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Supreme Court Reiterates Procedural Safeguards u/s 319 CrPC To Prevent Abuse Of Power

Megha Nautiyal ,
  02 March 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.549 OF 2023

CAUSE TITLE:

Juhru & Ors. v. Karim & Anr.

DATE OF ORDER:

21 February 2023

JUDGE(S):

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Surya Kant and Hon’ble Mr. Justice J.K. Maheshwari

PARTIES:

Appellant: Juhru & Ors. 

Respondent: Karim & Anr.

SUBJECT:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Court’), set aside the order of the High Court and held that summoning of an additional accused under Section 319 should be done as per the procedural requirements so as to prevent abuse of power.

Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

Code of Criminal Procedure

  • Section 319 - Power to proceed against other persons appearing to be guilty of offence.
  • (1) Where, in the course of any inquiry into, or trial of, an offence, it appears from the evidence that any person not being the accused has committed any offence for which such person could be tried together with the accused, the Court may proceed against such person for the offence which he appears to have committed.
  • (2) Where such person is not attending the Court, he may be arrested or summoned, as the circumstances of the case may require, for the purpose aforesaid.
  • (3) Any person attending the Court, although not under arrest or upon a summons, may be detained by such Court for the purpose of the inquiry into, or trial of, the offence which he appears to have committed.
  • (4) Where the Court proceeds against any person under sub- section (1), then-
  • (a) the proceedings in respect of such person shall be commenced a fresh, and the witnesses re- heard;
  • (b) subject to the provisions of clause (a), the case may proceed as if such person had been an accused person when the Court took cognizance of the offence upon which the inquiry or trial was commenced.

Indian Penal Code, 1860

  • Section 34 - Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention
  • Section 304B - Punishment for dowry death - Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.
  • Section 498A - Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty - Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be pun­ished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

BRIEF FACTS:

  • On 09.07.2017, on the statement of Karim - Respondent No. 1, an FIR bearing No. 270 was registered at Police Station Tauru, District Nuh u/s 304B, 498A, 406, 323 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • Respondent no.1’s deceased sister (Rukseena) was married on 04.12.2016 with one Aamir. As dowry to Aamir’s family, an Alto car, Rs.3 lakhs in cash, 3 kg of silver, 30 grams of gold, furniture and other household items were allegedly given. The family of the Aamir (groom) consisted of Akhlima (mother), Juhru (father) – Appellant No.1, Sonam (sister) – Appellant No.2 and Rijwan (brother-in-law) – Appellant No.3. 
  • It was alleged in the FIR that Aamir’s family was dissatisfied with the dowry and subjected the deceased to regular torture and harassment. Respondent No.1 along with his family tried to settle the matter but all in vain. On 09.07.2017, Respondent No. 1 was informed over a phone call that the deceased had hung herself to death.
  • During the investigation, no incriminating material was found against the Appellants and a Challan was filed only against the husband and the mother-in-law of the deceased, who are parties of the trial. 
  • On 01.03.2018, during the trial Respondent No. 1 testified as PW-1 and reiterated the allegations levelled against all the accused persons, including the Appellants. Thereafter, Respondent No. 1 filed an application u/s 319 Cr.P.C in the Trial Court to summon the Appellants as additional accused. This application was dismissed by the Trial Court which noted that the extraordinary power vested u/s 319 Cr.P.C can only be exercised if the evidence produced on record prima facie indicates the involvement of the person(s) aimed to be prosecuted. It was also noted by the Ld. Court that neither the deposition of Respondent No. 1 nor any other material on record indicated the involvement of persons sought to be summoned in any offence for which they could be tried together with accused Appellants. 
  • Aggrieved by the decision of the Trial Court, Respondent No. 1 approached the High Court u/s 482, Cr.P.C. On 27.01.2020, his petition was allowed and the appellants were summoned to face trial. The High Court noted that the FIR as well as the testimony of Respondent No. 1 clearly reveal the insinuations against the Appellants and that they were exactly the same as those attributed to the accused already facing trial. 
  • The appellants filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the High Court.

QUESTIONS RAISED:

  • Whether the High Court erred in summoning the addition accused under Section 319 Cr.P.C?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT:

  • The counsel for the Appellants, Mr. S.K. Verma, submitted that the High Court has erred in not appreciating that the powers u/s 319 Cr.P.C. can only be exercised if the evidence indicates the possible involvement of the person(s) proposed to be prosecuted. There is not a single piece of evidence against the appellants to indicate such an involvement.
  • Furthermore, the High Court did not adequately consider the fact that the Appellants were found innocent during the investigation.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENTS:

  • The Counsel for the 1st Respondent, Mr. Deepkaran Dalal, defended the decision of the High Court. He contended that the High Court was justified in summoning the Appellants on the basis of the allegations made in the FIR and the deposition of Respondent No.1. 
  • It was further contended that the appellants subjected the deceased with harassment for not bringing enough dowry which led to her unfortunate death within just 7 months of her marriage.

ANALYSIS BY THE COURT:

  • The Ld. Court took reliance on Sukhpal Singh Khaira v. State of Punjab case, where it was held that the word “evidence” u/s 319 Cr.P.C. has to be understood in a broad manner by corroborating the evidence recorded by Court after commencement of trial.
  • The Court further noted that the statement made during examination-in-chief also constitutes “evidence” and the Court while exercising power u/s 319 Cr.P.C. does not have to wait for evidence against a person proposed to be summoned, to be tested by cross-examination. 
  • It was observed by the Court that the power of summoning u/s 319 Cr.P.C. should not be exercised routinely and the existence of more than a prima facie case is essential to summon an additional accused. The Court also noted that in order to prevent misuse of power u/s 319 Cr.P.C., the procedural safeguard should be altered to make sure that the summoning of a person at the very threshold of the trial may be discouraged. Furthermore, the court must carefully evaluate the evidence presented against the persons sought to be summoned and then rightly decide whether such material, more or less, carries the same value as has been testified against those who are already facing trial. Only when these conditions are followed, the Court can exercise the power u/s 319 Cr.P.C.

CONCLUSION

It was held by the Ld. Court that the summoning of Appellant no. 2 and 3 are too far fetched and they cannot be subjected to trial solely on the basis of mere strong suspicion. However, the summoning of Appellant no.1 was sustained by the Court. The order of the High Court was set aside and Appellant no.1 was added as an accused in the case.

Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.

 
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