[Examination of accused - S.313 CrPC] Karnataka High Court issues guidelines for trial courts to follow

  • Salil Tiwari
  • 03:08 PM, 13 Oct 2021

The Karnataka High Court has issued a bunch of guidelines to be followed by trial courts while examining and recording statements of accused under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Stressing that Section 313 of the Code embodies the fundamental principle of 'Audi Alteram Partem', the Bench of Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar said, “Since this is the stage where the accused gets an opportunity to explain inculpatory evidence against him, the questions must be framed in such a manner as he or she understands them.”

The court said that the questions must be simple and specific to the evidence against the accused. “A long string of questions couched in complex sentences must be avoided,” court added.

The court stated that preparing the questionnaires equal to number of accused is not the correct procedure and a waste of time. As is already allowed, “the trial court judges may direct the Public Prosecutors and the defence counsel to submit the questions to be put to the accused, and the questions prepared by them may be adopted after scrutiny and modification if required,” said the court.

Backdrop

A petition had been filed before court by two accused facing trial for offences punishable under Sections 302 and 201 read with Section 34 of IPC.

The petitioners had urged the court to quash the petitioners/accused persons' statements as recorded by Sessions Judge under Section 313 of CrPC and had sought direction to the Sessions Judge for examining the accused once again properly and record their explanations that they want to give.

They had alleged that the questions asked to them were not properly articulated and were framed in complex sentences. They had averred that although they offered explanation for some of the questions, the Sessions Judge refused to record them and insisted on giving the answer in a single word – either ‘false’ or ‘true’.

Court’s observations

Discussing the 2009 amendment to Section 313, CrPC, the court issued following guidelines:

  1. Only the incriminatory evidence must be picked out from oral and documentary evidence;
  2. The questions must be framed in simple language, as far as possible in short sentences;
  3. The attention of each accused must be drawn to the evidence adverse or against him/her;
  4. If a witness gives evidence as regards the collective overt act of two or more accused, then a single question may be framed, but each accused must be questioned individually, and their answers must be recorded separately;
  5. As two or more witnesses may speak identically regarding the overt act of an accused, the substance of their evidence may be put in a single question;
  6. The attention of the accused must be drawn to the marked incriminating documents and material objects;
  7. The accused must be questioned regarding various types of mahazars or panchanamas only if they contain incriminatory evidence;
  8. Accused need not be questioned in regard to evidence given by the formal witnesses. For example, an engineer who has drawn the sketch of scene of occurrence, a police constable submitting the FIR to the Magistrate, a police constable carrying seized articles to FSL, a police officer who has only submitted the charge sheet without conducting investigation, etc., unless anything incriminatory is found in such evidence;
  9. If there are two or more accused, it is not necessary to prepare as many sets of questionnaires as the number of accused are. It is enough to prepare a single questionnaire, but the question must be directed towards a particular accused individually or two or more accused collectively;
  10. When a question is framed pointing out collective overt act of two or more accused, the answer of each accused must be recorded separately one after another;
  11. By virtue of amendment brought to CrPC, the trial court judges may take the assistance of the public prosecutors and the defence counsel for framing the questions;
  12. In case the public prosecutor or the defence counsel submits a set of questions, the trial court judges must scrutinize and adopt them;
  13. The court should record the answer or explanation given by the accused and should not insist upon the accused to give answer in one word, ‘false’ or ‘true’.

In the case at hand, observing the questions were not properly framed and the trial court judge did not record explanation given by the accuse, court allowed the petition and directed the trial court to re-examine the accused under section 313 Cr.P.C following the guidelines set out above.

The single-judge also directed the Registrar General of the High Court to circulate the said guidelines to all trial courts and further asked the Karnataka Judicial Academy to prepare a model questionnaire and circulate it among all the trial courts for their guidance.

Case Title: Meenakshi and anr vs State of Karnataka