Accused added under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C cannot avail of the remedy of discharge, rules the Supreme Court

Accused added under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C cannot avail of the remedy of discharge, rules the Supreme Court

In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court of India has held that the accused who has been added under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C cannot avail of the remedy of discharge under Section 227 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as it does not stand to reason that a person who is summoned as an accused to stand trial and added as such to the proceedings on the basis of a stricter standard of proof (under S.319)  can be allowed to be discharged from the proceedings on the basis of a lesser standard of proof (under S.227).

Justifying the said finding, the Court reasoned that this must necessarily be so since a view to the contrary would render the exercise undertaken by a Court under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C., for summoning an accused, on the basis of a higher standard of proof totally infructuous and futile if the same court were to subsequently discharge the same accused by exercise of the power under Section 227 of the Cr.P.C., on the basis of a mere prima facie view. The exercise of the power under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C., must be placed on a higher pedestal, the Court said.

The Court said that there is a material difference between the two provisions. “An accused since inception is not necessarily heard before he is added as an accused. However, a person who is added as an accused under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C., is necessarily heard before being so added. Often he gets a further hearing if he challenges the summoning order before the High Court and further. It seems incongruous and indeed anomalous if the two sections are construed to mean that a person who is added as an accused by the court after considering the evidence against him can avail remedy of discharge on the ground that there is no sufficient material against him.”

Referring to the Constitution Bench decision in Hardeep Singh v. State of Punjab and Others [(2014) 3 SCC 92] wherein it was that the standard of proof employed for summoning a person as an accused under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C., is higher than the standard of proof employed for framing a charge against an accused, the Apex Court said that it does not stand to reason that a person who is summoned as an accused to stand trial and added as such to the proceedings on the basis of a stricter standard of proof can be allowed to be discharged from the proceedings on the basis of a lesser standard of proof such as a prima facie connection with the offence necessary for charging the accused.

The Apex Court however hastened to add that the accused summoned under Section 319 of the Cr.P.C., are entitled to invoke remedy under law against an illegal or improper exercise of the power under Section 319, but cannot have the effect of the order undone by seeking a discharge under Section 227 of the Cr.P.C.

If allowed to, such an action of discharge would not be in accordance with the purpose of the Cr.P.C in enacting Section 319 which empowers the Court to summon a person for being tried along with the other accused where it appears from the evidence that he has committed an offence, the Bench comprising of Justices S.A. Bobde and R.K. Agrawal said.

The Apex Court said that its finding as above would not result in any undue hardships to the accused since the remedy before a superior court would be available.

Read the Judgment here.