The Supreme Court, last week, observed that the rights of the victim and the society at large cannot be made subservient to the rights of an accused.
The bench of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice BR Gavai was addressing the contention raised on behalf of the accused that proper opportunity to defend was denied under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as the incriminating questions put to them were extremely casual and perfunctory in barely two pages. It was contended that all relevant questions with regard to the accusations were not put to the accused.
In Fainul Khan vs. State of Jharkhand, the court noted that Section 313, Cr.P.C. incorporates the principle of audi alteram partem and provides an opportunity to the accused for his defence by making him aware fully of the prosecution allegations against him and to answer the same in support of his innocence. The bench reiterated that the challenge to the conviction based on non-compliance of Section 313 CrPC cannot be entertained unless the accused demonstrate that the prejudice has been caused to them. It further observed:
"But equally there cannot be a generalised presumption of prejudice to an accused merely by reason of any omission or inadequate questions put to an accused thereunder. Ultimately it will be a question to be considered in the facts and circumstances of each case including the nature of other evidence available, the kind of questions put to an accused, considered with anything further that the accused may state in his defence. In other words, there will have to be a cumulative balancing of several factors. While the rights of an accused to a fair trial are undoubtedly important, the rights of the victim and the society at large for correction of deviant behaviour cannot be made subservient to the rights of an accused by placing the latter at a pedestal higher than necessary for a fair trial."
Examining the records of the case, the bench concluded that there has in fact been no irregularity in procedure under Section 313 Cr.P.C. much less any prejudice caused to the accused and therefore dismissed their appeals.
Click here to Read/Download Judgment