Can Section 319 CrPC Be Invoked After Trial Is Over? Supreme Court Constitution Bench To Hear On Nov 15
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, decided to commence with the hearing of the plea which raises the broad issue, whether Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 can be invoked after judgment is reserved, on 15th November, 2022. Appearing before a 5-Judge Bench comprising Justices Abdul Nazeer, B.R. Gavai, A.S. Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian and B.V....
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, decided to commence with the hearing of the plea which raises the broad issue, whether Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 can be invoked after judgment is reserved, on 15th November, 2022.
Appearing before a 5-Judge Bench comprising Justices Abdul Nazeer, B.R. Gavai, A.S. Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian and B.V. Nagarathna, Senior Advocate, Mr. Paramjit Singh Patwalia representing the petitioner, submitted that in his opinion his case is covered by the judgment of the Apex Court in Hardeep Singh v. State of Punjab which sets out circumstances under which power under Section 319 CrPC can be exercised. Solicitor General, Mr. Tushar Mehta submitted that interpretation of the same would be required.
Mr. Patwalia apprised the Bench that an application has been filed by the Union Government to intervene in the matter, which he would be opposing, because the parties are only the accused and the Punjab Government. He requested the application may not be allowed before giving him an opportunity to file a reply. It was also pointed out that a PMLA proceeding has been initiated against the accused and now the Centre in a roundabout manner trying to protect their PMLA proceedings.
Mr. Mehta argued that the present proceeding does not pertain to the facts of the case and only deals with the law and is examining a central statute the intervention of the Union Government would be necessary.
On 05.03.2015, a First Information Report was lodged against 11 accused persons for offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, Arms Act and Information Technology Act, 2000. Under the first charge sheet, initially, ten accused were summoned and trial was going on. A second chargesheet was filed which did not name the said accused. Later, some prosecution witnesses were recalled and the accused were named. The prosecution filed an application under Section 319 CrPC in the first case summoning the accused. The Trial Court first pronounced the judgment convicting the nine other accused put on trial and thereafter allowed the prosecution application under Section 319 CrPC. The same was challenged before the Pujab and Haryana High Court. The order of the Trial Court was upheld by the High Court. While hearing the appeal, the Apex Court had referred to a Constitution Bench, three questions on the scope and ambit of power under Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code which remains unanswered even after the judgment of the Constitution Bench in Hardeep Singh v. State of Punjab.
- Whether the trial court has the power under Section 319 of CrPC for summoning additional accused when the trial with respect to other co-accused has ended and the judgment of conviction rendered on the same date before pronouncing the summoning order?
- Whether the trial court has the power under Section 319 of the CrPC for summoning additional accused when the trial in respect of certain other absconding accused (whose presence is subsequently secured) is ongoing/pending, having been bifurcated from the main trial?
- What are the guidelines that the competent court must follow while exercising power under Section 319 Cr.P.C?
While referring the three questions to a larger bench, the Division Bench of the Apex Court had noted -
"However, we are of the considered opinion that, power under Section 319, Cr.P.C being extraordinary in nature, the trial courts should be cautious while summoning accused to avoid complexities and to ensure fair trial. We must remind ourselves that timely disposal of the matters furthers the interest of justice."
[Case Status: Sukhpal Singh Khaira v. State of Punjab Crl A. No. 885/2019]