Bom HC | Magistrate’s wide jurisdiction to acquit the accused under S. 256 (1) CrPC explained

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed a criminal appeal filed against the order of the Metropolitan Magistrate whereby he had acquitted the accused-respondent for the absence of the complainant-appellant and his advocate at the stage when the case was placed for evidence.

It may be noted that the matter was listed before the trial court on 31 occasions, out of which, the complainant (appellant herein) was absent 11 times. On the 31st occasion as well, when the matter was placed for evidence, the complainant and his advocate were absent. Consequently, the trial Magistrate passed the impugned order mentioned above. In the instant appeal, it was submitted by the complainant that it was due to inadvertence of his counsel, who misheard the next date of hearing, that the complainant was not able to present himself before the trial court on the day the impugned order was passed.

On facts, the High Court found that the pleas made by the appellant were unsubstantiated and no relief could be given to him.

Explaining the mandate of Section 256 CrPC, the Court observed:

“Section 256 mandates that if the complainant does not remain present on the appointed day after the summons has been issued on the complaint and unless attendance of complainant has been dispensed with, the Magistrate shall acquit the accused. If the Magistrate feels that the order of acquittal should not be passed on that date, the Magistrate has to give reasons.”

Reiterating that speedy trial is a fundamental right of the accused, the Court noted that the Magistrate cannot allow a case to remain pending for an indefinite period.

The Court observed that “the Magistrate in terms of sub-section (1) of Section 256 exercises wide jurisdiction”. In the present case, it was noted, the Magistrate had acquitted the accused as provided under Section 256 because he did not find any reason to adjourn the hearing of the case to some other day. As noted above, out of the 31 dates, on 11 dates the complainant was absent but still the Magistrate did not dismiss the complaint on those dates.

In such a situation, the High Court was of the opinion that there was no illegality in the impugned order so as to require any interference. The appeal was, therefore, dismissed. [Champalal Kapoorchand Jain v. Navyug Cloth Stores, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 4805, decided on 26-11-2019]

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