The Supreme Court has said that the power of summoning a person as accused during the trial should not be mechanically exercised by a court.
A bench of Justices Dipankar Datta and Pankaj Mithal said: "The court holding a trial, if it intends to exercise power conferred by Section 319, CrPC, must not act mechanically merely on the ground that some evidence has come on record implicating the person sought to be summoned."
The bench said that court's satisfaction preceding the order thereunder must be more than prima facie as formed at the stage of a charge being framed and short of satisfaction to an extent that the evidence, if unrebutted, would lead to conviction.
"What is essential for exercise of the power under Section 319, Cr PC is that the evidence on record must show the involvement of a person in the commission of a crime and that the said person, who has not been arraigned as an accused, should face trial together with the accused already arraigned," it said.
The bench said Section 319, CrPC, which envisages a discretionary power, empowers the court holding a trial to proceed against any person not shown or mentioned as an accused if it appears from the evidence that such person has committed a crime for which he ought to be tried together with the accused who is facing trial.
"Such power can be exercised by the court qua a person who is not named in the FIR, or named in the FIR but not shown as an accused in the charge-sheet," said the bench.
The apex court dismissed a plea by a plea by Jitendra Nath Mishra against the Allahabad High Court's June 1, 2022 order, dismissing his petition to quash a summoning order issued by the special court in a case related to assault and abuse under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The trial court went by the deposition of the woman victim to summon the appellant.
The top court said: "We are of the view that any expression of ours while dealing with each and every point urged on behalf of the appellant could result in prejudgment; and thereby hinder a fair trial hence, adopting a cautious approach, we propose to restrict our consideration solely to the question as to whether the evidence adduced by the complainant and his wife in course of recording of their depositions did justify the Special Court to make the order it did."
Concluding the order, it said: "The Special Court is encouraged to expedite the trial. But, in the process, it shall proceed uninfluenced by reason of its order under Section 319, CrPC having been upheld by the High Court and this Court. The points raised on behalf of the appellant, recorded above, if raised before it as well as other points, if any, shall be given the consideration the same deserve."
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