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Supreme Court: Accused Can Be Summoned Even on the Basis of Examination-in-Chief of a Witness

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Case Name: Sartaj Singh vs. State of Haryana [CrA298-299 of 2021]

Facts of the case

In this case, the Appellant filed an FIR against the private respondent and other persons claiming that the accused people attacked him on July 27, 2016, and he got severely injured. The Appellant stated that while he was going for some personal work in his car, he stopped for answering a phone call. At that time, Manjeet Singh came in his car from Asandh side and started threatening the Appellant for having ploughed his barley crop in his capacity as the Sarpanch.  

Later, while going back from work, the Appellant noticed that Manjeet Singh’s car was parked diagonally on the road and when he peeked out of the window to look for the driver, Palwinder Singh and Satkar Singh armed with lathis, attacked him and gave blows on his head. After this 10-12 people came running to him from both sides armed with lathis and gandasis in their hands, dragged him out of the car and then Rajwant Singh raised the lalkar “today there is an opportunity to kill him.” After which, everyone started attacking him from all directions and he felt unconscious and thought he would die today. At that time, the Appellant took his gun out and started to fire blindly, because of which people started to ran away and he ran towards Adarsh School. There he met Bhupinder Singh and his father and told them everything, who took him to the police station where he was provided first aid and referred to General hospital, Karnal after looking at the severe injuries.

Later, an FIR was filed under various Sections of IPC, and DSP submitted in his report that only four persons were involved excluding the Respondents and the investigating officer filed a charge-sheet against other accused but not private Respondents. Thereafter, during the trial, the Appellant and other private witnesses were examined and the Appellant named the Respondent in his evidence and thereafter, filed an application to summon private Respondents under Sec. 319 which was allowed by the Trial court. As a consequence, the private Respondent filed 2 separate revision petitions before the High Court which were allowed by the impugned judgement and the Order of the Trial Court was set aside. Hence, the present appeal came before the apex Court.

Pleadings in the Court

It was submitted by the learned Counsel on behalf of the Appellant that when the learned Trial Court allowed the application under Section 319 CrPC summoning the private respondents herein to face the trial based on the evidence on record, the High Court was not justified in quashing and setting aside the Order summoning the private respondents herein, and it acted outside the scope and ambit of Section 319 CrPC. Furthermore, the reasons assigned by the High Court in reversing the Order of the learned Trial Court were not legal or factually sound. It was further stated that by observing that there was no evidence for the appellant’s argument, the High Court erred in quashing and setting aside the Order given by the learned Trial Court.

On the other hand, the learned Counsel on behalf of the Respondent opposed the present appeal and submitted that the power under Sections 319 CrPC is a discretionary and exceptional power that should be used only when the circumstances warrant it. Furthermore, because the first informant or one of the witnesses intended to implicate others, an Order under Section 319 CrPC ordering the summoning of additional accused could not be made. It was further stated that the only evidence against the private respondents, in this case, was the Appellant’s argument, who was an interested witness in the case. In the initial and earlier FIR, he was accused of murdering Amarjeet Singh and grievously injuring and attempting to kill Manjeet Singh.

Court’s observation

The bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah observed that if the Court was satisfied that the proposed accused had a prima facie case, the Court might array him as an accused and summon him to face the trial under Section 319 CrPC. 

It was further observed that the Court would exercise the power under Section 319 CrPC based on a statement made during the witness’s examination in chief; the Court did not need to wait for both the witness’s cross ­examination and the evidence against the accused proposed to be summoned to be examined by cross-examination.

Court’s Judgement

The Supreme Court, in this case, quashed the impugned judgement of the High Court and restored the Order of the Trial Court while stating that the reasons given by the High Court were unsustainable in law and/or facts. The High Court was not required to consider the injured eye witness deposition at this stage; rather, it was required to consider whether there was any prima facie case, not whether the proposed accused was likely to be convicted or not based on such material, and/or whether whatever the injured eye witness said in his examination ­in ­chief was an exaggeration or not. 

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