DATE OF JUDGEMENT
November 29, 2021.
Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice BV Nagarathna
Pradeep S Wodeyar (Appellant)
State of Karnataka(Respondent)
In this case, the appellant had contended that the criminal proceedings against him are vitiated as there were irregularities in the cognizance of offences. The Court held that minor irregularities do not vitiate a trial. Since, in the present case, there was no failure of justice due to the irregularity and as the appellant had challenged the proceedings against him only after 2 years of the cognizance of the offence, the proceedings cannot be held to be vitiated.
- The appellant (Pradeep S Wodeyar) had filed an appeal before the Karnataka High Court seeking the quashing of the criminal proceedings initiated against him under the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act and Indian Penal Code. The appellant was allegedly involved in unauthorized mining.
- However, his appeal was dismissed by the High Court. Subsequently, he approached the Supreme Court of India.
- The appellant pleaded that since the case was not committed to the Special Court, established under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, by the Magistrate under Section 209 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Special Court did not have the authority to take the cognizance of the offenses. Thus, the appellant contended that since the cognizance of offenses was irregular, the proceedings must be held to be vitiated. Under Section,
Code of Criminal Procedure:
- Section 209: Commitment of case to Court of Session when offence is triable exclusively by it. When in a case instituted on a police report or otherwise, the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate and it appears to the Magistrate that the offence is triable exclusively by the Court of Session, he shall-
(a)commit, after complying with the provisions of section 207 or section 208, as the case may be, the case to the Court of Session, and subject to the provisions of this Code relating to bail, remand the accused to custody until such commitment has been made;]
(b) subject to the provisions of this Code relating to bail, remand the accused to custody during, and until the conclusion of, the trial;
(c) send to that Court the record of the case and the documents and articles, if any, which are to be produced in evidence;
(d) notify the Public Prosecutor of the commitment of the case to the Court of Session.
- Section 193. Cognizance of offences by Courts of Session. Exceptas otherwise expressly provided by this Code or by any other law for the time being in force, no Court of Session shall take cognizance of any offence as a Court of original jurisdictionunless the case has been committed to it by a Magistrate under this Code.
- Section 460: Irregularities which do not vitiate proceedings. —If any Magistrate not empowered by law to do any ofthe following things, namely: —
(a) to issue a search-warrant under section 94;
(b) to order, under section 155, the police to investigate an offence;
(c) to hold an inquest under section 176;
(d) to issue process under section 187, for the apprehension of a person within his local jurisdiction who
has committed an offence outside the limits of such jurisdiction;
(e) to take cognizance of an offence under clause (a) or clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 190;
(f) to make over a case under sub-section (2) of section 192;
(g) to tender a pardon under section 306;
(h) to recall a case and try it himself under section 410; or
(i) to sell property under section 458 or section 459,
erroneously in good faith does that thing, his proceedings shall not be set aside merely on the ground of his notbeing so empowered.
- Section 461: Irregularities which vitiate proceedings. —If any Magistrate, not being empowered by law in this behalf,does any of the following things, namely: —
(a) attaches and sells property under section 83;
(b) issues a search-warrant for a document, parcel or other things in the custody of a postal or telegraphauthority;
(c) demands security to keep the peace;
(d) demands security for good behaviour;
(e) discharges a person lawfully bound to be of good behaviour;
(f) cancels a bond to keep the peace;
(g) makes an order for maintenance;
(h) makes an order under section 133 as to a local nuisance;
(i) prohibits, under section 143, the repetition or continuance of a public nuisance;
(j) makes an order under Part C or Part D of Chapter X;
(k) takes cognizance of an offence under clause (c) of sub-section (1) of section 190;
(l) tries an offender;
(m) tries an offender summarily;
(n) passes a sentence, under section 325, on proceedings recorded by another Magistrate;
(o) decides an appeal;
(p) calls, under section 397, for proceedings; or
(q) revises an order passed under section 446,
his proceedings shall be void.
- Section 465: Finding or sentence when reversible by reason of error, omission or irregularity.—(1) Subject to theprovisions hereinbefore contained, no finding, sentence or order passed by a Court of competent jurisdiction shall bereversed or altered by a Court of appeal, confirmation of revision on account of any error, omission or irregularity inthe complaint, summons, warrant, proclamation, order, judgment or other proceedings before or during trial orin any inquiry or other proceedings under this Code, or any error, or irregularity in any sanction for theprosecution, unless in the opinion of that Court, a failure of justice has in fact been occasioned thereby.
(2) In determining whether any error, omission or irregularity in any proceeding under this Code, or any error orirregularity in any sanction for the prosecution has occasioned a failure of justice, the Court shall have regard to thefact whether the objection could and should have been raised at an earlier stage in the proceedings
The following are the major issues framed by the Supreme Court-
- Whether the Special Court had the jurisdiction to take the cognizance of the offences?
- Whether the irregularity in cognizance of offences vitiates the proceedings?
ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGMENT
- The Supreme Court observed that the cognizance of offenses was irregular as the Special Court did not have the authority to take cognizance of offences under Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act when the case was not committed to it by the Magistrate under Section 209.
- However, the Court held that under Section 460 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, something more than a mere lack of authority is needed to be established to vitiate the criminal proceedings. Section 460 deals with such irregularities on part of the Magistrate which do not vitiate the proceedings.
- Furthermore, the Court held that Section 465 of Code of Criminal Procedure would also be applicable to interlocutory orders such as the one involved in the present case. The purpose of Section 465 is to provide a speedy trial and to avoid delays on the commencement as well as conclusion of the trial proceedings. The Court stated that under Section 465, the proceedings can be vitiated only if the appellant is able to establish that the interlocutory order led to the failure of justice or that prejudice has been caused to the appellant.
- The Courts must take into consideration the "stage of challenge, the seriousness of the offence and the apparent intention to prolong proceedings" while determining there has been a failure of justice or not. In the instant case, the appellant challenged the cognizance order only 2 years after the Special Court had taken the cognizance. Hence, there was no reason to declare the proceedings to be vitiated.
- Furthermore, the Court observed that if permissible under Section 220 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Special Court has the authority to take cognizance of offenses and conduct a joint trial with other offences.
The Court rightly observed that the purpose of Chapter XXXV CrPC is to ensure that all such irregularities, which do not relate to the case's root, are not used as a tool for delaying the proceedings. The Court stated that judicial delay is predominantly caused as every interlocutory order is appealed till the Apex Court, even where the order was based on minor irregularities which are insignificant and unrelated to the roots of the case.
Where irregularities can be rectified or where the irregularities have not caused a failure of justice, then such irregularities cannot vitiate the proceedings as it would lead to inordinate delays is disposal of cases. The Courts must discourage unscrupulous attempts to cause delays in the pre-trial stage.
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