Through a significant ruling, the Delhi High Court has clarified that there is a difference between "addition" of charge and "alteration" of charge under Section 216 of CrPC.
The order passed by Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri states that when the High Court had, in a criminal revision petition, directed the trial court to add the charge under Section 304B of IPC against the accused, the trial court had erred inasmuch as it "replaced" the existing charge under Section 304 Part I with Section 304B.
"The thrust of the order was addition of charge and not replacement. The trial court completely misread the order," the high court held.
The criminal proceedings concerned the complainant's daughter, who was allegedly killed in unnatural circumstances within seven years of marriage, amidst dowry demands.
The trial court initially framed charge against the accused for the offence punishable under Section 498A and 304 Part I IPC. Aggrieved by the same, the deceased's father approached the high court in a criminal revision, seeking framing of charge under Section 304B IPC as well as Section 406 IPC.
Noting the demand of dowry; death of the victim in unnatural circumstances within seven years of marriage and the opinion in the postmortem report stating cause of death as uterine rupture because of intrusion/manipulation of foreign object, the high court, vide order dated October 13, 2014 directed the trial court to frame charge under Sections 304B/34 IPC.
The trial court however "misinterpreted" the aforesaid order and modified the order on charge and framed charge for the offence punishable under Sections 498A/34 IPC and 304B/34 IPC.
Aggrieved by this order of modification of charge by the trial court, the Petitioner (deceased's father) approached the high court that noted that the thrust of the order was "addition" of charge and not "replacement".
It said that the Trial Courts enjoy exclusive and wide-ranging power to change or alter any charge at any time before a judgment is pronounced. However, the charges so framed must have a direct link or nexus with the ingredients of alleged offence.
"Sub-Section (1) [of Section 216 CrPC] provides that the Court can alter or add any charge at any time before a judgment is pronounced… The test to be adopted by the Court while deciding upon an addition or alteration of charge is that the material brought on record during the course of trial needs to have a direct link or nexus with the ingredients of alleged offence," the court said while referring to the Supreme Court ruling in Dr. Nallapareddy Sridhar Reddy v. The State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors., 2020 SCC OnLine SC 60.
With these observations, the trail court was directed to frame the additional charge under the appropriate sections in terms of the evidence which had come on record against the respondents and thereafter, proceed with the matter in terms of the provisions of Sections 216 and 217 CrPC.
Case Title: Mahender Singh v. State Of NCT of Delhi & Ors.
Case No.: Crl. MC 4095/2018 & Crl. MA 29947/2018
Quorum: Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri
Appearance: Sr Advocate Vivek Sood with Advocates Saumya Gupta and Siddharth Gupta (for Petitioner); APP Amit Chadha and Advocate Dipanshu Chugh (for Respondents)
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