Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sunil Gaur, J. allowed a batch of petitions filed against the trial court’s order whereby the petitioners including Group President of Reliance Industries Public Ltd. and the Vice-President of Reliance Industries Ltd. were put on trial for the offences punishable under the Official Secrets Act, 1923.

On 28-10-1998, the Delhi Police raided the office of Group President of RIL and recovered copies of 4 ‘secret’ documents of the Government of India. The recovered copies related to policy documents related to economy and disinvestment.

It was submitted by the petitioners that the documents in the question were not prejudicial to the security of the State and by merely marking them to be secret, does not bring the documents in question within the ambit of the Official Secrets Act. They contended that the ‘secret’ information was already in public domain, which had been supplied through Government channels and that it was so apparent from the copies of newspaper reports on record.

Referring to Sama Alana Abdulla v. State of Gujarat, (1996) 1 SCC 427 and State (NCT of Delhi) v. Jaspal Singh, (2003) 10 SCC 586 the High Court noted: “A person cannot be put on trial merely because a document has been marked as secret, as it is necessary to see the nature of information contained in it, to find out if any offence under the Official Secrets Act is made out or not.” The Court was of the view that the trial court erred in ignoring the newspaper reports produced on a technical plea of want of proof. It was reiterated that substantial justice cannot be sacrificed on technicalities.

As per the Court, a bare perusal of the statement of the Secretary, Department of Telecommunication, revealed that he was not categoric about the documents in question being prejudicial to the security of the nation. It was further noted that since the documents in question had been already made public, therefore, they lost their confidentiality. The Court was of the opinion that the impugned order suffered from utter non-application of mind, and therefore, the same was set aside. The proceedings against the petitioners were quashed.[Shankar Adawal v. CBI, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9434, decided on 01-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Anil Kumar Choudhary, J. heard an interlocutory application filed under Section 378(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 warranting a grant of special leave to present an acquittal appeal.

Applicants herein were accused of entering into the complainant’s house to threaten her to withdraw the case instituted by her, during which they had abused her in a filthy language, and on her refusal to do so, they assaulted her and broke the lock of her shop taking away all the articles from it. The complainant had examined four witnesses in support of its case, whereby CW 1 and CW 2 were held not to be eye-witnesses to the occurrence and the CW 3 and CW 4 were not named in the column for witnesses, however, were introduced by the complainant at a later stage. The complaint had no mention of the presence of CW 4 at the place of occurrence, nor had the witnesses, at the stage of enquiry, stated her presence at the place of occurrence. CW 3, who was also the daughter of the complainant provided that the accused persons had misbehaved with the complainant and asked her to withdraw her case. She specifically stated that Akhilesh Pandey, who had been convicted, pointed a gun at the complainant, got the lock broken, and Rajesh Pandey, one of the private respondent, had called a truck and took away the articles of CW 3 and her mother, the complainant. The Chief Judicial Magistrate held that CW 3 and CW 4 had not stated anything about the two private respondents of this appeal, as required under Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Penal Code, 1860 and as CW 1 and CW 2 were not eyewitnesses, he acquitted the two private respondents of this appeal and convicted Akhilesh Pandey.

The counsel for the appellant, while seeking the grant of special leave under Section 378(4) of CrPC submitted that the learned court had not considered the fact that CW 3 had specifically stated for the misbehavior of all the three persons with the complainant-CW 4, and that the subsequent paragraphs of her statement had specifically stated that Akhilesh Pandey had committed the offences. The trial court should have taken into consideration her earlier submission where she provided for the presence of other accused at the place of occurrence.  It was then submitted that her submission regarding the presence of the two private respondents at the place of occurrence, deemed that she had stated about the two private respondents of this appeal to have committed the offence for which their co-accused had been convicted, thereby they could also have been convicted.

The learned Additional Public Prosecutor submitted that the learned CJM had considered the fact that the witnesses had not specifically stated about the involvement of the private respondents of this appeal, hence, rightly acquitted them. It was further submitted that in a criminal case, unless a witness had specifically stated something against the accused in his deposition, the inference could not be drawn from his statement made in earlier paragraph of the deposition to bring forth the charges against the accused facing the trial, thereby requesting a refusal to the grant of special leave for presenting the acquittal appeal

The High Court opined that as the CW 3 had not specifically stated for the private respondents to cause hurt to the complainant or intentionally insult the complainant thereby giving provocation to her to break the public peace, there was no apparent illegality or gross error in the impugned judgment. Therefore the interlocutory application being without any merit was rejected and the acquittal appeal was accordingly dismissed.[Ila Rani Sahai v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 770, decided on 16-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: S.S. Shinde, J. denied to quash the charges under Sections 376 and 420 IPC as prayed by the petitioner and further the Court ordered for a trial to take place on the basis of evidence recorded.

