10 June 2020

While framing charge court cannot act as a mouthpiece of the prosecution

Now, let us examine the decisions which have a bearing on the point in issue.
   11. In State of Bihar v. Ramesh Singh MANU/SC/0139/1977 : (1977) 4 SCC 39 : 1977 SCC (Cri) 533 considering the scope of Sections 227 and 228 of the Code, it was held that at the stage of framing of charge it is not obligatory for the judge to consider in any detail and weigh in a sensitive balance whether the facts, if proved, would be incompatible with the innocence of the accused or not. At that stage, the court is not to see whether there is sufficient ground for conviction of the accused or whether the trial is sure to end in his conviction. Strong suspicion, at the initial stage of framing of charge, is sufficient to frame the charge and in that event it is not open to say that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
While framing charge court cannot act as a mouthpiece of the prosecution
12. In Supdt. and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs, W.B. v. Anil Kumar Bhunja MANU/SC/0266/1979 : (1979) 4 SCC 274 : 1979 SCC (Cri) 1038 : (1980) 1 SCR 323 a three-Judge Bench held that the Magistrate at the stage of framing charges had to see whether the facts alleged and sought to be proved by the prosecution prima facie disclose the commission of offence on general consideration of the materials placed before him by the investigating police officer. (emphasis supplied) Though in this case the specific question whether an accused at the stage of framing of charge has a right to produce any material was not considered as such, but that seems implicit when it was held that the Magistrate had to consider material placed before it by the investigating police officer.
   13. In State of Delhi v. Gyan Devi MANU/SC/0649/2000 : (2000) 8 SCC 239 : 2000 SCC (Cri) 1486 this Court reiterated that at the stage of framing of charge the trial court is not to examine and assess in detail the materials placed on record by the prosecution nor is it for the court to consider the sufficiency of the materials to establish the offence alleged against the accused persons.
   14. In State of M.P. v. S.B. Johari MANU/SC/0025/2000 : (2000) 2 SCC 57 : 2000 SCC (Cri) 311 it was held that the charge can be quashed if the evidence which the prosecutor proposes to adduce to prove the guilt of the accused, even if fully accepted, cannot show that the accused committed the particular offence. In that case, there would be no sufficient ground for proceeding with the trial.
   15. In State of Maharashtra v. Priya Sharan Maharaj MANU/SC/ 1146/1997 : (1997) 4 SCC 393 : 1997 SCC (Cri) 584 it was held that at Sections 227 and 228 stage the court is required to evaluate the material and documents on record with a view to finding out if the facts emerging therefrom taken at their face value disclose the existence of all the ingredients constituting the alleged offence. The court may, for this limited purpose, sift the evidence as it cannot be expected even at that initial stage to accept all that the prosecution states as gospel truth even if it is opposed to common sense or the broad probabilities of the case.
   16. All the decisions, when they hold that there can only be limited evaluation of materials and documents on record and sifting of evidence to prima facie find out whether sufficient ground exists or not for the purpose of proceeding further with the trial, have so held with reference to materials and documents produced by the prosecution and not the accused. The decisions proceed on the basis of settled legal position that the material as produced by the prosecution alone is to be considered and not the one produced by the accused. The latter aspect relating to the accused though has not been specifically stated, yet it is implicit in the decisions. It seems to have not been specifically so stated as it was taken to be a well-settled proposition. This aspect, however, has been adverted to in State Anti-Corruption Bureau v. P. Suryaprakasam 1999 SCC (Cri) 373 where considering the scope of Sections 239 and 240 of the Code it was held that at the time of framing of charge, what the trial court is required to, and can consider are only the police report referred to under Section 173 of the Code and the documents sent with it. The only right the accused has at that stage is of being heard and nothing beyond that.[Para No.10]
   11. Thus it is settled position of law that at the time of framing of charge, the Court is not supposed to look into the evidence of the case in detail and is only to consider whether there is a strong suspicion against the accused on the basis of the material that comes before it. The court has the power to sift the evidence for the limited purpose of finding out, whether or not a prima facie case is made out against the accused. However, the Court is not supposed to delve deeply into the merits of the matter and start a roving expedition into the evidence that is brought forth it, as if conducting a trial. Further there is no one fixed definition that may be ascribed to the term prima facie' nor can the term strong suspicion have a singular meaning. While coming to the conclusion of a strong prima facie case or strong suspicion, the Court shall have to decide each case on the basis of its own independent facts and circumstances.[Para No.11]
   26. It is trite law that at the stage of framing of charge, the Court is not to delve deeply with the evidence brought forth, but the same does not mean that the Court should ignore gaping holes apparent on the face of the record, in the case of the prosecution, and the court cannot act as a mouthpiece of the prosecution.[Para No.26]
Delhi High Court
State Of Nct Of Delhi 
Decided on 08/06/2020

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