When Trial Judge Seeks Help Of Prosecutor & Defence Lawyer U/S 313(5) CrPC, Lawyers Must Act As Officers Of Court & Not As Clients’ Mouthpiece: SC
The Supreme Court while dealing with a murder case has observed that the Judicial Officers have to understand the importance of Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The Court said that when the Judge seeks the assistance of the prosecutor and the defence lawyer under Section 313(5) of CrPC, the lawyers must act as the officers of the Court and not as mouthpieces of their respective clients.
The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal held, “Judicial Officers have to understand the importance of Section 313. But now the Court is empowered to take the help of the prosecutor and the defence counsel in preparing relevant questions. Therefore, when the Trial Judge prepares questions to be put to the accused under Section 313, before putting the questions to the accused, the Judge can always provide copies of the said questions to the learned Public Prosecutor as well as the learned defence Counsel and seek their assistance for ensuring that every relevant material circumstance appearing against the accused is put to him.”
The Bench further held that while recording the statement under Section 313 of CrPC in cases involving a large number of prosecution witnesses, the Judicial Officers will be well advised to take benefit of sub-section (5) of Section 313 of CrPC, which will ensure that the chances of committing errors and omissions are minimized.
Advocate Sumeet Verma appeared on behalf of the appellant while Advocate Chirag M. Shroff appeared on behalf of the respondent.
Brief Facts -
The appellant was convicted by the Sessions Court for the offences punishable under Section 302 read with Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and was sentenced to undergo life imprisonment which was confirmed by the High Court. The appellant was alleged to have conspired to criminally intimidate and commit the murder of a man and his relatives as the appellant wanted to stop the said man from running his own cable TV network.
The appellant entered the house of that man and the co-accused fired bullets from their revolvers at his mother and brother. His brother was attacked with daggers and knives and others suffered serious injuries.
The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “This is not a case where there are several incriminating circumstances appearing against the appellant in the evidence adduced by the prosecution. This is a case where there is only a solitary circumstance appearing in the evidence against the appellant. … This is how, on facts, we find that a serious prejudice was caused to the appellant.”
The Court said that the incident was of 1995 and that it is not clear whether such an aspect was argued before the Trial Court as it has not reproduced the submissions of the counsel for the appellant.
“More than 27 years have passed since the date of the incident. Considering the passage of time, we are of the view that it will be unjust now at this stage to remit the case to the Trial Court for recording further statement of the appellant under Section 313 of CrPC. In the facts of the case, the appellant cannot be called upon to answer something which has transpired 27 years back”, also said the Court.
The Court further noted that the appellant had already undergone incarceration for a period of 10 years and 4 months and hence, vitiated the conviction of the appellant.
“In the facts of the case, the option of remand will be unjust. … We, accordingly, direct that the respondent shall forthwith set the appellant at liberty unless he is required to be detained in connection with any other case”, directed the Court.
Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction and sentence of the appellant.
Cause Title- Raj Kumar @ Suman v. State (NCT of Delhi)