The present petition was filed to quash the charges against the petitioner in a case pending before the Sessions Court for Borivali Division at Dindoshi-Goregaon, Mumbai. The charges were framed under Sections 376 and 420 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Contentions by the Counsels:

Counsel for the petitioner, Samarth S. Karmarkar submitted that in the FIR that was lodged by Respondent 1 alleging offence under Section 420 IPC, there was no whisper about an allegation in respect to sexual assault. Further, it was stated that, the supplementary statement of Respondent 1 was the only thing in which allegations against the petitioner are made out that under the pretext and promise, he would marry Respondent 1, extracted huge amount from Respondent 1 and sexually exploited her.

Per contra, N.B. Patil, APP, submitted that overwhelming evidence had been collected by the Investigating Officer during the investigation and evidence of prosecutrix assumes importance which has to be treated on a high pedestal, therefore the petition may be rejected.

The High Court on perusal of grounds and submission of the parties opined that only way to resolve the controversy arising is by way of appreciating the material collected during the course of investigation by way of trial.

Therefore, the Court held that, material collected during the investigation has to be tested during the trial and also the allegations made in the FIR along with the ones in the supplementary statement. Relying on the Supreme Court Judgment in Anurag Soni v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 509, it was observed that no case is made out to invoke extraordinary writ jurisdiction and the prayer of the petitioner has to accede. Trial Court shall not get influenced by observations made during the course of the trial. [Vishal Ramnayan Singh v. XYZ, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1141, decided on 26-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: Sunil Dutt Yadav, J. granted regular bail on the ground that the case of the commission of offence with pre-meditation was yet to be proved during trial.

A bail application was filed with respect to the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The facts of the case were that a complaint was lodged by the complainant against her husband, mother-in-law and sister-in-law for harassing the complainant for about two months. It was further submitted that the complainant had gone back to her parent’s house after the altercation with her husband, but thereafter husband came to the parents’ place and started a quarrel, the mother tried to pacify but the petitioner stabbed the complainant’s mother with a knife, who succumbed to the injuries and died. Thus, the case was registered and the accused was arrested.

Tejas N., counsel for the petitioner stated that the petitioner himself had suffered injuries in altercation according to the statement of the witness. It was further submitted that the context in which altercation took place the reaction of the petitioner was in the nature of reaction to the grave and sudden provocation. Thus, prayed for the grant of bail.

The Court opined that the Sessions Judge had dismissed the application of the petitioner stating that prima facie materials were made out against the petitioner with regard to commission of offence but the court held that petitioner was entitled to bail on the ground that context of the altercation including injuries was, matter to be explained and proved in trial. Hence, application for the bail was allowed.[Syed Raheem v. State of Karnataka, 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 565, decided on 03-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Bench of Dinesh Kumar Singh, J., released the accused on probation by granting him the benefit of Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958.

The facts of the case were that the accused was booked under Sections 323, 452 and 326 IPC and was convicted by the Trial Court in this regard. Shiv Ganesh Singh, Advocate on behalf of the appellant, submitted that since the appellant was not convicted previously for any offence, the Trial Court ought to have invoked the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958. It was further submitted that the Trial Court did neither invoke the provisions of the Act, 1958 nor the provisions of Section 360 CrPC while sentencing the accused-appellant. Neither did it give any special reason in the impugned judgment and order of conviction for not giving the benefit of provisions of Section 360 CrPC or the provisions of Act, 1958. Thus the order suffered from serious illegality being violative of provisions of Section 361 CrPC and, therefore, it cannot be sustained. Section 361 of the Code is required to be applied with or without the beneficial provisions i.e. Section 360 of the Code or provisions of the Act, 1958. It was further stated that if the Court chose not to apply either of these provisions, it was required to give special reasons for not applying the beneficial provision otherwise accused offender would be eligible for provisions of Section 360 of the Code or Section 3 or 4 of the Act, 1958. The accused-appellant had a statutory right for claiming the benefit of beneficial legislation.

