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Whether Section 313 Of Crpc Can Be Used To Advance Prosecution Evidence

Section 313 of CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973) is considered one of the best mandatory legal provisions available to an accused to prove her innocence. It is titled "Power to examine the accused." This section provides an opportunity to the accused person during the trial to explain any circumstances in evidence against them.

Further, the accused can also not be cross-examined. This is in line with principles of natural justice i.e. 'Audi Alteram Partem.' Statement of an accused under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is recorded without administering oath and, therefore, the said statement cannot be treated as evidence within the meaning of Section 3 of the Evidence Act. The importance of this section could be clearly reflected from the Supreme Court Bench judgements in last few months to stress on proper implementation of this section rather being an empty formality of a fair trial.

In the most recent landmark judgement by a bench of Supreme Court on dated March 3, 2023 in the case titled Premchand v. State of Maharashtra laid down the 10 well-settled principles of Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which also constitutes the real backbone! To come up with the relevance of these 10 principles, SC referred a chain of five important judgements State of U.P. v. Lakhmi (1998) 4 SCC 336, Sanatan Naskar v. State of West Bengal (2010) 8 SCC 249, Reena Hazarika v. State of Assam (2019) 13 SCC 289, Parminder Kaur v. State of Punjab (2020) 8 SCC 811 and M. Abbas v. State of Kerala (2001) 10 SCC 103.

Supreme Court 2023 Tribhuwan Pandey v. State of Bihar

On April 21, 2023 the SC bench comprising of Hon'ble Justice V. Ramasubrmanian and Hon'ble Justice Pankaj Mithal heard a case of Tribhuwan Pandey, the appellant in the case, challenged his conviction for a murder that occurred in 1992 and was sentenced to life in prison, primarily on the grounds that the sessions court had reduced the Section 313 CrPC questioning to a mere formality. The bench observed that the appellant in this case was asked only three questions. The following are the questions and responses:

Question: Heard the deposition given by witnesses?
Answer: Yes

Question: Witnesses have stated that on 30.10.92 at 2 o' clock in the day in Chailwa village Nandlal Kamkar was shot dead with a common intention?

Answer: No.

Question: What you want to say in defence?

Answer: No.

The state counsel argued that any error in questioning under Section 313 of the Code, even if one is assumed without admitting it, is a correctable error and will not be advantageous to the appellant.

Reena Hazarika v. State of Assam

Principle established by the honorable court that the solemn duty of the courts is to administer justice after giving due consideration to the accused's defense and any attempts to refute the circumstances and evidence presented against him in accordance with Section 313 of the CrPC, and to accept or reject the same for the reasons stated in writing.

Ratheesh v. State of Kerala in CRL.A No. 692 of 2020
In this case, a division bench of the Kerala high court held that a conviction of any accused can't be determined only on the basis of the statement of the accused made u/s 313 CrPC as it isn't a substantive evidence. Further, this bench comprising by Honorable Justice K V Chandram and Justice C Jayachandram held that accused statement u/s 313 CrPC can only be used against him, if there is other evidences to hold the accused guilty.

Sharad Birdichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra
If the circumstances are not put to the Accused in his statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, they must be completely excluded from consideration because the Accused did not have any chance to explain them.

Ashraf Ali v. State of Assam
The purpose of Section 313 CrPC was deliberated by the honourable Court. It was stated that aim of Section 313 CrPC is to open a line of communication between the court and the accused. If there is significant evidence against the accused and that evidence will be the basis for the conviction, and his/her conviction is to be based on the same, it is appropriate and logical to question the accused about that evidence.

Undoubtedly, Section 313 of CrPC primarily serves the purpose of ensuring a fair trial; this Section 313 can also be helpful for the prosecution in some ways. One hardly finds any judgements supporting the fact that the section 313 CrPC exclusive for defense of accused, may also be beneficial to the prosecution's case as well.

Evidentiary Value of the Statement/s of Accused u/s 313 CrPC:
Neel Kumar v. State Of Haryana (2012) 5 SCC 766
Hon'ble court held that it was duty of accused to explain incriminating circumstances proved against him while making a statement u/s 313 of CrPC. If accused remained silent or in complete denial and did not furnish any explanation, then court can take adverse inference against him and consider it as an additional link in chain of circumstances to sustain changes against him.

Prahlad v. State Of Rajasthan (2014) 14 SCC 438
Phula Singh v. State Of Himacahal (AIR 2014 SC 1256)

Hon'ble court held that the silence on the part of accused leads to an adverse inference against him.

Munna Kumar Upadhayaya@Munna Upadhayaya v. State Of Andhra Pradesh (8-05-2012- SC)
Hon'ble court held that any incorrect or false answers given by accused in statement u/s 313 CrPC can be used against him and Court can take adverse inference of the same.

Further, after a thorough study, summarized in few point that how evidentiary value of accused statements u/s section 313 CrPC could be beneficial to the prosecution's case:
  1. Filling gaps in evidence:
    Section 313 allows the court to question the accused about any evidence or circumstances that may have been missed during the examination of witnesses. This provides an opportunity for the prosecution to clarify any ambiguities or inconsistencies in the evidence presented so far.
  2. Confirmation of facts:
    The examination of the accused under Section 313 gives the prosecution an opportunity to seek confirmation of certain facts or details related to the crime. The accused may inadvertently provide information that supports the prosecution's case or contradicts their own defense.
  3. Uncovering new evidence:
    During the examination under Section 313, the accused may make statements or admissions that reveal new evidence or provide leads to further investigation. Such disclosures can be beneficial for the prosecution in strengthening their case.
  4. Establishing a strong case:
    The examination of the accused allows the prosecution to present their case in a comprehensive manner. By questioning the accused about specific evidence, the prosecution can emphasize the incriminating aspects and establish a stronger narrative against the accused.
  5. Challenging the defense:
    Section 313 allows the prosecution to address and challenge the defenses raised by the accused. By questioning the accused directly, the prosecution can attempt to undermine or discredit the defense's arguments, potentially weakening the accused's position.
  6. Assessing credibility:
    The examination of the accused under Section 313 provides an opportunity for the court to assess the credibility of the accused's statements. The prosecution can use this opportunity to highlight any inconsistencies, contradictions, or falsehoods in the accused's responses, thereby strengthening their case.

It's important to note that the primary purpose of Section 313 is to ensure a fair trial by giving the accused an opportunity to explain the evidence against them. While it can be helpful for the prosecution, it cannot be a tool solely for advancing the prosecution's case, but rather as a mechanism to seek the truth and ensure justice.

Written By: Isha Kajal, Advocate
District & Sessions Court, Hisar (Haryana)

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