Sec 464 CrPC: Omission To Frame A Charge Or Any Error In Charge Is Never Fatal Unless Failure Of Justice Is Occasioned- SC
The Supreme Court has asserted that under Section 464 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), omission to frame a charge or any error in charge is never fatal unless, in the opinion of the Court, a failure of justice is being occasioned.
The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal held, “Under Section 464 of CrPC, omission to frame a charge or any error in charge is never fatal unless, in the opinion of the Court, a failure of justice has in fact been occasioned thereby. … There is no doubt that this is a case of omission to frame a proper charge, and whatever charge has been framed is, per se defective. However, by reason of the said omission or defect, the accused was not prejudiced insofar as his right to defend is concerned. Therefore, in this case, the omission to frame charge and/or error in framing charge is not fatal.”
The Bench further held that apart from the duty of the Trial Court, even the public prosecutor has a duty to be vigilant and if a proper charge is not framed, it is his duty to apply to the Court to frame an appropriate charge.
Senior Advocate S. Nagamuthu represented the appellant while Advocate Joseph Aristotle represented the State.
In this case, the appellant was convicted for the offences punishable under Section 7 and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PCA). He was sentenced to undergo imprisonment for one year and to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000/¬.
The High Court had confirmed the conviction and sentence of the appellant by passing a judgment against him. The appellant was holding the post of Sub¬-Registrar in a District of the State of Tamil Nadu.
The Supreme Court after hearing the arguments of both parties noted, “It is well settled that for establishing the commission of an offence punishable under Section 7 of the PC Act, proof of demand of gratification and acceptance of the gratification is a sine qua non. … The public prosecutor ought to have confronted the witness with his alleged prior statements in the complaint and proved that part of the complaint through the concerned police officer who had reduced the complaint into writing. However, that was not done.”
The Court further said that there is no circumstantial evidence of demand for gratification in this case and that the offences punishable under Section 7 and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) have not been established.
“Unless both demand and acceptance are established, offence of obtaining pecuniary advantage by corrupt means covered by clauses (i) and (ii) of Section 13(1)(d) cannot be proved. … the Special Court omitted to frame a specific charge on demand allegedly made by the appellant on 6th and 13th August 2004 and acceptance thereof on 13th August 2004”, observed the Court.
The Court noted that the charge, in this case, was framed very casually and that the Trial Courts ought to be very meticulous when it comes to the framing of charges.
Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal, quashed the judgment of the High Court, and acquitted the appellant.
Cause Title- Soundarajan v. State Rep. by the Inspector of Police Vigilance Anticorruption Dindigul