Sunday, 7 July 2019

Duty of court while recording statement of accused U/S 313 of CRPC

 The words of P.B. Gajendragadkar, J. (as he then was) in Jai Dev v. State of Punjab MANU/SC/0134/1962 : AIR 1963 SC 612 speaking for three-Judge Bench with reference to Section 342 of the Code (corresponding to Section 313 of the 1973 Code) may be usefully quoted:

21....the ultimate test in determining whether or not the accused has been fairly examined under Section 342 would be to enquire whether, having regard to all the questions put to him, he did get an opportunity to say what he wanted to say in respect of prosecution case against him. If it appears that the examination of the accused person was defective and thereby a prejudice has been caused to him, that would no doubt be a serious infirmity....
55. In Shivaji Sahabrao Bobade and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra MANU/SC/0167/1973 : 1973 (2) SCC 793 a 3-Judge Bench of this Court stated:

16....It is trite law, nevertheless fundamental, that the prisoner's attention should be drawn to every inculpatory material so as to enable him to explain it. This is the basic fairness of a criminal trial and failures in this area may gravely imperil the validity of the trial itself, if consequential miscarriage of justice has flowed. However, where such an omission has occurred it does not ipso facto vitiate the proceedings and prejudice occasioned by such defect must be established by the accused. In the event of evidentiary material not being put to the accused, the court must ordinarily eschew such material from consideration. It is also open to the appellate court to call upon the counsel for the accused to show what explanation the accused has as regards the circumstances established against him but not put to him and if the accused is unable to offer the appellate court any plausible or reasonable explanation of such circumstances, the court may assume that no acceptable answer exists and that even if the accused had been questioned at the proper time in the trial court he would not have been able to furnish any good ground to get out of the circumstances on which the trial court had relied for its conviction.
56. The above decisions have been referred in Asraf Ali v. State of Assam MANU/SC/7839/2008 : 2008 (16) SCC 328. The Court stated:

21. Section 313 of the Code casts a duty on the court to put in an enquiry or trial questions to the accused for the purpose of enabling him to explain any of the circumstances appearing in the evidence against him. It follows as a necessary corollary therefrom that each material circumstance appearing in the evidence against the accused is required to be put to him specifically, distinctly and separately and failure to do so amounts to a serious irregularity vitiating trial, if it is shown that the accused was prejudiced.

22. The object of Section 313 of the Code is to establish a direct dialogue between the court and the accused. If a point in the evidence is important against the accused, and the conviction is intended to be based upon it, it is right and proper that the accused should be questioned about the matter and be given an opportunity of explaining it. Where no specific question has been put by the trial court on an inculpatory material in the prosecution evidence, it would vitiate the trial. of course, all these are subject to rider whether they have caused miscarriage of justice or prejudice.

24. In certain cases when there is perfunctory examination under Section 313 of the Code, the matter is remanded to the trial court, with a direction to retry from the stage at which the prosecution was closed.

57. From the above, the legal position appears to be this: the accused must be apprised of incriminating evidence and materials brought in by the prosecution against him to enable him to explain and respond to such evidence and material. Failure in not drawing the attention of the accused to the incriminating evidence and inculpatory materials brought in by prosecution specifically, distinctly and separately may not by itself render the trial against the accused void and bad in law; firstly, if having regard to all the questions put to him, he was afforded an opportunity to explain what he wanted to say in respect of prosecution case against him and secondly, such omission has not caused prejudice to him resulting in failure of justice. The burden is on the accused to establish that by not apprising him of the incriminating evidence and the inculpatory materials that had come in the prosecution evidence against him, a prejudice has been caused resulting in miscarriage of justice.

58. Insofar as present case is concerned, in his statement under Section 313, the Appellant was informed about the evidence relating to the incident that occurred in the early hours (between 3.45 a.m. to 4.00 a.m.) of November 12, 2006 and the fact that repairs were going on the road at that time. The Appellant accepted this position. The Appellant was also informed about the evidence of the prosecution that vehicle No. MH-01-R-580 was involved in the said incident. This was also accepted by the Appellant. His attention was brought to the evidence of the eye-witnesses and injured witnesses, namely, PW-2, PW-3, PW-4, PW-5, PW-6, PW- 7, PW-8, PW-9 and PW-10 that at the relevant time they were sleeping on the pavement of Carter Road, Bandra (West) outside the temporary huts and there was an accident in which seven persons died and eight persons got injured. The attention of the Appellant was also drawn to the evidence of the spot panchas (PW-11 and PW-16) that they had noticed that the car No. MH-01-R- 580 at the time of preparation of spot panchnama was in a heavily damaged condition with dislodged right side wheel and some blood was found on the earth and the huts were found damaged. The prosecution evidence that the Appellant was seen driving car No. MH-01-R-580 at high speed from Khar Danda side and that rammed over the footpath and crushed the labourers sleeping there was also brought to his notice. The evidence of the mechanical expert (PW-15) that he checked the vehicle and found no mechanical defect in the car was also brought to his notice. During investigation, the police concluded that the rash and negligent driving of the Appellant by consuming alcohol caused the death of seven persons and injury to the eight persons. The conclusion drawn on the completion of investigation was also put to him. The Appellant's attention was also invited to the materials such as photographs, mechanical inspections of the car, seized articles, liquor bottle, etc. Having regard to the above, it cannot be said that the Appellant was not made fully aware of the prosecution evidence that he had driven the car rashly or negligently in a drunken condition. He had full opportunity to say what he wanted to say with regard to the prosecution evidence.

59. The High Court in this regard held as under:

29....The salutary provision of Section 313 of the Code have been fairly, or at least substantially, complied with by the trial court, in the facts and circumstances of this case. The real purpose of putting the accused at notice of the incriminating circumstances and requiring him to offer explanation, if he so desires, has been fully satisfied in the present case. During the entire trial, copies of the documents were apparently supplied to the accused, even prior to the framing of the charge. After such charge was framed, all the witnesses were examined in the presence of the accused and even limited questions regarding incriminating material put by the court to the accused in his statement under Section 313 of the Code shows that the entire prosecution case along with different exhibits was put to the accused. He in fact did not deny the suggestions that the witnesses had been examined in his presence and he was aware about the contents of their statements. All this essentially would lead to only one conclusion that the contention raised on behalf of the accused in this regard deserves to be rejected. While rejecting this contention we would also observe that the admission or confession of the accused in his statement under Section 313 of the Code, in so far as it provides support or even links to, or aids the case of the prosecution proved on record, can also be looked into by the court in arriving at its final conclusion. It will be more so when explanation in the form of answers given by the accused under Section 313 of the Code are apparently untrue and also when no cross examination of the crucial prosecution witnesses was conducted on this line.

We are in agreement with the above view of the High Court.


Criminal Appeal Nos. 1318-1320 of 2007

Decided On: 12.01.2012

Alister Anthony Pareira  Vs. State of Maharashtra

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
R.M. Lodha and J.S. Khehar, JJ.
Read full judgment here: Click here

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