While deciding a complaint by the appellant regarding theft of his company’s data by his ex-employees to manufacture similar equipment like that of the appellant, the Supreme Court allowed the application filed by the appellant under Section 311 CrPC for his recall to be further examined as a witness.

The Supreme Court allowed the application for recall after considering the submission that the comparison of the two sets of data was the main essence of the complaint and without the same, the trial itself would be reduced to a farce.

A Two Judge Bench of Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Justice S.V.N Bhatti observed that “the request for recall of the appellant under Section 311, CrPC was justified, as at the relevant point of time in his initial deposition, there was no occasion for him to bring the relevant facts relating to similarity of data before the Court, which arose after the CFSL expert was examined”.

Advocate Sahil Tagotra appeared for the Petitioner, whereas Advocate Mithlesh Kumar Singh appeared for the Respondent.

The brief facts of the case were that the appellant made a complaint against the accused that they, being ex-employees of his company, had stolen company data and used such data to manufacture equipment, which was being manufactured by the appellant’s company. During trial, before the Report from the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory, Chandigarh could come, the evidence of the appellant was recorded. However, when the CFSL expert who had prepared the Report was examined by the Court, though he described the data which was found on the hard disk(s) of the accused, but there was no reference as to whether they were comparable to/same regarding what was allegedly stolen from the appellant’s company. Thus, the appellant was constrained to apply for his recall as a witness, which was done within five days of the evidence of the CFSL expert being recorded. The same having been rejected by the Trial Court and the High Court, the petitioner approached the Apex Court by way of appeal.

After considering the submission, the Bench referred to the decision in case of Ratanlal v Prahlad Jat [(2017) 9 SCC 340], wherein it was observed that “In order to enable the court to find out the truth and render a just decision, the salutary provisions of Section 311 are enacted whereunder any court by exercising its discretionary authority at any stage of inquiry, trial or other proceeding can summon any person as witness or examine any person in attendance though not summoned as a witness or recall or re-examine any person already examined who are expected to be able to throw light upon the matter in dispute”.

The Bench also referred to the decision in case of Zahira Habibullah Sheikh (5) v. State of Gujarat [(2006) 3 SCC 374], wherein it was held that “The object underlying Section 311 of the Code is that there may not be failure of justice on account of mistake of either party in bringing the valuable evidence on record or leaving ambiguity in the statements of the witnesses examined from either side. The determinative factor is whether it is essential to the just decision of the case”.

The Bench therefore found that if opportunity for recall is given for re-examination, the respondents will not be prejudiced as they will have ample opportunity to cross-examine the appellant.

Accordingly, the Bench allowed the appeal.

Cause Title: Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana and Ors. [Neutral Citation: 2023: INSC: 786]

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