The Supreme Court has allowed prayer to stay the transfer of a criminal case on the ground that the accused persons were senior citizens suffering from ailments including high blood pressure, sugar, heart issues, etc.

The Court was dealing with an intervention application and miscellaneous application seeking modification or recall of its order in a Transfer Petition.

The two-Judge Bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice J.K. Maheshwari observed, “In a nutshell, the aforesaid accused persons in support of State of Maharashtra have submitted that all of them are senior citizens aged between 65 to 85 years and they are inter-alia suffering from various ailments including high blood pressure, sugar, heart issues etc. … We have duly considered the submissions made by the aforesaid respondents/accused persons and having perused their medical records, we find reasonable force in the contentions as raised above.”

The Bench took note of the fact that the accused persons have delicate health conditions and prayed that their cases may be stayed from transfer and be continued before the transferor court at Amravati.

“… in view of this peculiar circumstances of the instant case, it would be in the interest of justice and all stakeholders to modify the order dated 09.09.2022 to such extent as prayed herein above and transfer of the cases from Amravati concerning the aforesaid accused persons be refrained from being transferred to the transferee Court”, held the Court.

Senior Advocate Vikas Singh appeared on behalf of the petitioner/accused while Senior Advocate Tushar Mehta appeared on behalf of the State. Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani appeared on behalf of the intervenor.

Factual Background -

The Apex Court had earlier allowed the transfer petition filed by the petitioner/accused herein and directed the transfer of pending matters as prayed by him in the petition to the Court of Principal Judge, Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court, Maharashtra. The intervenor sought intervention in the transfer petition primarily on the ground that he was an agriculturist and was by and large dependent on the financial aid of Nagpur District Central Co-operative Bank Limited (NDCCB Ltd.), which was one of the banks allegedly defrauded by the accused. A stay granted by the court was modified on the pretext that the proceedings were that the stage of final arguments.

Considering the aforesaid, the Trial Court was directed to complete the hearing of arguments but not to deliver or pronounce the judgment in this case. The transfer petition was heard and the order was reserved and thereafter the said petition of the accused was allowed while dismissing the intervention application. Hence, intervenor filed intervention application, State of Maharashtra filed miscellaneous application on account of no opportunity of hearing afforded to it on final hearing day, and the accused persons filed review petition seeking review of order.

The Supreme Court after considering the submissions of the senior counsel for parties noted, “... it is clear that any alternation or addition to a judgment pronounced by Court can be made only to correct a clerical or arithmetical mistake or an error arising out of an accidental slip or omission. It is well settled that any application filed on the pretext of ‘clarification/addition’ while evading the recourse of review, ought not to be entertained and should be discouraged.”

The Court said that the recall of the entire order as prayed for on the instance of the intervenor is not justified and simultaneously, it cannot be ignored that State filed application asking modification of the order.

“… we refrain ourselves to recall the order on insistence of the intervenor and deem it appropriate to consider the prayer of the State of Maharashtra taking note of the submissions made in this respect. … At this stage, the argument advanced by Shri Vikas Singh that the Judge who heard the arguments in R.C.C. No. 147/2002, has already been transferred, assumes not relevance for rectification of mistake and to issue conclusive directions in the matter.”, added the Court.

The Court further said that the Presiding Officer who heard the arguments has already been transferred prior to pronouncing the judgment in pursuance of its order and therefore, now on joining of new incumbent, the final arguments in the said trial ought to be heard by the new presiding officer to pronounce the judgment.

“In view of the foregoing discussion, we deem it appropriate to grant the relief as prayed by the respondent/accused nos. 20, 23, 25, 26, 30, 31, 32 and 34. Further, in view of the relief as granted and in order to circumvent the multiplicity of proceedings, we deem it fit to observe that the aforesaid review petition be now treated as infructuous and disposed-off in terms of above observation”, held the Court.

The Court, therefore, directed that the cases received to the transferee Court, shall be proceeded without any ambiguity and the trials of those cases may be concluded within time frame.

Accordingly, the Apex Court disposed off the applications and modified the order to a certain extent.

Cause Title- Ketan Kantilal Seth v. The State of Gujarat and Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2023 INSC 671)

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