Mansimran  Kaur

New Delhi, August 5, 2022: Highlighting that the duty of the Court is to separate the grain from the chaff, the Supreme Court has opined that non-fulfilment of the true spirit of section 313 CrPC may ultimately cause grave prejudice to the accused and the Court may not have the benefit of all the necessary facts and circumstances to arrive at a fair conclusion.

The Larger Bench of Justice N.V. Ramana , Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Hima Kohli allowed the   present appeal  against the Madhya Pradesh High Court judgment whereby the High Court dismissed the appeal against the judgment confirming his conviction under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 25 and 27 of the Arms Act  . The bench was of the opinion that the courts below failed to scrutinise the defence version put forward by the appellant- accused in his statement made under Section 313 of Cr.P.C.

It was the case of the prosecution that on February 14, 2003, the appellant and the co -accused went to the complainant’s house and called him outside. When the complainant came out, the appellant fired at him with a country-made pistol. The complainant   ran back  into the house and escaped injury while the appellant and co-accused fled from the spot on their motorcycle. The complainant’s  mother- the third prosecution witness was allegedly present in the house at the time of the incident and the complainant’s  neighbours (PW1, PW10, PW11) arrived upon hearing the sound of gunfire. The firearm used in the alleged incident was recovered from the appellant, along with an empty cartridge.

Subsequently, charges were framed against the appellant and the co-accused and the Trial Court convicted and sentenced the appellant. However, the co – accused was acquitted. By way of impugned, the Madhya Pradesh High Court confirmed the appellant’s conviction and sentence. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant approached this Court by way of special leave. 

The Bench noted that the only evidence that was available to prove the presence of the accused at the scene, apart from the testimony of the complainant himself, was that of the third prosecution witness, his mother. Although, the counsel on behalf of the accused contended that the testimony of the aforesaid witness should not be taken into consideration as she was an interested witness, however, in view of the same, this Court affirmed the established principle of law that a close relative cannot automatically be characterized as an interested witness. Though, it is trite that even related witness statements need to be scrutinised more carefully, the Court stated. 

Another important issue that came to the surface was regarding the accused-appellant’s statement made under Section 313 wherein he stated that he and the complainant belonged to opposing student parties. The accused -appellant claimed that owing to the animosity pertaining to the elections, the accused -appellant was falsely implicated in the matter. He also produced two witnesses to prove his alibi.

The accused-appellant also brought to the attention of this Court the fact that the complainant had also registered another criminal case against the accused-appellant in which he already stands acquitted.  In pursuance of the same, the Top Court noted that the alternate version put forth by the appellant- accused could not be ignored. “The purpose of Section 313 CrPC is to provide the accused a reasonable opportunity to explain the adverse circumstances which have emerged against him during the course of trial. A reasonable opportunity entails putting all the adverse evidences in the form of questions so as to give an opportunity to the accused to articulate his defence and give his explanation”, the Court stated. 

 In the present case, the courts below failed to scrutinize the defence version put forward by the appellant- accused in his Section 313 statement. As per the Bench, when there was absence of independent evidence corroborating the statements made by the complainant, serious doubts were raised by the Court  regarding the recovery of the alleged motorcycle and the country-made pistol. 

The Top Court held that the case against the accused-appellant couldnot be sustained as no connection was  proved between the alleged recovered items and the alleged incident, and the plausible version put forward by the accused-appellant in his Section 313 statement was not satisfactorily responded to by the prosecution.Thus, the Top Court concluded the matter by observing that the Trial Court and the High Court failed to consider the above stated findings while conferring the judgment of conviction. 

Hence, the conviction and sentence passed against the appellant was set aside and the appeal was allowed by the Bench.

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