The Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench upheld that an accused who opts for a hearing on framing charges after the compliance with Section 207 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) cannot later claim they were denied a hearing on discharge. The applicant challenged the orders wherein charges were framed against her under sections 323 & 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). The applicant claimed that she was not given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on her discharge application, and her fundamental right to a fair trial was violated.

A Bench of Justice Shree Prakash Singh held, “it is apparent from the impugned order itself, that the provisions of the Code including the provisions of Section 207 of Cr.P.C. have very well been complied with and it is not the case of the present applicant that even after an application for granting further time, the court has proceeded to frame the charges, contrary to it, the present applicant alongwith her counsel was present before the trial court and counsel for the applicant was properly heard and therefore, there seems to be no merit in the contentions of learned counsel for the applicant that the applicant was not afforded an opportunity to be heard on discharge.”

Advocate Nadeem Murtaza appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Nirmal Kumar Pandey appeared for the Respondent.

The applicant and her husband had a troubled marriage, and she alleged harassment from her in-laws and husband. She also claimed that her husband obtained a divorce decree under questionable circumstances. The applicant argued that the trial court did not follow proper procedures in framing charges against her and violated her rights.

On the other hand, the opposing parties argued that the applicant's minor daughter has made allegations of sexual harassment against her, which the applicant denies.

The High Court noted that the applicant had been evading court appearances after summons were issued in August 2022, only appearing after a non-bailable warrant was issued in December 2022. The Court considered this a possible attempt to delay the proceedings. The Court added, “It is also evident that the applicant was avoiding her appearance before the trial court after issuance of the summons in the month of August, 2022, uptill she was arrested in the month of December, 2022 and the matter could very hardly put into motion by the trial court and the applicant appeared, after issuance of the non bailable warrant, which itself is overt that the present applicant is trying to delay the matter, so that she could escape from the clutches of the law.”

The Court highlighted that the trial court had complied with Section 207 of the Cr.P.C., and during the proceedings, neither the applicant nor her counsel requested an adjournment or raised objections. They actively participated in arguments regarding the framing of charges.

The Court underscored that the right to seek discharge is important for an accused and cannot be bypassed. However, it acknowledged that there is no fixed formula to determine whether an opportunity for discharge has been genuinely provided; this must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Court said, “It is trite law that discharge is a valuable right of an accused and that cannot be circumvented, but, at the same time, there can be no straight jacket formula for examining that opportunity of discharge is infact been 18 accorded or not and this can be looked into as per it’s facts and circumstances, in each and every case.”

The High Court also pointed out that when framing charges, reasons need not be recorded, but if the court decides to discharge an accused, it must provide written reasons. The Court added, “Law is also settled that once the court comes to the conclusion to frame the charges, reasons are not required to be recorded, but, as soon as the court decides to discharge an accused, it is incumbent upon the trial court to record the reasons in writing.”

Regarding the authenticity of an endorsement on an order, the High Court concluded that it was not genuine, but this did not prejudice the applicant.

In light of these considerations, the bench dismissed the applicant's plea.

Cause Title: Sangeeta Shukla v. State of U.P. & Ors., [2023:AHC-LKO:58503]

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