Scope and ambit of powers of court under Section 319 CrPC explained
Manjeet Singh Vs State of Haryana
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.875 of 2021
About/from the judgment:
The Supreme Court has explained the scope and ambit of Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which empowers court to "proceed against persons other than those appearing guilty of offence.
The judgment was delivered in a plea under Section 319 for summoning certain persons as additional accused in a murder case to face trial.
The Sessions Judge had dismissed the application and the Punjab & Haryana High Court had confirmed the order of the Sessions Judge, leading to the present appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court referred to various judgments on the scope of Section 319 CrPC and summarised the following as regards the ambit of the provision:
(i) That while exercising the powers under Section 319 CrPC and to summon the persons not charge-sheeted, the entire effort is not to allow the real perpetrator of an offence to get away unpunished;
(ii) It is for the empowerment of the courts to ensure that the criminal administration of justice works properly;
(iii) The law has been properly codified and modified by the legislature under the CrPC indicating as to how the courts should proceed to ultimately find out the truth so that the innocent does not get punished but at the same time, the guilty are brought to book under the law;
(iv) To discharge duty of the court to find out the real truth and to ensure that the guilty does not go unpunished;
(v) Where the investigating agency for any reason does not array one of the real culprits as an accused, the court is not powerless in calling the said accused to face trial;
(vi) Section 319 CrPC allows the court to proceed against any person who is not an accused in a case before it;
(vii) The court is the sole repository of justice and a duty is cast upon it to uphold the rule of law and, therefore, it will be inappropriate to deny the existence of such powers with the courts in our criminal justice system where it is not uncommon that the real accused, at times, get away by manipulating the investigating and/or the prosecuting agency;
(viii) Section 319 CrPC is an enabling provision empowering the court to take appropriate steps for proceeding against any person not being an accused for also having committed the offence under trial;
(ix) The power under Section 319(1) CrPC can be exercised at any stage after the charge-sheet is filed and before the pronouncement of judgment, except during the stage of Sections 207/208 CrPC, committal, etc. which is only a pretrial stage intended to put the process into motion;
(x) The court can exercise the power under Section 319 CrPC only after the trial proceeds and commences with the recording of the evidence;
(xi) The word “evidence” in Section 319 CrPC means only such evidence as is made before the court, in relation to statements, and as produced before the court, in relation to documents;
(xii) It is only such evidence that can be taken into account by the Magistrate or the court to decide whether the power under Section 319 CrPC is to be exercised and not on the basis of material collected during the investigation;
(xiii) If the Magistrate/court is convinced even on the basis of evidence appearing in examination-in-chief, it can exercise the power under Section 319 CrPC and can proceed against such other person(s);
(xiv) That the Magistrate/court is convinced even on the basis of evidence appearing in examination-in-chief, powers under Section 319 CrPC can be exercised;
(xv) That power under Section 319 CrPC can be exercised even at the stage of completion of examination-in-chief and the court need not has to wait till the said evidence is tested on cross-examination;
(xvi) Even in a case where the stage of giving opportunity to the complainant to file a protest petition urging upon the trial court to summon other persons as well who were named in FIR but not implicated in the charge-sheet has gone, in that case also, the Court is still not powerless by virtue of Section 319 CrPC and even those persons named in FIR but not implicated in the charge-sheet can be summoned to face the trial, provided during the trial some evidence surfaces against the proposed accused (may be in the form of examination-in-chief of the prosecution witnesses);
(xvii) while exercising the powers under Section 319 CrPC the Court is not required and/or justified in appreciating the deposition/evidence of the prosecution witnesses on merits which is required to be done during the trial.
The Court after applying the above principles to the present case held that the High Court and the Sessions Court erred in dismissing the application under Section 319.
The Court, therefore, proceeded to direct the sessions judge to summons the persons mentioned in the application to face trial.
Read the Judgment
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