The Court, in view of the facts and circumstances, held that the appeal should be dismissed by upholding the conviction of the accused-appellant. However, he was granted the benefit of Section 4 of the Act, 1958. He was released on probation. [Durgesh Chandra v. State of U.P, 2019 SCC OnLine All 2176, decided on 15-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. disposed of a petition filed in a matrimonial dispute by allowing the petitioner (wife) to prove additional documents in the matter of an application seeking maintenance from the respondent (husband) under Section 125 CrPC.

Earlier, the trial court had dismissed the wife’s application on the ground that she was not able to establish that she withdrew from the society of her husband for a reasonable cause. The trial court noticed that no evidence was placed on record to substantiate the allegations of cruelty against the husband made by the wife.

R.K. Narang, Advocate for the wife prayed to prove copies of several complaints made to various authorities and also medical records showing injuries caused by the husband. It was submitted that these documents, which were not available with the wife during the trial, had now been obtained from the authorities concerned. Per contra, Akhilesh Kr Singh, Advocate appearing for the husband submitted that the complaints were false and frivolous.

Keeping in view the entirety of the case, the High Court set aside the impugned judgment of the trial court. The wife was granted an opportunity to file and prove the additional documents before the trial court. She was also permitted to summon the record from the authorities where original of such documents may be available. As, consequently, trial court’s order fixing interim maintenance stood received. [Beena Kumari v. Manoj Kumar, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7237, dated 21-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: R.K. Gauba, J. allowed a petition filed against the order of Sessions Court whereby proceedings in a case filed under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 were stayed.

Petitioner had filed a case against respondents alleging commission of an offence under Section 138. It was alleged that he had advanced a loan to the respondents, for the repayment of which, the respondents had issued a cheque in his favour drawn on Axis Bank Ltd. However, on presenting the cheque, it was returned unpaid with remarks “payment stopped by drawer.” After a preliminary enquiry, Metropolitan Magistrate issued summons to respondents. Thereafter the respondents reached the Sessions Court which granted a stay on summons order till final decision in another case arising out of an FIR filed by respondents against the petitioner. Aggrieved thereby, petitioner filed the present petition under Section 482 CrPC.

The High Court noted that in the FIR filed, respondents alleged that the cheque in question was stolen and misappropriated by the petitioner. It was also noted that revisional court stayed the proceedings under Section 138 on the ground that the same would unnecessarily prejudice the trial in the case arising out of the FIR. The High Court held this to be totally unjust and unfair. It was stated “Though questions would arise in the criminal case under Section 138 NI Act as to whether cheque in question had come in the hands of the petitioner legitimately or not, the contentions of the respondents are a matter of defence which will have to be raised by them, the burden of proof of the requisite facts in such regard being placed on them. There is no reason why the case arising out of above-mentioned FIR should have primacy or priority over the case of the petitioner against the opposite party.” The petition was thus allowed and the impugned stay order was allowed. [Mukesh Aggarwal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 6843, decided on 28-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: The Bench of S. Talapatra, J. reversed the order of the trial court convicting the appellant for offence punishable under Section 498-A IPC and sentencing him to suffer 3 years rigorous imprisonment.

Father of the deceased alleged that the appellant (husband of the deceased) tortured her and subjected her to cruelty for not fulfilling the unlawful demand of Rs 20,000 cash and gold ornaments. Finally, on 22-12-2012, the deceased committed suicide by hanging herself. An FIR was lodged and the appellant was put to trial after pleading not guilty. At the conclusion of the trial, the trial court convicted the appellant for offence punishable under Section 498-A IPC (cruelty to woman). Aggrieved thereby, the appellant preferred the present appeal.

The High Court perused the witness evidence and noted that from a conjoint reading of testimonies, it emerged that the witnesses were greatly influenced by the shocking death of a young woman. It was pointed out that in the first instance, the witnesses failed to reveal material facts to the Investigating Officer, but when such facts were revealed in trial, their testimonial value was substantially reduced as they appeared to be improvements and become prone to be doubted. Moreover, it was observed that such improvements were made by related witnesses which made it all the more doubtful because as per the normal rule the court scrutinizes evidence of related witness with greater caution. In such circumstances, it was held that the prosecution failed to establish the charge under Section 498-A beyond a reasonable doubt.  Therefore, the impugned order was set aside and the appellant was acquitted on benefit of doubt. [Sanjit Das v. State of Tripura, 2019 SCC OnLine Tri 27, dated 09-01-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ. laid down directions and threw light in a very precise and analytical manner on two very important and pertinent issues:

  • Identity of adult victims of rape and children who are victims of sexual abuse should be protected so that they are not subjected to unnecessary ridicule, social ostracisation and harassment;
  • Issues relating to non-disclosure of the name and identity of a victim falling within the purview of the POCSO.

