There Can’t Be Shortcut To Dispose Of Criminal Prosecution: Bombay HC Deprecates Magistrate, Orders Enquiry Against IO, APP [Read Judgment]
The Bombay High Court in a recent judgment ordered a fresh trial in a matter regarding the acquittal of an accused under Sections 279 (rash driving), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and Section 304-A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.
Justice ZA Haq of the Nagpur bench repudiated the judgment acquitting the accused passed by a Magistrate and held that the “Magistrate has failed in their duty of imparting criminal justice”.
The court expressed surprise at the fact that the judgment, including the cause title, was four-and-a-half pages, while the reasons recorded were in just one-and-a-half page.
According to the prosecution, complainant Madhukar Kakade’s wife along with one Vimlabai, her daughter Shobha and another girl Bali were going to the fields and when a jeep came in high speed and dashed into Shobha, who suffered serious injuries and was taken to the hospital, where doctor declared her dead. At the time of the accident, accused Majidkhan Pathan was driving the jeep.
After conducting the trial, the Magistrate held that the prosecution has not been able to prove that at the time of the accident, the jeep was driven rashly and negligently and acquitted the accused.
Justice Haq observed how the prosecution had failed to discharge their obligation in the trial:
“In my view, the prosecution, as well as the Magistrate, has completely failed to discharge their obligation of seeing that justice is done. Though the prosecution had cited five eyewitnesses, none of the eyewitness is examined. Learned APP has submitted that though bailable warrant was issued against witnesses (including the eyewitnesses) the report of execution of the bailable warrant is not found on record.”
The court further questioned the conduct of the investigating officer, the Additional Public Prosecutor as well as the Magistrate:
“Going through the impugned judgment, it is clear that the proceedings are taken up only with the object of acquitting the accused. This is a glaring case of dereliction of duty not only on the part of the investigating officer (prosecution), but the learned APP who acted as prosecutor before the Magistrate, as also on the part of the Magistrate.
After examining the above facts, there cannot be any other conclusion except that the prosecution as also the Magistrate has failed in their duty of imparting criminal justice. Magistrate has disposed the matter under the misconception that it is the duty of only the prosecution to see that the victims get justice and the accused is/are punished. Of course, while holding the accused guilty of commission of offence/crime, the Court has to be satisfied that the prosecution has proved the guilt of the accused beyond doubt, but there cannot be a shortcut to dispose a criminal prosecution in the manner in which it is done in the present case.
The Magistrate is not helpless and is not at the mercy of the prosecutor. The Magistrate is conferred and vested with ample powers to compel the attendance of witnesses and to see that the victim does not walk away from the Court dejected and with a feeling that he is deprived of justice. The well-known maxim “not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done” has to be kept in mind.”
Thus, the court ordered the matter to be remanded to the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Amravati, for a fresh trial to be completed within six months. Apart from this, the Commissioner of Police, Amravati, and Director of Prosecution were directed to conduct an enquiry into the investigating officer and the Additional Public Prosecutor who appeared before the said magistrate, respectively.
Finally, the Registrar (Judicial) was directed to forward this judgment as well as the judgment acquitting the accused passed by the Magistrate, to the Registrar-General who can place them before the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court.