Unearth truth when prosecution’s conduct suspect, SC tells trial courts

Unearth truth when prosecution’s conduct suspect, SC OF INDIA tells trial courts

New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS): The Supreme Court has said that trial courts were expected to perform their duties of dispensing justice effectively and in line with the spirit of the authority they wield, unearth the truth when the conduct of prosecution is suspect or appears to be hand in glove with the accused.

“The courts are expected to perform its duties and functions effectively and true to the spirit with which the courts are sacredly entrusted with the dignity and authority…” said a bench of Justice M.Y.Eqbal and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre in their judgment pronounced Friday.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Eqbal said: “Court has a greater duty and responsibility i.e. to render justice, in a case where the role of the prosecuting agency itself is put in issue and is said to be hand in glove with the accused, parading a mock fight and making a mockery of the criminal justice administration itself.”

The court’s observation came as it dismissed appeals by Maheshbhai Ranchodbhai Patel and his parents against their conviction for the death of his wife Renukaben Maheshbhai Patel in Gujarat’s Mehsana district. They were convicted by the high court, which reversed the session court’s acquittals, for inflicting harassment and cruelty including physical assault leading to her committing suicide on Dec 16, 1997.

The sessions court had, in just a nine-day trial, acquitted both the in-laws. Though the husband was convicted, he was let off with the three days sentence that he had already undergone.

The apex court said that the trial court has failed to perform its duties to reach to the real truth and to convict the accused.

“Besides the dying declaration, there was available evidence on record to prove the factum of cruelty and death of Renukaben, but it was not brought on record by the prosecuting agency. Instead, all concerned were in hurry to finish the case in a day,” the court said in its judgment.

Out of the prosecution’s list of 17 documents to be produced and exhibited, the trial judge exhibited only four but the prosecution did not raise any objection, the court noted.

Referring to an earlier apex court judgment in a 2002 Gujarat riot case, the court said: “The prosecutor who does not act fairly and acts more like a counsel for the defence is a liability to the fair judicial system, and courts could not also play into the hands of such prosecuting agency showing indifference or adopting an attitude of total aloofness.”

“If deficiency in investigation or prosecution is visible or can be perceived by lifting the veil trying to hide the realities or covering the obvious deficiencies, courts have to deal with the same with an iron hand appropriately within the framework of law,” the court said.

Putting onus of successful conclusion of trial on the prosecution, the court said that “it is as much the duty of the prosecutor as of the court to ensure that full and material facts are brought on record so that there might not be miscarriage of justice”.

It noted that the high court had correctly re-appreciated the evidence on record and reversed the trial court’s acquittal.

Concurring with the high court’s findings, the court said that “in the present case, prime duty of the trial court to appreciate the evidence for search of truth is abandoned and in a hurry to dispose of the case or for some other reason, the sessions judge had disposed of the trial and acquitted the accused”.

Dismissing the appeals, the court said the accused shall surrender forthwith to serve out the remaining period of the sentence, failing which the trial court is directed to take appropriate steps.

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