The Allahabad High Court has held that while deciding whether to discharge an accused person under Section 245 of CrPC, the Court must examine if there is a "prima facie case" made out against him.
The High Court has clarified that the Court has to examine whether a "case", which, if unrebutted, would warrant a conviction is made out and not whether "evidence" if unrebutted, would warrant a conviction.
"it is not the mandate under Section 245(1) Cr.P.C. that evidence if unrebutted would warrant a conviction, charge has to be framed. The language of Section 245(1) makes it very clear that evidence will have to be adduced and thereafter the court will have to consider whether a case, which, if unrebutted, would warrant a conviction is made out. It is not the mandate of law that the court need only consider whether "evidence if unrebutted, would warrant a conviction." What should be considered is whether a case if unrebutted, would warrant a conviction. I must note that there is a distinction between these two circumstances."
Section 245 of CrPC contemplates when an accused shall be discharged. Sub-section (1) thereof stipulates:
If, upon taking all the evidence referred to in section 244, the Magistrate considers, for reasons to be recorded, that no case against the accused has been made out which, if unrebutted, would warrant his conviction, the Magistrate shall discharge him.
The High Court has held that in a private complaint alleging commission of a warrant offence under Section 245 Cr.P.C., after the enquiry under Section 244 Cr.P.C., a criminal court is expected under Section 245(1) only to consider whether such a case has been made out "which, if unrebutted, would warrant a conviction."
Notably, similar observations were also made by the Supreme Court in RS Nayak v. AR Antulay, (1986) 2 SCC 716. It was held,
"There is no scope for doubt that the stage at which the magistrate is required to consider the question of framing of charge under Section 245(1) is a preliminary one and the test of "prima facie" case has to be applied…"
In State Of Tamil Nadu v. N Suresh Rajan & Ors., the Top Court had further clarified that Discharge under Section 245(1) of CrPC is not a stage where the court can appraise the evidence and discharge the accused as if it was passing an order of acquittal.
Handing out reasons for such position of law, the High Court in the case at hand remarked,
"A bona fide complainant must be given a fuller opportunity to substantiate his allegations. The complainant actuated by oblique motive will have to be shown the door. An innocent accused who does not deserve to endure the trauma of a prosecution must be saved of such predicament."
The Court has also made it clear that there is a difference in the quality of consideration at the stage of Section 203/204 CrPC and Section 245/246 CrPC.
Whereas the expression "prima facie case" is "loosely employed" in both cases, the High Court observed that the expression is not used in the Code.
"There is a real and reasonable difference between the quality of consideration of the materials at these two stages. Though loosely referred to as "prima facie case" by courts in some decisions, one cannot jump to a conclusion that the quality of consideration of the materials at these two stages are identical. They are certainly different," it held.
The Court explained:
- Quality of consideration, which a criminal court undertakes, of the materials available before it, must certainly vary from circumstance to circumstance and stage to stage. At the initial stage of Section 203/204 Cr.P.C., a criminal court considers the materials available before it for the short purpose of deciding whether "there is sufficient ground to proceed against the accused."
- In a private complaint alleging commission of a warrant offence under Section 245 Cr.P.C., after the enquiry under Section 244 Cr.P.C., a criminal court is expected under Section 245(1) only to consider whether such a case has been made out "which, if unrebutted, would warrant a conviction."
- The quality of consideration of the materials available before the court at a later stage of the proceedings - at the stage of deciding whether the accused deserve to be convicted or acquitted - is totally different and more exhaustive. "It is at that stage that the exercise of weighing the evidence in golden scales will, can and should be resorted to by a court," it added.
This discussion was made by the High Court while hearing an application under Section 482 of CrPC, in connection with dispute over permission for discharging 'Trade Effluent' by a Sugar Distillery.
Case Title: M/S Daurala Sugar Works v. State of UP & Anr.