Del HC | Suggestion given by counsel on behalf of accused cannot be considered as “admission” to bind him under S. 18 of Evidence Act

Delhi High Court: Manoj Kumar Ohri, J. allowed a revision petition filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the petitioner was convicted for offence punishable under Section 354-A IPC (sexual harassment).

On the day of the incident, the petitioner was acting as an invigilator inside the examination hall where the complainant was writing her History subject examination paper. It was alleged that the petitioner made unwelcome physical contact with the complainant involving explicit sexual overtures against her. Further, he met the complainant nearby the bus stand and uttered certain words towards her intending to insult her modesty and intrude upon her privacy. The trial court found the allegations proved and convicted the petitioner as aforesaid. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner approached the High Court.

At the outset, the High Court noted that an accused can be convicted on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix, but in the instant case, the Court was of the opinion that the complainant’s testimony was not such as to inspire confidence. It found many discrepancies and improvements in her statements as was evident from the record of the case.

Perusing the impugned order, it was noted, inter alia, that the trial court, as well as the Appellate Court, relied upon the suggestion given on behalf of the petitioner to the complaint that she had already obtained the phone number of the petitioner after leaving the examination hall and that is how she knew the same. The Appellate Court observed that the suggestion essentially goes to show that the petitioner himself had admitted the possession of his phone number with the complainant. However, in High Court’s opinion, the question of whether a suggestion given by the counsel on behalf of the accused can be considered as admission and bind the accused under Section 18 of Evidence Act is to be answered in negative. Referring to earlier decisions, according to the Court, the plea or defence put forward by the lawyer of the accused cannot bind him. The lawyer has no implied authority to admit the guilt or facts incriminating the accused.

In light of the inconsistencies and the improvements made by the complainant during her deposition and in absence of any corroborating evidence to support her statement, the Court was of the opinion that the testimony of the complainant does not inspire confidence. It was held that the prosecution failed to prove the case against the petitioner, the finding of guilt recorded by the trial court and the Appellate Court was manifestly illegal and perverse. Resultantly, the revision petition was allowed. The petitioner’s conviction was set aside. [Pawan Kumar v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10452, decided on 10-10-2019]

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