Trial Court empowered to summon material prosecution witness even at stage of defence evidence; order passed under Section 311 CrPC upheld

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Surinder Gupta, J. dismissed an appeal filed against order of the trial court whereby the application filed by the prosecution under Section 311 CrPC was allowed.

The petitioner was facing the trial under Section 18 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.  As per the prosecution, the contraband recovered from the petitioner was initially deposited with MHC Dharam Singh and was later on handed over to HC Kulwant Singh. As such, being a material witness, MHC Dharam Singh was required to be examined to complete the link evidence in the case. The petitioner argued that the prosecution had closed its evidence. Thereafter, statement of the petitioner under Section 313 was recorded. Arguments were partly heard in which the petitioner raised an issue that the link evidence was missing in the case. It was alleged that in order to fill in the lacunae, the application under Section 313 was filed by the prosecution which was allowed by the trial court vide the order impugned.

The High Court perused the facts of the case and noted that it was apparent that the trial court found MHC Dharam Singh as a material witness. The instant was not a case where the petitioner was taken by surprise as the prosecution witness (Investigating Officer) had already disclosed that the case property (contraband recovered) was deposited with MHC Dharam Singh. It was a mere lapse that he was not examined before the conclusion of the prosecution evidence. The Court was of the view that the mere fact that application was moved after arguments had been partly heard or at the stage of defence evidence, is no reason to decline such application or curtail powers of the court to summon material witness. No error was found in the order of the trial court impugned herein. Accordingly, the revision petition was dismissed holding it to be sans merit. [Satyawan v. Vikas,2018 SCC OnLine P&H 1220, dated 01-06-2018]

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