Libertatem Magazine

Jammu and Kashmir High Court Sets Aside Framing of Charges by Trial Court Amounting to Mini-Trial

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Facts in Brief 

On 22.02.2010, FIR No. 47 was registered in Baramulla police station on reliable information that some unruly stone pelters, with stones and danda in their possession had forcefully deboarded a Sumo car and were shouting objectionable slogans with the ultimate aim of enforcing a hartal. After the registration of FIR, the investigation was conducted and it was found out that the incident occurred at Aqua Impex Foods Baramulla instead of Stadium Colony, Baramulla, where the Respondents deboarded Kulsusma, a lady with an infant named Irfan Ahmed in her lap who was killed, and her other son Ubaid aged 4 injured. The Medical Officer at Danni Wachau Hospital opined that the cause of death of the infant was due to “crushing to death by a mob followed by his bleeding from nose and mouth”. The SDM concerned suggested that the death occurred due to “Septicaemia”. The Trial Court at the stage of framing of charges discharged Respondents 1 to 8 for the commission of offences under Sections 302 and 307 RPC (Ranbir Penal Code) and also Section 3 of the Public Properties (Prevention of Damages) Act, and instead, charged the Respondents for the commission of offences under Sections 148, 149, 341, 336, 323, 304-A, and 447 R.P.C. Aggrieved by this Order, the Petitioners approached the High Court.  

Contention of the Petitioners 

The Petitioners contended that the approach of the Trial Court was incorrect while dealing with the framing of charges as the Trial Court had dealt with it in a manner as if it was passing a judgment after the conduct of the trial. According to the Petitioner, the Trial Court also erred in appreciating evidence as was done in a trial. Further, the Petitioners argued that the Respondents were well aware of the consequences of their actions and the Court could not abdicate anyone for the lack of intention at that stage. 

Contention of the Respondents 

The Respondents contended that the Trial Court was correct in its analysis as the Respondents never intended to cause the death of any person, and they were just enforcing a hartal. The Respondents also contended that invoking Section 304-A RPC was arbitrary.

Decision of the Court 

The order of the Trial Court concerning the charges under Section 304-A was set aside and it was ordered by the High Court to include charges under Sections 304-Part II, 323, 336, 341, 427, 148, and 149 RPC against the Respondents. 

Reasons for Decision

The Court relied on the decision of Sajjan Kumar v. C.B.I. which laid down that the Judge while considering the question of framing the charges under Section 227 CrPC had the undoubted power to sift and weigh the evidence for the limited purpose of finding out whether or not a prima facie case against the accused had been made out and, the Court could not act merely as a post office or a mouthpiece of the Prosecution but had to consider the broad probabilities of the case, the total effect of the evidence and the documents produced before the Court and further at this stage the Court was not allowed to conduct a mini-trial and in this case, the Trial Court had essentially conducted a mini-trial at this stage by relying on contradiction in testimonies of prosecution witnesses. The Court further ruled that Respondents could be presumed to possess knowledge that while deboarding a lady from a car, with an infant in her lap might lead to her death. 

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