A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India clarified the powers of the courts under the criminal justice system to arraign any person as an accused during the course of inquiry or trial as contemplated under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
Section 319 refers to ‘Power to proceed against other persons appearing to be guilty of offence’.
The Court concluded as follows: –
1) The power under Section 319(1) CrPC can be exercised at any time after the charge-sheet is filed and before the pronouncement of judgment, except during the stage of Section 207/208 CrPC, committal etc., which is only a pre-trial stage, intended to put the process into motion.
2) The word “evidence” used in Section 319(1) CrPC has been used in a comprehensive sense and includes the evidence collected during investigation and is not limited to the evidence recorded during trial.
A person not named in the FIR or a person though named in the FIR but has not been chargesheeted or a person who has been discharged can be summoned under Section 319 CrPC provided from the evidence it appears that such person can be tried along with the accused already facing trial.