The Supreme Court observed that the Trial Courts have an obligation not to act as mere spectators but should proactively participate in the proceedings to ensure that neither any extraneous material is permitted to be brought on record nor any relevant fact is left out.

The Court has held that the FIR could not have been registered based on secret information received by a police officer as it did not disclose the commission of any cognizable offence.

The Bench of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta said, “A conjoint reading of Section 311 CrPC and Section 165 of the Evidence Act makes it clear that the trial Court is under an obligation not to act as a mere spectator and should proactively participate in the trial proceedings, so as to ensure that neither any extraneous material is permitted to be brought on record nor any relevant fact is left out. It is the duty of the trial Court to ensure that all such evidence which is essential for the just decision of the case is brought on record irrespective of the fact that the party concerned omits to do so.”

Senior Advocate Kiran Suri appeared for the Appellants whereas AAG S. Udaya Kumar Sagar appeared on behalf of the Respondent.

The Appellants were convicted for the offences under Section 364A, 392 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Being aggrieved, the Appellants preferred appeals before the Punjab and Haryana High Court which affirmed the judgment passed by the Trial Court. Hence, the present appeals.

It was the case that a gang was operating in Panchkula which was indulged in demanding ransom from parents after kidnapping the children. In case of non-payment of ransom, threats were given to eliminate the kidnapped children. The FIR was registered after Police got secret information while patrolling about the alleged offences. The Appellants were arrested and disclosure statements were recorded under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act. Various articles were recovered from the disclosure statements of the Appellants.

The Court, thoroughly, discussed the facts and the evidence in the case and said, “Since the prosecution alleged demand of ransom amount of around Rs. 1 crore and the recovery thereof from the accused without any doubt, the recovered currency notes were in the nature of case property/mudammal. The disposal of the case property could only have been done by taking recourse to the procedure contained under Sections 451, 452 and 457 CrPC as the case may be. The Investigation Officer(PW-37) had no authority to release the currency notes without an order of the Court and his action to the contrary tantamounts to grave misconduct.”

The Court also said that both the trial court and the High Court overlooked the delay in lodging the FIR with a bald observation that the complainant party was under fear of the threats given by the Appellant.

They examined the powers as given under Section 311 of the CrPC and Section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act and relied on the judgment of the Supreme Court in Pooja Pal v. Union of India and Ors. (2016 SC).

The Court observed, “We are fully satisfied that the trial Court failed to perform its lawful obligation under Section 311 CrPC read with Section 165 of the Evidence Act inasmuch as, the most vital witness whose deposition was imperative for arriving at the truth of the matter i.e. Shamlal Garg was not produced by the prosecution and the trial Court took no steps whatsoever to summon him by exercising its powers under Section 311 CrPC and Section 165 of the Evidence Act. The fact that the FIR was not registered on the first disclosure of the incident made by Shamlal Garg to Surjit Singh, Investigating Officer(PW-37) and non-examination of the said witness at the trial is a fatal lacuna which persuades this Court to draw an adverse inference against the prosecution.”

The Court concluded that the entire prosecution story was concocted and did not inspire confidence. The FIR could not have been registered based on the secret information received by the officer as it did not disclose the commission of any cognizable offence. No such steps were taken by the police officials, thereby, creating a grave doubt on the bona fides of the actions of the Investigating Agency, the court said.

The Court also noted that the complainant party failed to offer a logical explanation for failing to file an FIR even after the kidnapped boy had returned home. Once the kidnapped boy had returned home, the threat perception at the hands of the offenders, if any, would have been diluted/disappeared. The delay in taking legal action creates a grave doubt on the truthfulness of the entire prosecution case, the Court remarked.

The Court held, “As a consequence, this Court is of the firm opinion that entire story of the prosecution is nothing but a piece of fabrication and the accused were framed in the case for ulterior motive. There is no iota of truth in the prosecution story what to talk of proof beyond all manner of doubt which establishes the guilt of the accused. The fabric of the prosecution case is full of holes which are impossible to mend. Thus, conviction of the accused appellants as recorded by the trial Court and affirmed by the High Court cannot be sustained. The impugned judgments do not stand to scrutiny.”

Resultantly, the Court quashed and set aside the judgment of conviction and acquitted the Appellants.

Cause Title: Gaurav Maini v. State of Haryana and connected appeals (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 488)


Appellants: Senior Advocate Kiran Suri, AORs T. Mahipal, T. N. Singh, Bharti Tyagi, Vikash Kumar, Advocate Bhakti Pasrija.

Respondent: AAG S. Udaya Kumar Sagar, AOR Dr Monika Gusain, Advocate Bina Madhavan.

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