This judgment was delivered by a two-judge bench on September 15, 2017. The two judge bench consisted of Justice J. Chelameshwar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer. The relevant act/sections of the present case are:
(1) Indian Penal Code, 1860- Sections 302, 301, 342, 120B
(2) Criminal Procedure Code, 1908- Sections 482, 311
Brief Facts and Procedural History
A charge-sheet dated 20/03/2009 was presented under sections 302, 201, 342, 120B of Indian Penal Code against respondent 1 (Prahlad Jat), respondent 2 (Mahavir) and three others. 28 witnesses were examined in the present case which includes PW4 (Sawarmal) and PW5 (Chandri). PW4 and PW5 after 14 months made an application for re-recording of their evidence on the ground that they were made on the influence of the police. They have stated in the application that respondent 1 and respondent 2 had no role in the incident. (Para 2)
This application filed by PW4 and PW5 was rejected by the Additional Sessions Judge on the ground that the application was filed to favor the accused person. The accused persons then further approached the High Court. The High Court of Rajasthan (Jaipur Bench) allowed the petition under section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1908 and set aside the order of the trial court. The current appeal is against the order passed by the High Court in the Supreme Court of India. (Para 1 & Para 3)
Issues before the Court
- Whether the appellant has Locus Standi to challenge the order passed by the High Court of Rajasthan? (Para7)
- Whether the High Court was justified in setting aside the order of the Sessions judge and allowing the application filed PW4 and PW5 for their re-examination? (Para 16)
Arguments of the parties
Arguments of the appellant
It was argued on behalf of the counsel for the appellant that the High Court of Rajasthan cannot set aside the order of the Additional Sessions judge because (Para 4):
- The application was filed with an intention to provide assistance to the accused persons which are not permissible under law.
- The application was belated and there is no reason shown for the delay in filing the application.
Arguments of the respondent
It was argued on behalf of the respondent that (Para 5):
- There is no Locus Standi available by the appellant to file the appeal.
- The Sessions judge has ample powers to examine or re-examine any witnesses under section 311 of CrPC to bring on record the best possible evidence to meet the ends of justice.
Ratio of the Court (As given by Justice S. Abdul Nazeer)
Issue 1: Whether the appellant has Locus Standi to challenge the order passed by the High Court of Rajasthan?
Reasoning: According to Black’s Law Dictionary, Locus Standi is the right to bring an action or to be heard in a given forum. However, Locus Standi of the complaint is the concept foreign to criminal jurisprudence. A criminal trial is conducted largely by following the procedure laid down in CrPC. By referring to various case-laws, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that there was no bar for the appellant to apply for special leave to appeal as he is an aggrieved person. (Para 8, 9 and 15)
Issue 2: Whether the High Court was justified in setting aside the order of the Sessions judge and allowing the application filed PW4 and PW5 for their re-examination?
Reasoning: The power of re-examination is the power under section 311 of Criminal Procedure Code which is to be exercised judiciously. Under this provision any court at any stage can:
- Summon any person as witness
- Examine any person in attendance though not summoned as witness
- Recall or re-examine any person already examined who are expected to be able to throw light upon the matter in dispute. (Para 17)
The object of section 311 of the code of criminal procedure is to do justice from point of view of an orderly society. It is also necessary for the court to spell out reasons for exercising this power since recall is the matter which is to be exercised judicially in order to prevent failure of justice. It is also necessary under this that a delay to file an application is properly explained. (Para 17 & 21)
An application for re-examination was filed after 14 months and there was nothing to show which expressed police failure. Further, the parties also failed to prove an appropriate ground for delay in filing application. Hence it is obvious that the witnesses have been won over by the accused persons. (Para 22)
Thus the Supreme Court accepted the appeal and struck down the order of the High Court. The supreme court also ordered the trial court to proceed with the proceedings without taking into consideration the new statements made by PW4 and PW5. (Para 23 & 24)