around 3.30 pm in Delhi, owing to a trade rivalry over the business of cable television run by the Accused persons on one side and the Deceased and his family on the other side.
2) The Appellant was convicted by the Ld. Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi (Sessions Court) in Sessions Case No.9 of 2000 for the offences punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (Punishment for murder), Section 307 IPC (Attempt to murder) read with Section 120-B of IPC (Punishment of criminal conspiracy), vide Order dated 25/08/2003 and further, sentenced him to undergo (a) life imprisonment for the offence under Section 302 IPC and (b) rigorous imprisonment for 7 years for offence punishable under Section 307 IPC read with Section 120-B of IPC, vide Order dated 27/08/2003.
3) The other Accused persons were also convicted for the aforesaid offences by the Ld. Sessions Court.
4) Aggrieved by the Orders of the Ld. Sessions Court dated 25/08/2003 and 27/08/2003, the Appellant-Accused filed CRLA / 32 / 2004 before the High Court of Delhi.
5) The High Court, vide Order dated 01/11/2008, upheld the Orders of the Ld. Sessions Court and held the Appellant-Accused guilty of committing the offences of criminal intimidation and murder of the Deceased and his family.
Supreme Court Observations
Aggrieved by the High Court Order dated 01/11/2008, the Appellant-Accused filed Criminal Appeal No. 1471 of 2023 before the Supreme Court. The Apex Court passed a Judgment dated 11/05/2023 and made the following observations:
i) That the Appellant-Accused has merely denied the allegations in his statement recorded under Section 313 CrPC, without producing any proof or substantiation in his defense.
ii) That Section 313 CrPC serves as a direct dialogue between the accused and the Court in a trial or inquiry proceedings, thereby, allowing the accused to provide explanations regarding the circumstances against them.
iii) Further, in respect of Section 313 CrPC, the Bench observed as follows:
a) That the Trial Court has a duty to specifically, distinctly, and separately present each material circumstance against the accused, which refers to the evidence on which the prosecution seeks conviction.
b) The purpose of examining the accused under Section 313 is to provide an opportunity for the accused to explain any circumstance appearing against them in the evidence.
c) The Court must generally exclude material circumstances not presented to the accused when dealing with their case.
d) Failure to present material circumstances to the accused constitutes a serious irregularity that can invalidate the trial if it is shown to have prejudiced the accused.
e) If an irregularity in presenting material circumstances to the accused does not result in a miscarriage of justice, it becomes a curable defect.
f) Even the appellate court can question the accused on material circumstances that were not presented to them if the irregularity is curable.
g) In certain cases, the trial can be remanded to the Trial Court for recording the supplementary statement of the accused under Section 313 of CrPC.
h) Applying the aforesaid principles to the present case, the Bench observed that during the trial, all Accused persons except the present Appellant had faced a separate charge under Section 452 IPC (House-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), read with Section 120-B of IPC, pertaining to criminal conspiracy. The Appellant was only made a party to the conspiracy and was accused of being present with a weapon outside the crime scene, based on the testimony of only one witness (PW-5). No other evidence against the Appellant was found among the 37 witnesses examined. In the Appellant’s statement recorded under Section 313 of CrPC, the sole allegation made against him was not addressed. Further, the matter has been going on since more than 23 years, which has further caused prejudice to the interests of the Appellant.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court held that the Sessions Court and the High Court erred in convicting the Appellant. As a result, the Appeal filed by the Appellant-Accused was allowed and the Orders of the Ld. Sessions Court dated 25/08/2003 and 27/08/2003 and High Court Order dated 01/11/2008 were set aside to the extent that they had convicted the Appellant-Accused.
Further, the Apex Court observed that Judicial Officers must recognize the importance of Section 313 CrPC to ensure that all relevant material circumstances for and against the accused are addressed, in order to ensure a fair trial.
The Indian Lawyer