The present judgment has been in a detailed manner written down in two parts dealing with the above-stated issues separately.

“Victim of a sexual offence, especially a victim of rape, is treated worse than the perpetrator of the crime.”

The bench while stating that a victim of rape is treated like a “pariah” and ostracised from society, stated that many times cases of rape do not even get reported because of the false notions of so-called ‘honour’ which the family of the victim wants to uphold.

“Victims’ first brush with justice is an unpleasant one where she is made to feel that she is at fault; she is the cause of the crime.”

Court made it clear that they do not want to in any manner curtail the right of the defence to cross-examine the prosecutrix, but the same should be done with a certain level of decency and respect at large. Efforts have been made to sensitise the courts, but experience has shown that despite the earliest admonitions, the first as far back in 1996, State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh, (1996) 2 SCC 384, the Courts even today reveal the identity of the victim. Further, the Court referred to Section 228A IPC (Disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences etc.), Section 327 CrPC, 1973 (Courts should be open and normally public should have access to the Courts) , stated that vide the Amendment Act of 1983, cases of rape, gang rape etc. were excluded from the category of cases to be tried in open Court. Sub-Section (1) of Section 228A states that any person who makes known the name and identity of a person who is an alleged victim of an offence falling under Sections 376, 376A, 376AB, 376B, 376C, 376DA, 376DB or 376E commits a criminal offence. Sub-Section (2) of Section 228A is making known the identity of the victim by printing or publication under certain circumstances described therein.  Bench making it clear that the phrase “matter which may make known the identity of the persondoes not solely mean that only the name of the victim should not be disclosed but it also means that the identity of the victim should not be discernible from any matter published in the media. The clarity also lead to the bench stating that, no person can print or publish the name of the victim or disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified and which should make her identity known to the public at large.

Next pointer on which the Court threw light was on the investigation taken by police officers, they should also as far as possible either use a pseudonym to describe the victim unless it is absolutely necessary to write down her identity. FIR relating the offence of rape against women or offences against children falling within the purview of POCSO shall not be put in the public domain. Memos or Correspondence exchanged or issued with the name of the victim in it should not be disclosed to media and not be furnished to any person under RTI Act, 2015.

Another vexatious issue is in regard to the “next kin of the victim” giving an authority to the chairman or secretary of recognized welfare institutions to declare the name of the victim—For the stated issue, Court was of the opinion that, it is not necessary to disclose the identity of the victim to arouse public opinion and sentiment, If a campaign has to be started to protect the rights of the victim, it can be done so without disclosing her identity. Therefore, the Court stated that even under the authorization of the next of the kin, without permission of the competent authority, the identity should not be disclosed.

Sub-Section (3) of Section 228A IPC, lays down that nobody can print or publish any matter in relation to any proceedings within the purview of Section 228A IPC and Section 327 (2) CrPC.

If the accused is acquitted and the victim of the offence wants to file an appeal under Section 372 CrPC, the victim can pray to the Court that she may be permitted to file a petition for the same under a pseudonymous name.

Issue 2- Issues which relate to non-disclosure of the name and identity of a victim falling within the purview of the POCSO.

India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child, 1989 and Parliament thought it fit to enact POCSO in the year 2012, which specifically deals with sexual offences against all children.”

Section 24(5) and Section 33(7) makes it amply clear that the name and identity of the child is not to be disclosed at any time during the course of investigation or trial and the identity of the child is protected from the public or media.

Section 37 states that trial is to be conducted in camera which would mean that the media cannot be present; the purpose of POCSO is to ensure that the identity of the child is not disclosed unless the Special Court in writing permits such disclosure and disclosure can only be made if it is in the interest of the child, for instance,e the identity of the child cannot be established even by the investigating team, then the permission of photograph to be published can be given by the Special Court of Investigative Team.

Learned amicus curiae placed that the definition of ‘interest of child’ has not been given anywhere to which the Court stated that it is neither feasible nor would it be advisable to clearly lay down what is the meaning of the phrase “interest of the child”, as each case will have to be dealt within its own factual scenario.

The bench further detailed out that media has to be not only circumspect but a duty has been cast upon the media to ensure that it does nothing and gives no information which could directly or indirectly lead to the identity of the child being disclosed.

“Media should be cautious not to sensationalise the same.”

Sensationalising such cases may garner Television Rating Points (TRPs) but does no credit to the credibility of the media.

