Wednesday 7 May 2014

Summoning of trial record when it should be avoided?

As observed, it is time to look into and revisit the rules, practices and procedures being followed not only by the Supreme Court of India but also by other superior courts requiring the routine summoning of the original records of a trial for no apparent reason except that the rules, practices and procedures provide for their requisitioning. This routine brings the trial to a grinding halt and delays the delivery of justice to an aggrieved litigant. It is time to decide on the customary summoning of the original records of a trial, particularly at an interlocutory stage of the proceedings.
A criminal complaint was filed on 30-8-2000. The appellant sought quashing of the complaint which the High Court declined on 19-9-2002. Special leave to appeal against the said order was granted by the Supreme Court on 27-1-2004. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court did not pass any interim order staying the proceedings before the Trial Judge, it was informed that the criminal complaint had made absolutely no progress over the last more than thirteen years since the original records of the case had been transmitted to the Supreme Court. In the absence of the original records, the Chief Judicial Magistrate could not proceed with the trial. As held, this appeal is an indicator that the disposal of some cases is delayed only because the courts follow some archaic rules, practices and procedures.

G.N. Verma v. State of Jharkhand, (2014) 4 SCC 282

Ss. 2(1)(c), 18(5) and 72-B - Definition of agent and deemed agent of owner of colliery/mine - Meaning of, prior to and
after its amendment in 1983, explained - Whether appellant Chief General Manager could be deemed to be an agent of
mine concerned - Held, word agent has an extended meaning in Mines Act, 1952 - It not only brings within its fold a
person who is appointed as an agent in relation to a mine but also brings within its fold a person not appointed as an
agent but who acts or purports to act on behalf of owner of mine and takes part in management, control, supervision or
direction of mine or any part thereof - Regn. 8-A of Coal Mines Regulations, 1957 requires owner of a mine to submit in
writing a statement showing name and designation of every person authorised to act on behalf of owner in respect of
management, control, supervision or direction of a mine - In present case, there is nothing on record to show that any
such statement was furnished by owner of the mine to Chief Inspector or Regional Inspector appointed under the Mines
Act - Appellant had not been appointed as an agent of any mine - Appellant was not a person who was authorised to act
on behalf of owner nor who purported to act on behalf of owner - Thus, in absence of any statement having been made
or any indication having been given by owner enabling appellant to act or purport to act on his behalf, it cannot be said
that appellant was a deemed agent of mine.
Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
S. 482 - Quashment - When warranted - Offence under S. 72-B of Mines Act, 1952, alleged - Vicarious liability of Chief
General Manager (CGM) of Colliery in mine of which fatal accident took place - Whether can be fastened as
agent/deemed agent of mine or otherwise - On facts, criminal complaint does not contain any allegation against appellant
CGM as to the role of the appellant in the running of the Colliery, as to how and in what manner the appellant was in
charge of or was responsible to the Colliery for the conduct of its business, which is the requirement of law to fasten
vicarious liability upon an officer of a company - Complaint only contains a general statement, which does not contain
any allegation, specific or otherwise against the appellant - Held, in absence of any allegation in complaint against
appellant bringing out his role in the running of the Colliery which would make him vicariously liable for the fatal accident
in one of the mines, no case for proceeding against him has been made out - Further, on facts, appellant was not an
agent or deemed agent of mine concerned, and hence could not be proceeded against on that basis either (see
Shortnotes A and B) - Judgment and order of High Court set aside and proceedings against appellant quashed, 
S. 2(1)(j) - Mine - Definition of - Held, it has no reference to any administrative functions in relation to a mine but only
technical matters related thereto - Appellant was Chief General Manager of Karkata Colliery and it is not possible to
assume without any specific allegations or averments in this regard, that apart from performing administrative duties, he
was also involved in technical matters related to the mine having the Bukbuka seam, 
Interpretation of Statutes
Particular Statutes or Provisions
Strict construction - Held, it is well settled that when a statute creates an offence and imposes a penalty of fine and
imprisonment, words of section creating offence/punishment must be strictly construed in favour of subject - This view
has been consistently adopted by Supreme Court over last, more than sixty years - On facts, it would be unreasonably
stretching the law to include appellant as a person vicariously responsible for lapse that occurred in mine resulting in a
fatal accident (see in detail Shortnotes A and B) - There is no basis for proceeding under S. 72-B of Mines Act, 1952
against appellant, 
Case management - Stay of trial not directed by appellate court - Lack of progress of proceedings in trial court during
pendency of appeal as original records of case had been transmitted to superior court - Serious issue of process re-
engineering and case management, needs to be addressed - On facts, despite absence of Supreme Court interim order
staying proceedings before trial Judge, criminal complaint had made absolutely no progress over last, more than thirteen
years since original records of case had been transmitted to Supreme Court - In absence of original records, CJM
obviously could not proceed with trial - Deep concern expressed for redressal of such state of affairs, 
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