Even If Draft Criminal Rules Have Not Been Adopted, Accused Has Right To Receive Document In Possession Of Prosecution- SC
The Supreme Court by a 2:1 majority held that an accused has the right to receive the list of the statements, documents, material, etc. in the possession of the prosecution even if Draft Rules of Criminal Practice are not yet adopted.
The Bench of CJI Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat disagreed with Justice Bela M. Trivedi who, while dismissing the Criminal Appeal, observed that this right to receive the documents is only available after the Draft Rules are brought into force.
"The prosecution is expected to comply with the Draft Rule no. 4 pertaining to the supply of documents, as and when the said set of Draft Rules are adopted by the High Courts and State Governments, giving them a statutory force," Justice Trivedi observed.
In this case, the appellant along with the other eight accused were convicted and sentenced by the City Civil and Sessions Court, Chennai for the offences punishable under Section 120-B, 109, 341, 302 read with section 34 of IPC, and some of them were awarded death sentence. Their appeal before the Madras High Court is pending and in this appeal, they challenged an order of the High Court directing the counsels appearing for the parties to proceed with the hearing of the matter on October 17, 2022.
Advocate G. Sriram appearing on behalf of the appellant submitted that they had sent a letter addressed to the Inspector (Law and Order) E-4 Abiramapuram Police Station, Chennai, asking him to produce certain documents, stating therein inter-alia that the said documents were required for fair adjudication of their case. It was further submitted that till the copies of the said documents were furnished to them it was not possible for them to proceed with the hearing of the appeals and the Reference case and relied heavily upon the case of Manoj and others Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 248-250 of 2015 and Rule 4 of Draft Rule of Criminal Practice.
Rule 4 of Draft Rule of Criminal Practice- "Supply of documents under Sections 173, 207 and 208 CrPC
"Every Accused shall be supplied with statements of witness recorded under Sections 161 and 164 Cr. PC and a list of documents, material objects and exhibits seized during investigation and relied upon by the Investigating Officer (I.O) in accordance with Sections 207 and 208, Cr. PC. Explanation: the list of statements, documents, material objects and exhibits shall specify statements, documents, material objects and exhibits that are not relied upon by the Investigating Officer."
Justice Bela M. Trivedi rejected the contention of the appellant and held that the prosecution is expected to comply with Draft Rule no. 4 pertaining to the supply of documents, as and when the said set of Draft Rules are adopted by the High Courts and State Governments, giving them a statutory force.
Justice Trivedi further held that "the said Draft Rule no.4 as and when brought into force after following the due process of law could be pressed into service by the accused only during the course of investigation and during the course of trial, and not at the appellate stage before the High Court or the Supreme Court."
The Majority Opinion of CJI Lalit and Justice Bhat-
Both CJI UU Lalit and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat noted that the accused has a right to a fair trial and reiterated that this right is manifested in the fair disclosure statement.
In furtherance to this, it was additionally held, "While the concern of delay in conclusion of trial undoubtedly weighs heavily in the mind of the judge, it cannot entail compromise of the right of the accused to fair investigation and trial."
The Bench observed, "That some High Courts or governments of the States/ Union Territories have failed to comply with this court's order and are delayed in adopting the Draft Rules or amending the concerned police/practice manuals, cannot prejudice the right of an accused, which has unequivocally been recognized…. the circumstances in which the request was made – through the letter after appeal was set down for hearing despite repeated opportunities, was not justified."
Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal.
Cause Title- P. Ponnusamy v. The State of Tamil Nadu