A child belonging to a small village, the disclosure of the name of the village may contravene the provisions of Section 23(2) POCSO because it will just require a person to go to the village and find out who the child is—Media is not only bound to not disclose the identity of the child but by law is mandated not to disclose any material which can lead to the disclosure of the identity of the child and such violation would amount to an offence under Section 23(4). Another point raised by the amicus curiae was that the publication should only mean a living child to which the Supreme Court was in total disagreement, as in the case of dead victims, the factor which was to be kept in mind was the dignity of the dead which they cannot be denied of.

The decision of Calcutta High Court in, Bijoy v. State of W.B.,2017 SCC OnLine Cal 417, detailed out the reasons while dealing with the provisions of POCSO and held that neither during investigation nor during the trial name of the victim should be disclosed. The judgment also laid down directions to ensure that the provisions of the law are followed in letter and spirit, and the fundamental rights of child victims are protected, to which the Supreme Court bench in the present case is in agreement.

The Bench requested the Chairpersons and Members of all the Juvenile Justice Committee of all the High Courts to go through the judgment of the Calcutta High Court stated above and issue directions keeping in view the needs of each High Court/State. The Court also detailed out the establishments of  “One Stop Centres”, by taking inspiration from “BHAROSA” in Hyderabad which can be used as a model for other one-stop centres in the country.

Thus, the Court disposed of the petitions and based on the above-stated discussion laid down 9-directions which can be referred to in the judgment. [Nipun Saxena v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2772, decided on 11-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: An appeal against the order of acquittal filed by the State was decided by a Division Bench comprising of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Ram Prasanna Sharma, JJ., wherein acquittal of the respondents as ordered by the Sessions Judge was upheld.

The respondents were accused in a criminal case under Section 302 read with Section 32  IPC for the murder of one Tushkumar and his wife. The prosecution while trying to prove its case submitted that the relation between the respondents and the deceased were strained and they had threatened to kill him; corroborative piece of seizure of deadly weapons from the respondents was an incriminating circumstance against them. However, the trial court acquitted the respondents of the charges above-mentioned. Aggrieved thus, the State filed the instant appeal.

The High Court perused the record and found that there was no eyewitness to the incident; the case of the prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence. And even the chain of circumstances was not unbroken so as to link the respondents with the crime. The statements of prosecution witness at best created suspicion against the respondents. The case of the prosecution was entirely based on suspicion. The Court observed that however strong the suspicion may be, it can not take place of proof. The High Court was of the opinion that the view taken by the trial court was correct and did not warrant interference. The appeal filed by the State was accordingly dismissed. [State of Chhattisgarh v. Nabbu @ Bafataddin, ACQA No. 137 of 2010, order dated 13-02-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Deciding an interesting question of law as to whether consecutive life sentences can be awarded to a convict on being found guilty of a series of murders for which he has been tried in a single trial, the 5 judge bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ, Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde and R. Banumathi, JJ answered the question in negative and held that while multiple sentences for imprisonment for life can be awarded for multiple murders or other offences punishable with imprisonment for life, the life sentences so awarded cannot be directed to run consecutively. Such sentences would, however, be super imposed over each other so that any remission or commutation granted by the competent authority in one does not ipso facto result in remission of the sentence awarded to the prisoner for the other.

The matter in which the aforementioned question arose was that the appellants were tried for several offences including an offence punishable under Section 302 IPC for several murders allegedly committed by them in a single incident. They were found guilty and sentenced to suffer varying sentences, including a sentence of imprisonment for life for each one of the murders committed by them and the sentence of imprisonment for life for each one of the murders was directed to run consecutively.

The Court, interpreting the provision under Section 31 of CrPC which deals with sentences in cases of conviction of several offences at one trial, held that the power of the Court to direct the order in which sentences will run is unquestionable in view of the language employed in Section 31 of the Cr.P.C. The Court can, therefore, legitimately direct that the prisoner shall first undergo the term sentence before the commencement of his life sentence. Such a direction shall be perfectly legitimate and in tune with Section 31. The converse however may not be true for if the Court directs the life sentence to start first it would necessarily imply that the term sentence would run concurrently. That is because once the prisoner spends his life in jail, there is no question of his undergoing any further sentence. [Muthuramalingam v. State, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 713, decided on 19.07.2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court– Expressing concern over the sordid state of affairs in the trial Courts in the State, the division bench of M.Jaichandren and S.Nagamuthu JJ., observed that when an unreasonable request for adjournment or unreasonable request to recall any witness is made and in the event, the trial Court turns down such request, the parties are advised to approach the High Court either under Section 482 CrPC or by way of revision, challenging the said order of the trial Court. The present case illustrates as to how the criminal justice delivery system could be taken for a ride by the unscrupulous men who are parties to the system.

