'Test of Prejudice to the Accused' has to be kept in mind while adding or altering a charge against him; SC [Read Judgment]


It is the duty of the trial court to bear in mind that no prejudice is caused to the accused as that has the potentiality to affect a fair trial, the Bench said.


Supreme Court in Anant Prakash Sinha @ Anant Sinha vs State of Haryana, has observed that while adding or altering a charge under Section 216 CrPC, the trial court has to keep in view, the test of prejudice to the accused. Apex Court Bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh said that it is the duty of the trial court to bear in mind that no prejudice is caused to the accused as that has the potentiality to affect a fair trial.

Background

In this case, the Magistrate had allowed an application under Section 216 of the Code of Criminal Procedure by a-wife for framing an additional charge under Section 406 IPC, holding that prima facie case for criminal breach of trust was made out. This order was assailed in revision and the Revisional court partly allowed the revision petition by setting aside the order of framing of charge against the mother-in-law. The said order was upheld by the High Court. The husband then approached the Apex Court.

Test of Prejudice

Referring to Bhimanna v. State of Karnataka, the Apex Court bench said that while adding or altering a charge under Section 216 CrPC, the trial court must keep in view the test of prejudice to accused.”It is obligatory on the part of the court to see that no prejudice is caused to the accused and he is allowed to have a fair trial. There are in-built safeguards in Section 216 CrPC. It is the duty of the trial court to bear in mind that no prejudice is caused to the accused as that has the potentiality to affect a fair trial “, the Bench said.

Court has jurisdiction to add/alter charge.

The Court however observed that if the court has not framed a charge despite the material on record, it has the jurisdiction to add a charge and it has the authority to alter the charge. The principle that has to be kept in mind is that the charge so framed by the Magistrate is in accord with the materials produced before him or if subsequent evidence comes on record. It is not to be understood that unless evidence has been let in, charges already framed cannot be altered, for that is not the purport of Section 216 CrPC, the Bench said holding that the trial court must keep both the principles in view.

The Court then said it do not perceive any error in the revisional order by which it has set aside the charge framed against the mother-in-law.

Read the Judgment here.