Top 10 Criminal Law Judgments for the year 2019 by Supreme Court of India

The present article is written by Aparajitha Prabhu, Student at Symbiosis Law School (Pune).

The reason why the Supreme Court of India is held to be at a respectable position is not only because of the reason of it being a highest judicial court with the power of judicial review but also because of the fact that it abides to the motto of यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः which means ‘where there is Dharma, there will be victory’. The final court of appeal in India consists of the Chief Justice along with 33 other judges who play an active role in effectuating the change in our legal system through their dynamic interpretation of the law. The law declared by the Supreme Court becomes binding on all courts within India and also on the Union and the State Governments by virtue of article 142 of the Indian Constitution. Some of the landmark judicial pronouncements on the area of criminal law for the year of 2019 are below – 

  1. High Court cannot dispose of an appeal on merits without representation on behalf of the accused

In the case of Shankar v State of Maharashtra (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1106 OF 2019), when the appeal was taken up for hearing before the High Court, there was no representation for the appellant. However, the High Court proceeded to consider the appeal on merits. The Court held that when the accused has preferred the appeal against the conviction, the appeal can be disposed of on merits only after hearing the appellant or his counsel.

Decided on JULY 23, 2019

  1. The magistrate can direct for voice samples of the accused to be collected

In the case of Ritesh Sinha v State of Uttar Pradesh (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.2003 OF 2012), the Court held that the compulsion to give voice sample does not involve an invasion of the rights of the individual and to bring it within the ambit of the existing law would require more than reasonable bending and stretch of the principles of interpretation. From the aspect of whether it violates a person’s right to privacy, the Court observed that the fundamental right to privacy cannot be construed as absolute and but must bow down to compelling public interest.

Decided on AUGUST 02, 2019

  1. A conviction based on sole eye witness is subject to higher scrutiny

The Court, in the case of Jagdish and Anr. v State of Haryana (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(s).1864 OF 2009), held that Conviction on basis of a solitary eye witness is undoubtedly sustainable if there is reliable evidence cogent and convincing in nature along with surrounding circumstances. The evidence of a solitary witness will, therefore, call for heightened scrutiny. It held that if a case was to base itself on the testimony of one witness it had to be affirmatively reliable

Decided on AUGUST 06, 2019

  1. Accused not directly entitled to acquittal on not being able to find the body of the victim

In the case of Sanjay Rajak v State of Bihar (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(s).1070 OF 2017), the Court held that it is not an invariable rule of criminal jurisprudence that the failure of the police to recover the body will render the prosecution case doubtful entitling the accused to acquittal on benefit of doubt. It is only one of the relevant factors to be considered along with all other attendant facts and circumstances. The failure of the police to recover the dead body is not much of consequence in the absence of any explanation by the appellant as to their involvement with the crime.

Decided on JULY 22, 2019

  1. Bail cannot be given on conditions of amounts exceeding the financial capacity

In the case of M.D Dhanapal v State (Represented by the Inspector of Police) (SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (Crl.) No(s).5195-5196/2019), the Court reiterated that if the petitioner lacks funds, bail cannot be made conditional upon heavy deposits beyond the financial capacity of an applicant for bail. This was the case of a challenge to an order of the Madras High Court, directing payment beyond the capacity of the petitioner as condition for bail.

Order passed on AUGUST 11, 2019

  1. Medical negligence cannot directly be turned into a criminal prosecution

In the case of Dr. VK Jain v State of Rajasthan, (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 531 of 2010), the Court upheld an appeal against the order of cognizance of a case under S.304 of the Indian Penal Code, in a case for medical negligence. Setting aside the order of cognizance, the Court observed that in order to prosecute a medical professional for negligence under criminal law it must be shown that the accused did something or failed to do something which in the given facts and circumstances no medical professional in his ordinary senses and prudence would have done or failed to do. The hazard taken by the accused doctor should be of such a nature that the injury which resulted was most likely imminent.

Decided on AUGUST 8, 2019

  1. High Court cannot go into evidence of the case in a petition under S. 482

In the case of Md. Allauddin Khan vs The State Of Bihar (CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 675 OF 2019) the High Court had no jurisdiction to appreciate the evidence of the proceedings under Section 482 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 because whether there are contradictions or/and inconsistencies in the statements of the witnesses is essentially an issue relating to appreciation of evidence and the same can be gone into by the Judicial Magistrate during trial when the entire evidence is adduced by the parties.

Decided on APRIL 15, 2019

  1. High Court must assign reasons for accepting/ rejecting petitions under S.482, Cr.PC

In the case of Jitender Kumar @Jitender Singh vs The State Of Bihar (CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 888 OF 2019), the Court held that where the High Court did not assign any reason as to why the petition is liable to be dismissed, the case was redirected to the High Court. Where it was found that neither there was any discussion and nor the reasoning on the submissions urged by the learned counsel for the parties, the Court was of the opinion that the matter must go back to the High Court for deciding the petition afresh on merits in accordance with the law. The Court emphasized the necessity of giving reasons in support of the conclusion because it is the reason, which indicates the application of mind. It is, therefore, obligatory for the Court to assign the reasons as to why the petition is allowed or rejected, as the case may be.

Decided on MAY 10, 2019

  1. High Court is supposed to look into whether a matter is a civil dispute cloaked in a criminal prosecution

In the case of Prof. R.K. Vijayasarathy & anr Vs. Sudha Seetharam, (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 238 of 2019), the Court observed that the jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure had to be exercised with care. In the exercise of its jurisdiction, a High Court can examine whether a matter which is essentially of a civil nature has been given a cloak of a criminal offence. Where the ingredients required to constitute a criminal offence are not made out from a bare reading of the complaint, the continuation of the criminal proceeding will constitute an abuse of the process of the court.

Decided on FEBRUARY 15, 2019

  1. Quashing of criminal proceedings on grounds of settlement

In the case of State of Madhya Pradesh v Laxmi Narayan (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 349 OF 2019) it was held that while deciding whether to exercise its power under Section 482 of the Code or not, timings of settlement play a crucial role. Those cases where the settlement is arrived at immediately after the alleged commission of offence and the matter is still under investigation, the High Court may be liberal in accepting the settlement to quash the criminal proceedings/investigation. It is because of the reason that at this stage the investigation is still on and even the charge-sheet has not been filed. Likewise, those cases where the charge is framed but the evidence is yet to start or the evidence is still at infancy stage, the High Court can exercise its powers favorably, but after prima facie assessment of the circumstances/material mentioned above. On the other hand, where the prosecution evidence is almost complete or after the conclusion of the evidence the matter is at the stage of argument, normally the High Court should refrain from exercising its power under Section 482 of the Code, as in such cases the trial court would be in a position to decide the case finally on merits and to come to a conclusion as to whether the offence under Section 307 IPC is committed or not.

Decided on MARCH 5, 2019

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