It was inappropriate for the High Court to authorize the splitting of the authorities were facing challenges in procuring the presence of some accused – The Apex Court in S. Mujibur Rahman v. The State Rep. by Inspector of Police & Anr
Case title: S. Mujibur Rahman v. The State Rep. by Inspector of Police & Anr
Date of Order: 21st November 2023
Bench: Hon'ble Mr. Justice Abhay S. Oka Hon'ble Mr. Justice Pankaj Mithal
Parties: Appellant: S. Mujibur Rahman
Respondent(s): The State Rep. by Inspector of Police & Anr
The Hon'ble Supreme Court (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Supreme Court' or ‘the Court') dealt with an appeal challenging a judgment and order dated February 23, 2021. The Court set aside this judgment and reinstated an order made on June 16, 2019, by the learned Judicial Magistrate. The court expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of the investigation over 4½ years and directed the State to submit a detailed affidavit within a month. The case was scheduled for further consideration on January 9, 2024.
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
- Section 317 (2): If the accused in any such case is not represented by a pleader, or if the Judge or Magistrate considers his personal attendance necessary, he may, if he thinks fit and for reasons to be recorded by him, either adjourn such inquiry or trial or order that the case of such accused be taken up or tried separately.
The Tamil Nadu Public Property Damage Act:
- Section 395
- Section 397
- Section 212
- Section 120 B
- Section 3
- A First Information Report (FIR) was filed, accusing 31 people of various offenses under specific sections of the law. The Judicial Magistrate, in an order from June 16, 2019, noted that some of the accused individuals could not be brought to court. The second accused filed a petition under section 317(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, stating that they could not attend.
- The Magistrate, however, rejected the petition, noting that although the police had sent warrants and summons, they had not provided a report explaining why they could not execute them.
- The second accused filed a revision petition before the High Court challenging the Magistrate's order.
- The High Court in its judgment acknowledged that the case had been pending since 2016 and that the police faced difficulties in serving summons or non-bailable warrants to certain accused persons, with only 20 out of 31 attending court.
- The High Court's order is now under appeal before this Court.
- Can the High Court permit the splitting of the trial when the police were facing difficulties in serving summons or warrants to certain accused persons?
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT
- The High Court failed to consider the reasons recorded by the Magistrate in its order and the Magistrate's authorization of further investigation.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT
- The case has been ongoing since 2016, and the police faced difficulties in serving a summons or non-bailable warrants to some of the accused individuals.
- The High Court also observed that out of the total 31 accused persons, only 20 were attending the court proceedings.
- The Deputy Superintendent of Police was now the Investigating Officer on the case, but the nature and quality of the investigation need to be addressed in a companion petition.
- Upon reviewing the impugned order, the Supreme Court found that the High Court did not consider the reasons given by the learned Magistrate in the order dated July 16, 2019.
- The High Court also failed to consider that the Magistrate had allowed further investigation. Consequently, when the High Court approved the division of the trial into separate parts, it overlooked two crucial aspects.
- Firstly, the Magistrate was not convinced that the police had made enough efforts to bring all the accused individuals to court.
- Secondly, the order for further investigation on February 13, 2019, was a significant factor that the High Court did not consider.
- As a result, the apex court suggested that the decision to split the case was premature.
In the final remarks, the Supreme Court took action to nullify the contested judgment and order dated February 23, 2021. Instead, the Court reinstated the prior decision issued on June 16, 2019, by the learned Judicial Magistrate. As a result, the appeal proved successful.