The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday said that it will determine the law regarding the right of an accused to recall witnesses for re-examination in a criminal case trial. On behalf of a division bench of the SC, Justice J S Kehar said that, "We are going to lay down the law that whether witnesses can be recalled at the behest of an accused".
The SC was hearing appeals filed against an Order of the Delhi High Court (HC) in the Uber cab rape case. On March 4th 2015, the HC had rendered an Order allowing the accused driver to recall 13 prosecution witnesses, including the victim. The doctors who examined the victim and the accused, the investigating officer and other police officers who were involved in the arrest and received the complaint are among the other witnessed that are recalled.
The Order had strictly cautioned the accused to not replicate any questions which had been asked in the cross examination of the witnesses earlier in the trial. The accused had argued that the advocate who represented him during the initial stage of the trial was incompetent and therefore, affected his chances for a fair trial.
On a previous occasion, the trial court had rejected the accused's plea for recalling the witnesses on the ground that the change in counsel was not a compelling reason to allow the application for recall of witnesses.
The rape victim and Delhi Police had filed two separate appeals before the SC against the March 4th Order of the HC on March 10th and March 20th respectively. The main grounds upon which these appeals were field were that the HC order would cause further harassment to the victim and it amounted to a re-trial of the case.
Upon hearing the victim's plea on March 10th, the SC had stayed the HC Order as well as the trial court proceeding.
The SC has scheduled April 22nd as the next date for hearing this matter.
Whatever be the decision of the SC, the law relating to section 311 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which states that it is the trial court which has the power to recall the witnesses, will be definitely affected.