State Of Haryana V/s. Ram Mehar And Others Etc.

When the concept of fair trial is limitlessly stretched, the orders may fall in the arena of sanctuary of errors.

Case name:State Of Haryana V/s. Ram Mehar And Others Etc.
Case number:Criminal Appeal Nos.  805-806 of 2016           
Court:In the Supreme Court of India Criminal appellate jurisdiction
Bench:Hon’ble Justice Dipak Misra
Decided on:24th August, 2016
Relevant Act/Sections:Section 311 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973; Section 313 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973; Article 21 in The Constitution of India 1949and  Section 482 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  • BRIEF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • The present case arouses from a SLP, assailing from order passed by Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court. First Additional Sessions Judge, Gurgaon passed on 16.12.2015 wherein he had rejected the prayer of the accused persons seeking recall of the witnesses under Section 311 read with Section 231(2) CrPC.
  • The prosecution case before the trial court is that on 18.07.2012 about 7 p.m. the accused persons being armed with door beams and shockers went upstairs inside M1 room of the Manesar Factory of Maruti Suzuki Limited, smashed the glass walls of the conference room and threw chairs and table tops towards the management officials, surrounded the conference hall from all sides and blocked both the staircases and gave threats of doing away with the lives of the officials present over there.
  • The exhortation continued for quite a length of time. All kinds of attempts were made to burn alive the officials of the management. During this pandemonium, the entire office was set on fire by the accused persons and the effort by the officials to escape became an exercise in futility as the accused persons had blocked the staircases.
  • The police officials who arrived at the spot to control the situation were assaulted by the workers and they were obstructed from going upstairs to save the officials. Despite the obstruction, the officials were saved by the police and the fire was brought under control by the fire brigade.
  • In the incident where chaos was the sovereign, Mr. Avnish Dev, General Manager, Human Resources of the Company was burnt alive.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

  1. The said occurrence led to lodging of FIR No. 184/2012 at Police Station Manesar. After completion of the investigation, the police filed charge sheet against 148 workers in respect of various offences before the competent court which, in turn, committed the matter to the court of session and during trial the accused persons were charged for the offences punishable under Sections 147/ 148/ 149/ 452/ 302/ 307/ 436/ 323/ 332/ 353/ 427/ 114/ 201/ 120B/ 34/ 325/ 381 & 382 IPC.
  2. When an application for bail was filed before the trial court and it was rejected upto the High Court, some accused persons moved this Court.
  3. The High Court took note of the common ground that the leading counsel for the defense was critically ill during the trial and due to inadvertence, certain important questions, suggestions with respect to the individual roles and allegations against the respective accused persons, the injuries sustained by the witnesses, as well as the alleged weapons of offence used, had not been put to the said witnesses.
  4. It also took note of the fact that the senior lawyer had been engaged at the final stage and such inadvertent errors were discovered by him and they needed to be rectified in order to have a meaningful defense and a fair trial.
  5. The High Court came to hold that a case for recalling had been made out to ensure the grant of fair opportunity to defend and uphold the concept of fair trial. It further expressed the view that when 148 accused persons are facing trial together, wherein the prosecution has examined 102 witnesses regarding different roles, weapons and injuries attributed to various accused qua various victims on the day of occurrence stretched over a period of time within a huge area of factory premises, does raise a sustainable inference that there was confusion during the conduct of the trial leading to certain inadvertent omissions and putting proper suggestions on material aspects, which are crucial for the defence in a trial, inter alia, for an offence under Section 302 IPC.”
  6. On the basis of the aforesaid reasoning, the High Court allowed the petitions and set aside the impugned orders and directed as follows:- “… in case the learned trial Court during the cross examination of the such recalled witnesses is of the opinion that such opportunity is being misused to make the witnesses resile from their earlier testimonies, in that eventuality the trial Court would be at full liberty to put a stop to that effort.”
  • ISSUE BEFORE THE COURT:
  • Whether the reasons ascribed by the High Court are germane for exercise of power under Section 311 CrPC?
  • Whether fairness is acceptable or not in the obtaining factual matrix?
  • Should the principle of magnanimity apply?
  • RATIO OF THE COURT:
  • SG Tushar Mehta argued that sec. 311 cannot be applied in a routine manner whereas RS Cheema, counsel for the respondents argued that fair trial is a facet of Art. 21 and the applicability of sec. 311 should not be marginalised.
  • The court relied upon the judgments such as Maneka Sanjay Gandhi and another v. Rani Jethmalani, Ram Chander v. State of Haryana; Rattiram and others v. State of Madhya Pradesh et al. to observe that assurance of a fair trial is the first imperative of the dispensation of justice and the central criterion for the court to consider when a motion for transfer is made is not the relative convenience of a party or easy availability of legal services or like mini-grievances.
  • In Bablu Kumar and others v. State of Bihar and another the Court referred to the authorities in SidharthaVashisht alias Manu Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi), Rattiram (supra), J. Jayalalithaa (supra), State of Karnataka v. K. Yarappa Reddy and other decisions and came to hold that keeping in view the concept of fair trial, the obligation of the prosecution, the interest of the community and the duty of the court, it can irrefragably be stated that the court cannot be a silent spectator or a mute observer when it presides over a trial.
  • The court observed that the decisions of this court when analysed appositely clearly convey that the concept of the fair trial is not in the realm of abstraction. It is not a vague idea. It is a concrete phenomenon. It is not rigid and there cannot be any straitjacket formula for applying the same. On occasions it has the necessary flexibility. Therefore, it cannot be attributed or clothed with any kind of rigidity or flexibility in its application. It is because fair trial in its ambit requires fairness to the accused, the victim and the collective at large. The concept of fair trial cannot be allowed to such an extent so that the systemic order of conducting a trial in accordance with CrPC or other enactments get mortgaged to the whims and fancies of the defense or the prosecution.
  • One cannot afford to treat the victim as an alien or a total stranger to the criminal trial. If evidence of any witness appears to the court to be essential to the just decision of the case, it is the power of the court to summon and examine or recall and re-examine any such person.
  • However, the court did not fail to observe that the courts cannot ignore the factual score. The Court emphasized that it is apt to state that the exercise of power under Section 311 CrPC can be sought to be invoked either by the prosecution or by the accused persons or by the Court itself.
  • The court in the light of previous judgments observed that it is well settled that the exercise of power under Section 311 CrPC should be resorted to only with the object of finding out the truth or obtaining proper proof of such facts which lead to a just and correct decision of the case, as it is the primary duty of a criminal court.
  • Calling a witness or re-examining a witness already examined for the purpose of finding out the truth in order to enable the court to arrive at a just decision of the case cannot be dubbed as “filling in a lacuna in the prosecution case” unless the facts and circumstances of the case make it apparent that the exercise of power by the court would result in causing serious prejudice to the accused resulting in miscarriage of justice.
  • It concluded that the High Court had fallen into absolute error in axing the order passed by the learned trial Judge.
  • DECISION HELD BY COURT:
  • The Hon’ble Court allowed the appeals.
  • The order of the High Court’s set aside.
  • The learned trial court judge was restored to pass the decision.
  • They directed the learned trial judge to proceed with the trial in accordance with the law.

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