Chargesheets Aren’t Public Documents: SC Dismisses Plea To Put Copies Of Chargesheets & Challans On Govt Websites
The Supreme Court has recently dismissed a writ petition filed by the petitioner praying for directions to the respondents/States to enable free public access to chargesheets or challans by putting the same on the government websites.
The Court held that the chargesheets cannot be said to be public documents under Section 74 of the Indian Evidence Act.
The Bench comprising Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar observed, “Copy of the chargesheet along with the necessary documents cannot be said to be public documents within the definition of Public Documents as per Section 74 of the Evidence Act. … the chargesheet/documents along with the chargesheet cannot be said to be public documents under Section 74 of the Evidence Act, reliance placed upon Sections 74 & 76 of the Evidence Act is absolutely misplaced.”
The Bench said that putting the FIR on the website cannot be equated with putting the chargesheets along with the relevant documents in the public domain and on the websites of the State Governments.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared on behalf of the petitioner in this matter.
In this case, the petitioner while relying upon the case of Youth Bar Association of India v. Union of India, (2016) 9 SCC 473 sought public access to the chargesheets and final reports filed as per Section 173 of the Cr.PC. on the government websites.
The counsel for the petitioner heavily relied upon the aforesaid decision by which the Apex Court directed copies of FIRs to be published within 24 hours of their registration on the police websites or on the websites of the State Governments.
The Supreme Court in the above regard noted, “… if the relief as prayed in the present petition is allowed and all the chargesheets and relevant documents produced along with the chargesheets are put on the public domain or on the websites of the State Governments it will be contrary to the Scheme of the Criminal Procedure Code and it may as such violate the rights of the accused as well as the victim and/or even the investigating agency.”
It was further said by the Court that the copies of the chargesheet and the relevant documents along with the charge sheet do not fall within Section 4(1)(b) of the Right to Information Act and hence, the reliance placed upon Section 4(1)(2) of the RTI Act was misconceived and misplaced.
“… the petitioner is not entitled to the relief as prayed in the present petition namely directing all the States to put on their websites the copies of all the chargesheets/challans filed under Section 173 of the Cr.P.C.”, the Court asserted.
Accordingly, the Court dismissed the plea.
Cause Title- Saurav Das v. Union of India & Ors.