Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Whether the court should pass specific order for new trial/de novo trial after alteration or addition of charge?

 The matter can be viewed from another angle also. Section 216 of the Code empowers the Court to alter or add to any charge at any time before the judgment is pronounced and provides that after such alteration or addition of the charge the Court is required to read and explain the same to the accused in accordance with Sub-section (2) thereof. It is further laid down under Sub-section (3) that if in the opinion of the Court the alteration or addition to a charge is not likely to prejudice the accused in his defence or the prosecutor in the conduct of the case the Court may in its discretion proceed with the trial immediately with the altered or added charge. Sub-section (4) provides that if the alteration or addition is such that the proceeding immediately with the trial is likely to prejudice the accused or the prosecutor the Court may either direct a new trial or adjourn the trial for such period as may be necessary. Section 217 of the Code provides that whenever a charge is altered or added to by the Court after the commencement of the trial the prosecutor and the accused shall be allowed to recall or to summon and examine with reference to such alteration or addition any witness who has already been examined unless the Court for reasons to be recorded in writing considers that the desire to recall or re-examine such witness was only for the purposes of vexation or delay or defeating the ends of justice. Besides, it permits the prosecutor and the accused to call any further witness whom the Court may think it to be material. On a combined reading of the above two sections it is, therefore, evident that after an alteration or addition of the charge the interest of the prosecution and the accused has to be safeguarded by permitting them to further examine or cross examine the witness already examined, as the case may be, and by affording them an opportunity to call other witnesses. It is undoubtedly true that discretion has been given to the Court to direct a new trial after addition or alteration of any charge, but it does not mean that every such addition or alteration in the charge which has been read over and explained to the accused would lead to inevitable inference that the Court has directed a new trial for them. It, therefore, follows that unless the Court passes a specific order and directs a new trial it cannot be presumed that a new trial has commenced only because an alteration or addition to a charge which has been read over and explained to the accused has been made. Indeed the order dated April 30, 1987 shows that while directing the prosecution to examine the 4 witnesses afresh the 5th Court adjourned the case for further trial and did not direct fresh trial. This apart, any such direction given by the Court has to be judged on the touchstone of prejudice to the accused or the prosecution. In the instant case, as has already been noticed after the addition of charges the prosecution expressly stated that they did not want to further examine the four witnesses already examined but they were willing to produce them if the accused so wanted. The accused, however, did not avail of this opportunity in accordance with Section 217 of the Code and, therefore, it is too late in the day for them to raise a grievance on that score. We hasten to add that even if we had found that there was any irregularity in the continuation of the trial against the appellants after the additional charges were framed, we would not have been justified in setting aside the impugned judgment on that ground alone for there is not an iota of material on record wherefrom it can be said that a failure of justice has occasioned thereby. To put if differently, in our view in such a case Section 465 of the Code would have squarely applied.{Para 23}
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Criminal Appeal No. 34 of 1992

Decided On: 21.03.1995

Ranbir Yadav  Vs.   State of Bihar


Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
Dr. A.S. Anand and M.K. Mukherjee, JJ.

Equivalent citations: 1995 AIR 1219, 1995 SCC (4) 392,JT 1995 (3) 228 1995 SCALE (2)331,MANU/SC/0245/1995
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