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Accused Has Right To Receive Materials In Possession Of Prosecution Even If Draft Criminal Rules Have Not Been Adopted : Supreme Court; Justice Trivedi Dissents

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
8 Nov 2022 11:30 AM GMT
Accused Has Right To Receive Materials In Possession Of Prosecution Even If Draft Criminal Rules Have Not Been Adopted : Supreme Court; Justice Trivedi Dissents
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The Supreme Court (2:1) held that an accused has the right to receive the list of the statements, documents, material, etc. in the possession of the prosecution even if Draft Rules of Criminal Practice are not yet adopted.

The CJI Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat disagreed with the Justice Bela M. Trivedi who, while dismissing a criminal appeal, observed that this right is available only after the Draft Rules are brought into force.

In this case, the accused were convicted in a murder case by the Trial Court. Some of them were awarded death sentence. Their appeal before the Madras High Court is pending. In this appeal, they challenged an order of the High Court directing the Counsels appearing for the parties to proceed with the hearing of the matter on 17.10.2022.

Before the Apex court, they submitted that they had sent a letter addressed to the Inspector (Law and Order) E-4 Abiramapuram Police 7 Station, Chennai requesting him to produce certain documents as mentioned in the letter, which were required for fair adjudication in the case. It was further submitted that till the copies of the said documents were furnished to them, it was not possible for them to proceed with the hearing of the appeals or the Reference case. For this purpose, they relied on the observations made in Manoj vs State of Madhya Pradesh | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 510 and Rule 4 of Draft Rule of Criminal Practice

As per the said Rule 4, every Accused shall be supplied with statements of witness recorded under Sections 161 and 164 Cr.PC and a list of documents, material objects and exhibits seized during investigation and relied upon by the Investigating Officer (I.O) in accordance with Sections 207 and 208, Cr.PC. Explanation provides that: the list of statements, documents, material objects and exhibits shall specify statements, documents, material objects and exhibits that are not relied upon by the Investigating Officer.

Justice Bela M. Trivedi rejected this contention and held that the prosecution is expected to comply with the Draft Rule no. 4 pertaining to the supply of documents, only when the said set of Draft Rules are adopted by the High Courts and State Governments, giving them a statutory force. The said Draft Rule no.4 as and when brought into force after following the due process of law could be pressed into service by the accused only during the course of investigation and during the course of trial, and not at the appellate stage before the High Court or the Supreme Court, the judge said.

Disagreeing with this view, the majority comprising of CJI Lalit and Justice Bhat observed:

"That some High Courts or governments of the States/ Union Territories have failed to comply with this court's order and are delayed in adopting the Draft Rules or amending the concerned police/practice manuals, cannot prejudice the right of an accused (to receive this list of the statements, documents, material, etc. in the possession of the prosecution), which has unequivocally been recognized by this court .......To say that the judgment in Manoj in relation to this, and the right of the accused to receive the said list of documents, material, etc. would only apply after the draft rules are adopted – would lead to an anomalous situation where the right of the accused in one state, prejudicially differs from that afforded to an accused, in another."

However, the bench agreed with the dismissal of the appeal and observed as follows:

"We are of the opinion that the circumstances in which the request was made – through the letter after appeal was set down for hearing despite repeated opportunities, was not justified. The appellant could have sought recourse by filing an appropriate application, in accordance with the procedures set out above, well in time. We therefore agree that the appeal made at this late stage, appears to be to prolong the hearing. In these circumstances, the Court declines to interfere"

Case details

P Ponnusamy vs State of Tamil Nadu | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 923 | SLP(Crl) 9288 of 2022 | 7 Nov 2022 | CJI UU Lalit, Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi

Headnotes

Criminal Trial - Draft Rules of Criminal Practice 2021 ; Rule 4 - That some High Courts or governments of the States/ Union Territories have failed to comply with this court's order and are delayed in adopting the Draft Rules or amending the concerned police/practice manuals, cannot prejudice the right of an accused to receive this list of the statements, documents, material, etc. in the possession of the prosecution - To say that the judgment in Manoj vs State of Madhya Pradesh | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 510 in relation to this, and the right of the accused to receive the said list of documents, material, etc. would only apply after the draft rules are adopted – would lead to an anomalous situation where the right of the accused in one state, prejudicially differs from that afforded to an accused, in another. [Judgment of CJI UU Lalit and U U Lalit J] (Para 16)

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