'Judicial officers well advised to take help of defence counsel, prosecutor,' Supreme Court on Sec 313 CrPC

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While vitiating the conviction of a man who had already served over a decade of his sentence, Top Court said that the conviction in 1995 by the Delhi High Court basis is basis only one solitary statement which was not put to him for explanation 

The Supreme Court has asked the judicial officers, conducting trial in criminal cases, to take the help of prosecutor and defence lawyers in order to put every material evidence against the accused in recording his statement.

The court also said lawyers must not act as a mouthpiece of their clients in such situations.

"While recording the statement under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code in cases involving  a large number of prosecution witnesses, the Judicial Officers will be well advised to take benefit of sub section (5) of Section 313 of CrPC, which will ensure that the chances of committing errors and omissions are minimized," a bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Rajesh Bindal said.

The bench pointed out in 1951, while delivering the verdict in the case of Tara Singh, this court lamented that in many cases, scant attention is paid to the salutary provision of Section 342 of Criminal Procedure Code of 1898.  

"We are sorry to note that the situation continues to be the same after 72 years as we see such defaults in large number of cases. The National and the State Judicial Academies must take a note of this situation," the bench said.  

The court ordered its Registry to forward a copy of this decision to the National and all the State Judicial Academies.

It set aside concurrent findings of the Delhi High Court as well as a trial court which held Raj Kumar alias Suman guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy in 1995 on the basis of one solitary statement of a witness that the appellant was standing outside the gate with a country made gun in his hand when six other accused entered the house of the deceased to attack and kill him.

The top court found the only alleged incriminating circumstance appearing against the appellant in the evidence produced by the prosecution has not been put to
him in his statement under Section 313 of CrPC and, therefore, he had no opportunity to explain the said circumstance.   

It said on facts, a serious prejudice  was caused to the appellant as he was not confronted with only circumstance appearing in evidence in examining him under Section 313 of CrPC.

"More than 27 years have passed since the date of the incident. Considering the passage of time, we are of the view that it will be unjust now at this stage to remit the case to the trial court for recording further statement of the appellant under Section 313 of CrPC," the bench said.

Besides, the court also noted the appellant has already undergone incarceration for a period of 10 years and four months. 

"We are of the view that the conviction of the appellant stands vitiated. In the facts of the case, the option of remand will be unjust. Accordingly, we allow the appeal and set aside the conviction," the bench said, ordering release of the appellant.

In its judgement, the court highlighted the importance of Section 313 of the CrPC. 

"In many criminal trials, a large number of witnesses are examined, and evidence is voluminous. It is true that the Judicial Officers have to understand the importance of Section 313," the bench said.

Taking a note of sub section (5) added to Section 313 in year 2009, the bench said now the court is empowered to take the help of the prosecutor and the defence counsel in preparing relevant questions.  

"Therefore, when the trial judge prepares questions to be put to the accused under Section 313, before putting the questions  to the accused, the judge can always provide copies of the said questions to the Public Prosecutor as well as the defence Counsel and seek their assistance for ensuring that every relevant material circumstance appearing against the accused is put to him," the bench said.

Case Title: Rajesh Kumar @ Suman Vs State of NCT Delhi