Defence on Merits Is To Be Considered at the Time of Trial and Not at the Stage of Framing Of Charge: Supreme Court

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Case Name: State of Rajasthan vs. Ashok Kumar Kashyap [CrA 407 of 2021]

Excerpt

The Supreme Court in a judgement on Tuesday (April 13, 2021) observed that at the stage of framing of the charge and/or at the stage of discharge of application, the defence on merit is not to be considered and the mini-trial is not permissible. 

Facts of the case

In this case, the complainant complained about the Respondent, who was serving as patwari, alleging bribery by a written report to the Superintendent of Police, Anti-Corruption Board, Bharatpur. The complainant stated that he has submitted the required certificates to the accused of the purpose of issuance of the Domicile Certificate and OBC Certificate of his son. However, the accused demanded a bribe of Rs.2800/- for endorsing the report. Thereafter investigation took place and a charge-sheet was filed under Section 17 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the leaned sessions’ judge after taking into consideration material on record, found that the matter was prima facie and held the accused guilty of the crime. 

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Aggrieved by the Order, the revision application was filed to High Court which was allowed and the order of the sessions’ Court was quashed and set aside and the accused was discharged from the offence because the Petitioner would not be found guilty of an offence under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act based on a simple reading of the transcript. As a result, the appeal was preferred before the Supreme Court of India.

Pleadings before the Court

It was submitted by the learned counsel on behalf of the Appellant that the High Court erred in discharging the accused of the charged offence in the facts and circumstances of the case when there were enough information and proof on record with adequate grounds for proceeding against the accused. Furthermore, the High Court made a grave mistake in judging the transcript/evidence on the merits, which is not appropriate at the stage of considering the application for discharge and a case of demand for illicit gratification has been established based on the communication between the Plaintiff and the accused. As a result, the High Court made an error in reviewing the facts on the record on the merits at the stage of considering the discharge application, which is impermissible and beyond the reach of the revisionary jurisdiction. It was further submitted that the High Court has failed to recognize that when a charge is framed and/or an appeal for discharge is considered, the Court must determine whether there is a prima facie case against the accused or not.

On the other hand, it was submitted by the learned counsel on behalf of the Respondent that based on the facts and circumstances of the case, and the reality that no case has indeed been made out against the accused of the offence under Section 7 of the PC Act based on the transcript recording conversation between the complainant and the accused, the High Court has correctly discharged the accused by quashing and setting aside the Order passed by the learned Special Judge framing the charge. It was also submitted that the accused refused to issue a residence certificate and caste certificate after learning of the complaint as a permanent resident of Agra; in reality, the complainant wanted a false residence certificate and caste certificate made illegally in the state of Rajasthan, and a bribe was offered for the same, but the trap failed and the accused refused to accept the bribe in the trap. Also, two people were present at the time of the conversation, and the conversation was mixed with Plaintiff as well as Devi Singh, and the Appellant attempted to confuse and deceive the Court by mixing the conversation.

Court’s Observation

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The bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah observed that the High Court went beyond the limits of Section 227/239 Cr.P.C. in exercising its revisionary authority. When discharging the accused, the High Court considered the merits of the case or whether the accused is likely to be convicted based on the evidence presented, and perhaps even the transcript of the dialogue between both the complainant and the accused, which at this stage to consider the discharge application and/or charge framing is not permitted.

It was further observed that the mini-trial is not permitted during the stages of charge formulation and/or consideration of the discharge application. It’s worth noting at this point that, under Section 7 of the PC Act, merely attempting to commit a crime is a crime.

Court’s Judgement

The Supreme Court in its judgement upheld the order of the Session’s Court and set aside the Order of the High Court and did not enter into the merits of the case and/or transcript and held that defence on the merits is not to be considered at the stage of charge framing and/or at the stage of discharge submission but at the time of trial.

Click here for the judgement


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