Private pleader engaged by a victim in a criminal trial only has the limited right of assisting the prosecutor and may not make oral arguments or conduct cross-examination of witnesses

Rekha Murarka Vs The State of West Bengal and Anr

Supreme Court

20/11/2019

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1727 OF 2019

About/from the judgment:

The Supreme Court held that a private pleader engaged by a victim in a criminal trial only has the limited right of assisting the prosecutor and may not make oral arguments or conduct cross-examination of witnesses.

 

The court in this case, upheld the decision of the Calcutta High Court that dismissed the plea of the petitioner seeking permission for her private pleader to cross-examine witnesses.

 

The Court also highlighted that a private pleader engaged by a victim is subject to the directions of the Public Prosecutor in the same way that a private party's Counsel is and said,

"A victim’s counsel should ordinarily not be given the right to make oral arguments or examine and cross­examine witnesses. As stated in Section 301(2), the private party’s pleader is subject to the directions of the Public Prosecutor. In our considered opinion, the same principle should apply to the victim’s counsel under the proviso to Section 24(8)"

 

The Court said that the Counsel may route his questions through the Public Prosecutor and raise his concerns in case if he feels examination has missed certain aspects. Adopting this method would ensure that there is no inconsistency in the case of the Prosecution while the interests of the victim are also addressed. Further, the "paramount position" of the prosecutor under the scheme of the CrPC will also be maintained, the Court added.

Citing the decision of the Tripura High Court in the case Uma Sahavs Tripura, the Court underscored that the scope of a private counsel is limited to the extent that he may not assist the prosecutor as regards questions and points that may have been missed but cannot pose the questions to witnesses by himself.

"Uma Saha v. State of Tripura (supra) that the victim’s counsel has a limited right of assisting the prosecution, which may extend to suggesting questions to the Court or the prosecution, but not putting them by himself."

 

This, the Court said, is in light of the possibility of the Counsel channeling his questions through the Judge should he feel that the Prosecutor has not conducted the examination properly or incorporated his suggestions. If the Judge finds merit in his concern, then the Judge may take appropriate recourse by invoking his power under Section 311 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

 

The Court, therefore, dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the High Court.

Read the Judgment

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