Criminal Trial Is Not Complete On Conviction Of Accused, But With Sentencing: Supreme Court

Update: 2022-12-06 04:00 GMT

The Supreme Court held that a criminal trial is not complete on the pronouncement of the judgment of conviction of the accused, but with their sentencing.

The conclusion of the trial in a criminal prosecution if it ends in conviction, a judgment is considered to be complete in all respects only when the sentence is imposed on the convict, if the convict is not given the benefit of Section 360 of CrPC, the five judges Constitution Bench observed in a judgment which dealt with a reference on the scope of power under Section 319 CrPC.

One of the issues that arose in this case was : When it can be said that the trial has concluded. Is it at the stage when the judgment is pronounced and the conviction is ordered or is it when the sentence is imposed and the trial is complete in all respects? 

To answer this, the court referred to Section 232 and 235 of CrPC and noted as follows:

  1. If the Sessions Court while analysing the evidence recorded finds that there is no evidence to hold the accused for having committed the offence, the judge is required to record an order of acquittal. In that case, there is nothing further to be done by the learned Judge and therefore the trial concludes at that stage
  2. If the learned Judge arrives at the conclusion that the accused is to be convicted, the conviction shall be ordered through the judgment as contemplated under Section 235 of CrPC. Sub-section (2) thereto provides that if the learned Judge does not proceed to give the benefit to the accused of being released on probation under Section 360 of CrPC, the learned Judge shall hear the accused on the question of sentence and then impose a sentence on him according to law

The court therefore observed that even after the pronouncement of the judgment of conviction, the trial is not complete since the learned Sessions Judge is required to apply her/his mind to the evidence which is available on record to determine the gravity of the charge for which the accused is found guilty; the role of the particular accused when there is more than one accused involved in an offence and in that light, to award an appropriate sentence.

"Therefore, from a perusal of the provisions and decisions of this Court, it is clear that the conclusion of the trial in a criminal prosecution if it ends in conviction, a judgment is considered to be complete in all respects only when the sentence is imposed on the convict, if the convict is not given the benefit of Section 360 of CrPC. Similarly, in a case where there are more than one accused and if one or more among them are acquitted and the others are convicted, the trial would stand concluded as against the accused who are acquitted and the trial will have to be concluded against the convicted accused with the imposition of sentence.", the bench observed.

Case details

Sukhpal Singh Khaira v. State of Punjab |  2022 LiveLaw (SC) 1009 | Crl A 885 Of 2019 | 5 December 2022 | Justices Abdul Nazeer, B.R. Gavai, A.S. Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian and B.V. Nagarathna

Headnotes

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ; Section 319 -  The power under Section 319 of CrPC is to be invoked and exercised before the pronouncement of the order of sentence where there is a judgment of conviction of the accused. In the case of acquittal, the power should be exercised before the order of acquittal is pronounced. Hence, the summoning order has to precede the conclusion of trial by imposition of sentence in the case of conviction - The trial court has the power to summon additional accused when the trial is proceeded in respect of the absconding accused after securing his presence, subject to the evidence recorded in the split up (bifurcated) trial pointing to the involvement of the accused sought to be summoned. But the evidence recorded in the main concluded trial cannot be the basis of the summoning order if such power has not been exercised in the main trial till its conclusion - Guidelines on the exercise of powers to summon additional accused issued. (Para 33)

Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 ; Section 233, 235 - The conclusion of the trial in a criminal prosecution if it ends in conviction, a judgment is considered to be complete in all respects only when the sentence is imposed on the convict, if the convict is not given the benefit of Section 360 of CrPC. Similarly, in a case where there are more than one accused and if one or more among them are acquitted and the others are convicted, the trial would stand concluded as against the accused who are acquitted and the trial will have to be concluded against the convicted accused with the imposition of sentence. (Para 27)

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