The Allahabad High Court has held that Special Courts under the SC/ST Act are empowered to take direct cognizance of offences committed under IPC and committal of the case to it by a magistrate under Section 193 of CrPC is not a mandatory precondition.
Section 193 CrPC stipulates that no Court of Session shall take cognizance of any offence as a Court of original jurisdiction unless the case has been committed to it by a Magistrate under CrPC.
Citing this provision, coupled with Section 6 of the SC/ST Act which provides that "Subject to the other provisions of this Act, the provisions of section 34, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V-A section 149, and Chapter XXIII of IPC, shall, so far as may be, apply for the purposes of this Act as they apply for the purpose of IPC," the Petitioner had contended that other offences either in IPC or any other Act never have their application under the SC/ST Act.
The Petitioner had approached the high court against an order of the Special Sessions Judge, SC/ST Act, Meerut whereby charges had been framed against him under Sections 147, 148, 149, 302 IPC and 3 (2) (V) of the SC/ST Act.
He contended that the charges under IPC were framed without jurisdiction as the Special Court was not empowered to take direct cognizance of offences under IPC and that procedure prescribed under Sections 207 to 209 and Section 193 CrPC should be followed.
Inter alia, it was submitted that all other special Acts categorically mention if cases under some other Act, for instance IPC herein, can be tried jointly along with offences under the Special Act. However, no such provision exists under the SC/ST Act, they had submitted.
Hence it was argued that SC/ST Act nowhere provides that all other cases which can be jointly charged with, under the CrPC, be charged at the same trial, and as such offences under section 302 IPC can never be tried by the Special Court.
Refuting these arguments the court held,
"if an offence is found to have been committed under IPC as well as under SC/ST Act, the same should be tried by one court only i.e. Special Court which has been conferred the power of taking cognizance directly."
The court noted that the SC/ST Act has been amended and a proviso had been appended to Section 14 of the Act empowering the Special Court to take direct cognizance of offence under IPC.
Reiterating the objective behind introducing the amendments, Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh-I said,
"the main aim for introducing the amendment was to ensure expeditious disposal of offences pertaining to this Act, hence keeping in mind the said aim, the amendment has been incorporated in the said Act conferring upon Special Judge power to directly try the case and not wait for the commitment of the case to it because that would result in delay."
"even if an offence is found to have been committed under IPC as well as under SC/ST Act, the same should be tried by one court only i.e. Special Court which has been conferred the power of taking cognizance directly to minimize the delay in disposal of the case."
The court held that if the Special Court was not allowed to conduct a joint trial and a separate trial were conducted for offences committed under IPC the same would lead to miscarriage of justice.
"In the present case, the offence under section 3(2) (V) of the SC/ST Act is alleged to have been committed along with offence under section 302 IPC, therefore, it would result in failure of justice if a separate Sessions Court be asked to decide the offence under section 302 IPC while the Special Court be allowed to hold trial for offence under section 3 (2) (V) of SC/ST Act. That would seem to be anomalous situation," the court held.
The court also took note of a Supreme Court judgment in State of MP v. Bhooraji, (2001) 7 SCC 679, whereby it had been opined that when a trial has been conducted by the Court of competent jurisdiction and a conviction has been recorded on proper appreciation of evidence, the same cannot be erased or effaced merely on the ground that there had been no committal proceedings and cognizance was taken by the Special Court, inasmuch as the same does not give rise to failure of justice.
The high court held that the aforementioned precedent was not applicable to the case at hand as the same belonged to a period prior to amendment in section 14 of SC/ST Act which provides for the power to the Special Court to directly take cognizance.
But even if, the bench said, what has been mentioned in the ruling was taken into consideration in the present case,
"I find that the entire evidence has already been collected in this case and it is thereafter that the accused has resorted to this objection that the case was not committed to the Special Court, hence it did not have power to try this case, I do not see any prejudice to have been caused to the accused nor do I see that failure of justice would occur in this case because the Special Court created under section 14 of the SC/ST Act is also conferred with the power of Sessions Judge."
"It is apparent from the above judgment that the principle of failure of justice has been stuck in the above mentioned case by Hon'ble Supreme Court and it has also held that the procedure of commitment of case in amended CrPC has been made of very superficial nature as the Magistrate committing the case, does not enjoy any power to make deeper analysis of the evidence which he was supposed to collect under unamended CrPC," the court added.
In view thereof, the court concluded,
"I am of the view that in the present case the cognizance which has been taken by the trial court directly under the above-mentioned sections, does not suffer from any infirmity and the objection raised by the learned counsel for the applicant is not found to have any force."
Case Title: Sumit v. State of UP & Anr.
Case No.: Application U/S 482 No. 491/2020
Quorum: Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh-I
Appearance: Advocates Mohd. Rashid Siddiqui and Abhinav Gaur and Senior Advocate Anoop Trivedi (for Petitioner); Additional Govt Advocate BA Khan (for Respondents)
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