In the instant case, the Court held that the Judge who had conducted the trial had demonstrably exhibited total indifference to his constitutional obligation to do speedy and real justice to the parties. He had allowed the witnesses to be dragged to Court and being harassed for many days. He did not record the reasons as to why the witnesses were again and again put in the witness box. He did not even record as to whether these witnesses were recalled at the instance of the accused or the prosecution. The learned Judge had only exhibited his ignorance in allowing the prosecutor to recall P.W.1 after several months to again examine the witness in chief examination when no new fact was in the hands of the learned public prosecutor to be introduced.

The Court further observed that fair investigation, fair and speedy trial and just verdict are the concomitants of right to life. Such right is not exclusive for the accused. The victim, their family members and the society at large are also entitled to have a fair trial and just verdict. The trial Court should ensure that both the accused and the witnesses, including the victims get a fair deal during trial and ultimately justice triumphs. The Court, after perusal of the facts and relevant case laws held that in order to maintain independence of the judiciary, the Judges should not allow any interference in their independent judicial thinking to do justice which is their Constitutional obligation. [Manikandan v. State, 2016 SCC OnLine Mad 2321, decided on 22.04.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Considering the dire need for prison reform, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and R.K. Agrawal, JJ said that prisoners, like all other human beings, deserve to be treated with dignity. Taking note of the fact that the prisons suffer from a wide range of problems like overcrowding, delay in trial, custodial deaths, inadequacy of staff, Insubstantial food and inadequate clothing, etc, the Court said that despite of the various discussions and decisions by this Court regarding this issue over the last 35 years, we are still struggling with resolution of this problem.

Hence, the Court issued the below mentioned directions in order to tackle the situation:

  1. The Under Trial Review Committee, which has been set up in various States, should meet quarterly and the first meeting should be held before 31st March, 2016.
  2. Aspects pertaining to effective implementation of Section 436 of the Cr.P.C. and Section 436A of the Cr.P.C. and those who cannot furnish bail bonds due to their poverty are not subjected to incarceration only for that reason should be considered.
  3. Adequate number of competent lawyers should be empanelled to assist undertrial prisoners and convicts, particularly the poor and indigent.
  4. Issue of the release of undertrial prisoners in compoundable offences, should be looked into, the effort being to effectively explore the possibility of compounding offences rather than requiring a trial to take place.
  5. Proper and effective utilization of available funds so that the living conditions of the prisoners is commensurate with human dignity.
  6. Ministry of Home Affairs will ensure that the Management Information System is in place at the earliest in all the Central and District Jails as well as jails for women so that there is better and effective management of the prison and prisoners.
  7. Annual review of the implementation of the Model Prison Manual 2016 should be conducted by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Court also issued a notice to the Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India in order to ensure that a manual similar to the Model Prison Manual is prepared in respect of juveniles who are in custody either in Observation Homes or Special Homes or Places of Safety in terms of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. [Re – Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 121 decided on 05.02.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: While deciding the question that whether the Constitutional Courts can order de-novo investigation even after the commencement of the trial and the examination of some witnesses, the Division Bench of Dipak Misra and P.C. Pant, JJ., observed that the power of the Constitutional Courts to order de-novo investigation exists and the same cannot be hindered by the commencement of trial and examination of few witnesses, as such power has been vested in the Constitutional Courts to ensure free and fair investigation. Using subtle words, Dipak Misra, J. stated that, “not for nothing it has been said that sun rises and sets, light and darkness, winter and spring come and go, even the course of time is playful, but truth remains and sparkles when justice is done.”

The present case came up questioning the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which refused the plea of the appellant seeking a CBI investigation over the death of his wife. The counsel representing the CBI, P.K. Dey argued before the Court that the case of the appellant does not fall under the guidelines laid down in State of West Bengal v. Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal,  (2010) 3 SCC 571.

On perusal of the facts, the Court observed that for a fair trial it is necessary that a fair investigation is conducted. The Court further observed that the power to direct re- investigation should be sparingly given and such decision should be based on the facts of the case. In order to instill the faith and fear of law in the minds of the victim and the accused, it becomes necessary for the Courts to “uphold the truth, which means absence of fraud and deceit in a criminal investigation.” [Dharam Pal v. State of Haryana, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 91 decided on 29-01-2016]