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Evaluation of Respondent's Defense at the stage of Framing of Charge

What weightage should be given to defense of accused at the stage of framing of charge in a criminal matter? This issue has recently been dealt with by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in a recent Judgment pronounced on 13.04.2021 in Criminal Appeal No. 407 of 2021 , titled as State of Rajasthan Vs Ashok Kumar Kashyap. The Judgment was authored by Shri M.R. SHAH, H.J., Supreme Court of India.

In this case the complainant filed complainant against the accused person (the Patwari) under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act before Special Judge, Prevention of Corruption Act, Bharatpur. The complainant namely Jai Kishore alleged that the same approached the accused person (the Patwari namely Ashok Kumar Kashyap) for issuance of Domicile Certificate and OBC Certificate of his son. How ever the accused person , instead of endorsing the application, demanded the bribe of Rs. 2800. On this complaint , investigation was conducted and charge sheet was filed.

Vide order 22.06.2018, passed by the learned Special Judge, Prevention of Corruption Act, Bharatpur charged was framed against the accused person. Against this order the accused person filed revision petition before the Hon'ble High Court of Rajasthan , Jaipur , bearing S.B. Criminal Revision No. 1270 of 2018.

The Hon'ble High Court of Rajasthan , Jaipur , vide order dated 12.09.2018 passed in the afore mentioned Petition, quashed the order 22.06.2018, passed by the learned Special Judge, Prevention of Corruption Act, Bharatpur where by the charges were framed against the accused person. There by the accused person was set free from the charges levelled against him under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. This is the order, which was challenged by the State of Rajasthan in the Appeal.

Basic contention of State was that at the stage of framing of charge in a complaint preceding what a court is required to see whether there is any prima facie case has been made out or not? At the stage of framing of charge , the court has to see the documents and material on record and whether on the basis of material on record whether on their face value it can be said or not , whether prima facie case is made out or not? The state further alleged that the Hon'ble High Court was wrong in looking into evidentiary value of the documents at this stage. In support of argument, the state relied upon many Judgments namely.
  • Vijayan v. State of Kerana, (2010) 2 SCC 398
  • Srilekha Sentil Kumar v. Deputy Superintendent of Police, CBI, ACB, Chennai, (2019) 7 SCC 82;
  • Asim Shariff v. National Investigation Agency (2019) 7 SCC 148; and
  • State of Karnataka Lokayukta, Police Station, Bengaluru v. M.R. Hiremath, (2019) 7 SCC 515.
These arguments were of course contested by the accused by raising various grounds and defenses.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, while restoring the order of Ld. Trial Court and setting aside the Judgment of Hon'ble High Court, laid down that at the stage of considering an application for discharge the court must proceed on the assumption that the material which has been brought on the record by the prosecution is true and evaluate the material in order to determine whether the facts emerging from the material, taken on its face value, disclose the existence of the ingredients necessary to constitute the offence.

The Hon'ble Court , in its decision relied upon the Judgment delivered in State of T.N. v. N. Suresh Rajan (2014) 11 SCC 709." The Hon'ble Supreme Court further observed that at this stage, defense of accused person is not required to be looked into. At the stage of framing of charge , the Court will presume the documents put on record, to be correct and has to consider whether these prima facie disclose offence against the accused person on record? Though the final stage it yet to come, still this Judgement is in favour of those innumerous person, who suffer at the hand of erring officials and will instill some sense of fear amongst the corrupt officials.

Written By: Ajay Amitabh Suman
 

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