‘Illness of Counsel/Accused in Custody' not valid grounds to recall witnesses under Section 311 CrPC: SC [Read Judgment]

‘Illness of Counsel/Accused in Custody


The approach may be liberal but that does not necessarily mean “the liberal approach” shall be the rule and all other parameters shall become exceptions, the Bench said.


The Supreme Court in State of Haryana vs. Ram Mehar & Others has held that, recalling of witnesses as envisaged under Section 311 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on the grounds that accused persons are in custody, the prosecution was allowed to recall some of its witnesses earlier, the counsel was ill and magnanimity commands fairness should be shown, is not acceptable.

Apex Court Bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit set aside a Judgment of High Court which had allowed the accused to recall the witnesses on the aforementioned grounds.

‘ACCUSED PERSONS ARE IN CUSTODY’ NOT A GROUND TO JUSTIFY RECALL

The Bench observed: “The High Court has been moved by the ground that the accused persons are in the custody and the concept of speedy trial is not nullified and no prejudice is caused, and, therefore, the principle of magnanimity should apply. Suffice it to say, a criminal trial does not singularly centres around the accused. In it there is involvement of the prosecution, the victim and the victim represents the collective.

‘DOCTRINE OF BALANCE’

The Court further observed: “The cry of the collective may not be uttered in decibels which is physically audible in the court premises, but the Court has to remain sensitive to such silent cries and the agonies, for the society seeks justice. Therefore, a balance has to be struck. We have already explained the use of the words “magnanimous approach” and how it should be understood. Regard being had to the concept of balance, and weighing the factual score on the scale of balance, we are of the convinced opinion that the High Court has fallen into absolute error in axing the order passed by the learned trial Judge. If we allow ourselves to say, when the concept of fair trial is limitlessly stretched, having no boundaries, the orders like the present one may fall in the arena of sanctuary of errors. Hence, we reiterate the necessity of doctrine of balance.” 

‘RECALL BY PROSECUTION IS NO GROUND TO ALLOW RECALL BY DEFENCE’

The Bench further observed: Recall of some witnesses by the prosecution at one point of time, can never be ground to entertain a petition by the defence though no acceptable ground is made out. It is not an arithmetical distribution. This kind of reasoning can be dangerous. In the case at hand, the prosecution had examined all the witnesses. The statements of all the accused persons, that is 148 in number, had been recorded under Section 313 CrPC. The defence had examined 15 witnesses. The foundation for recall, as is evincible from the applications filed, does not even remotely make out a case that such recalling is necessary for just decision of the case or to arrive at the truth. The singular ground which prominently comes to surface is that the earlier counsel who was engaged by the defence had not put some questions and failed to put some questions and give certain suggestions. It has come on record that number of lawyers were engaged by the defence. The accused persons had engaged counsel of their choice. In such a situation recalling of witnesses indubitably cannot form the foundation. If it is accepted as a ground, there would be possibility of a retrial. There may be an occasion when such a ground may weigh with the court, but definitely the instant case does not arouse the judicial conscience within the established norms of Section 311 CrPC for exercise of such jurisdiction.”

‘MAGNANIMITY NOT TO BE FOUNDED ON ANY KIND OF FANCIFUL NOTION’

The Court said: “The decisions which have used the words that the court should be magnanimous, needless to give special emphasis, did not mean to convey individual generosity or magnanimity which is founded on any kind of fanciful notion. It has to be applied on the basis of judicially established and accepted principles. The approach may be liberal but that does not necessarily mean “the liberal approach” shall be the rule and all other parameters shall become exceptions.”

Read the Judgment here.