Summoning of Accused in Criminal Case

Summoning of an Accused in a Criminal Case is a very Serious Matter

In a recent case Volvo India Private Limited v. State of Maharashtra through Inspector of Legal Metrology Division, Nagpur, the Bombay High Court emphasized on the settled proposition of law that summoning of an accused in a criminal case is a very serious matter.

In this case, Applicant under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) preferred application challenging the order of issuance of process passed by the Judicial Magistrate, Nagpur for alleged commission of offence under the Standard Weights and Measures Act. In the case, the applicant alleged that concerned Department did not carry out any investigation and registered a Summary Criminal case against the Applicant.

The Bombay High Court in the case quashed the impugned order of issuance of process against the applicant that Summoning of an accused in a criminal case is a very serious matter.

Other cases, wherein the Judiciary has reiterated the legal proposition that summoning of an accused in a criminal case is a very serious matter:

In the case of Pepsi Foods Ltd. And anr. Vs. Special Judicial Magistrate 1998 (5) SCC 749 Hon'ble Supreme Court had held that “Summoning of an accused in a criminal case is a serious matter. Criminal law cannot be set into motion as a matter of course. It is not that the complainant has to bring only two witnesses to support his allegations in the complaint to have the criminal law set into motion. The order of the Magistrate summoning the accused must reflect that he has applied his mind to the facts of the case and the law applicable thereto. He has to examine the nature of allegations made in the complaint and the evidence both oral and documentary in support thereof and would that be sufficient for the complainant to succeed in bringing charge home to the accused. It is not that the Magistrate is a silent spectator at the time of recording of preliminary evidence before summoning the accused. Magistrate had to carefully scrutinize the evidence brought on record and may even himself put questions to the complainant and his witnesses to elicit answers to find out the truthfulness of the allegations or otherwise and then examine if any offence is prima facie committed by all or any of the accused.”

Here it would be relevant to mention that Section 200 of Code of Criminal Procedure provides for the examination of complaint by the Magistrate, whereby the Magistrate has to see prima facie evidence which means evidence sufficient for summoning the accused and not the evidence sufficient to warrant conviction as enunciated in the case titled Km. Nisha Sharma and anr. v. State of U.P. and Another, 2016 (92) ACC 364.

A similar observation was made by the Allahabad High Court in the case of Pragati Devi v. State of U.P. & Ors  Criminal Revision No. 2777 of 2016whereby the High Court observed that at the time of passing order on point of cognizance and summoning, the Magistrate is expected to consider as to whether prima facie evidence for summoning the accused are available or not. But this consideration has to be after application of judicial mind and not blindly Magistrate is not expected only to read the words uttered by witnesses under Section 200 of CrPC or Section 202 of CrPC but he also is required to use his judicial mind before passing any order and not act like a silent spectator of the words uttered by the witnesses, who were not going to be cross-examined at the stage of evidences under Chapter XV of CrPC.

 

Dr J C Vashista 
on 06 February 2018
Published in Criminal Law
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