Sunday, 25 October 2015

Whether it is necessary to hear accused for condonation of delay in filing criminal case against him?

In this connection, our attention is drawn to the judgment of this Court in Sharadchandra Dongre. It is urged on the basis of this judgment that by condoning the delay, the Court takes away a valuable right which accrues to the accused. Hence, the accused has a right to be heard when an application for condonation of delay under Section 473 of the Cr.P.C. is presented before the Court. Keeping this argument in mind, let us examine both the view points i.e. whether the date of taking cognizance or the date of filing complaint is material for computing limitation. If the date on which complaint is filed is taken to be material, then if the complaint is filed within the period of limitation, there is no question of it being time barred. If it is filed after the period of limitation, the complainant can make an application for condonation of delay under Section 473of the Cr.P.C. The Court will have to issue notice to the accused and after hearing the accused and the complainant decide whether to condone the delay or not. If the date of taking cognizance is considered to be relevant then, if the Court takes cognizance within the period of limitation, there is no question of the complaint being time barred. If the Court takes cognizance after the period of limitation then, the question is how will Section 473 of the Cr.P.C. work. The complainant will be interested in having the delay condoned. If the delay is caused by the Magistrate by not taking cognizance in time, it is absurd to expect the complainant to make an application for condonation of delay. The complainant surely cannot explain that delay. Then in such a situation, the question is whether the Magistrate has to issue notice to the accused, explain to the accused the reason why delay was caused and then hear the accused and decide whether to condone the delay or not. This would also mean that the Magistrate can decide whether to condone delay or not, caused by him. Such a situation will be anomalous and such a procedure is not known to law. Mr. Luthra, learned A.S.G. submitted that use of disjunctive ‘or’ inSection 473 of the Cr.P.C. suggests that for the first part i.e. to find out whether the delay has been explained or not, notice will have to be issued to the accused and for the later part i.e. to decide whether it is necessary to do so in the interest of justice, no notice will have to be issued. This question has not directly arisen before us. Therefore, we do not want to express any opinion whether for the purpose of notice, Section 473 of the Cr.P.C. has to be bifurcated or not. But, we do find this situation absurd. It is absurd to hold that the Court should issue notice to the accused for condonation of delay, explain the delay caused at its end and then pass order condoning or not condoning the delay. Law cannot be reduced to such absurdity. Therefore, the only harmonious construction which can be placed on Sections 468469 and 470 of the Cr.P.C. is that the Magistrate can take cognizance of an offence only if the complaint in respect of it is filed within the prescribed limitation period. He would, however, be entitled to exclude such time as is legally excludable.
Supreme Court of India
Sarah Mathew vs Inst., Cardio Vascular Diseases & ... on 26 November, 2013
Author: …………………………………………..
Bench: P Sathasivam, B.S. Chauhan, Ranjana Prakash Desai, Ranjan Gogoi, S.A. Bobde
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