Del HC | Magistrate cannot record plea of guilt voluntarily made by accused and convict him if charges have not been framed

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., for the reason of procedural lapses, quashed an order passed by the trial court wherein the Magistrate had convicted the petitioner (accused) after recording the plea of guilt voluntarily made by him.

The petitioner was convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 454 and 380 read with 34 IPC. Darshan Singh, Advocate representing the petitioner submitted that the Magistrate erred in convicting the petitioner by recording his plea of guilt as the trial court had not then reached the stage of framing of charges. Contravention of Section 240 and 241 CrPC contended.

After discussing Sections 238, 239 and 240 CrPC, the High Court was of the view that the conviction of the petitioner could not be sustained. Moreover, at the time when the petitioner was produced before the Magistrate and his plea of guilt was recorded, neither there was no legal counsel representing him, nor any amicus was appointed by the Magistrate. It was observed: “In the present case there is apparently no compliance with Sections 239 and 240 i.e. consideration by the Magistrate of the police report and the material submitted before it and an opinion formed that charge should be framed. Further, no legal counsel apparently has been provided to the petitioner before recording his plea of guilt.” As for non-framing of charges, the Court held: “As no charge was framed there was no question of the Magistrate at that stage to record the plea of guilt or otherwise of the accused, even if voluntarily made.” Holding that failure of justice had been questioned in the present case, the Court quashed the petitioner’s conviction and remitted the matter back to the trial court. [Adi Malik v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8204, dated 24-04-2019]

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