Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, Vineet Saran and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has held that no person is entitled to a copy of statement recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 till the appropriate orders are passed by the court after the charge-sheet is filed.
“The right to receive a copy of such statement will arise only after cognizance is taken and at the stage contemplated by Sections 207 and 208 of the Code and not before.”
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
The Court was hearing the case where
- the father of the Appellant lodged a Complaint that he had seen a video of the Appellant on her Facebook account alleging that Swami Chinmayanand and some others had sexually exploited the Appellant and many other girls; that the Appellant was not contactable; that he was apprehending danger to the Appellant; and that prompt action be taken in the matter.
- The said Facebook video having gone viral, letters were written to the Supreme Court by some advocates whereafter Suo Motu Writ Petition was registered. On 30.08.2019 it was reported that the Appellant was found in District Dausa of State of Rajasthan whereafter the Supreme Court recorded the statement of the Appellant that she did not intend to go back to Uttar Pradesh but would meet her parents in Delhi. Certain directions were therefore passed.
- In its Order dated 02.09.2019, this Court directed the Chief Secretary, State of Uttar Pradesh, to constitute a Special Team to enquire into the grievances expressed by Miss “A” and insofar as the apprehension expressed by the parents of Miss “A”. It also directed the Chief Secretary, State of Uttar Pradesh, to direct the Superintendent of Police of the concerned district, namely, Shahjahanpur, to afford protection to the parents and family members of the girl on assessing the threat perception.
- On 20.09.2019, Swamy Chinmayanand was arrested and his application for bail was rejected by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shahjahanpur on 23.09.2019.
- In November 2019, the High Court directed that trial court to provide a certified copy of the statement of victim recorded under Section 164 Cr.P.C. to the applicant subject to payment of usual charges.
- Before the Appellant could challenge the decision of the High Court, by filing the instant Special Leave Petition on 13.11.2019, a copy of her statement recorded under Section 164 of the Code was made over to the accused.
WHAT THE COURT SAID
The Supreme Court noticed that the High Court completely erred in appreciating the directions issued by this Court, especially in a matter where the offences alleged against accused are of sexual exploitation.
“In such matters utmost confidentiality is required to be maintained. In our view, the High Court completely failed in that behalf.”
Explaining the Scheme of the relevant provisions of CrPC, the Court said that after the conclusion of the investigation, an appropriate report under Section 173 of the Code is to be filed by the police giving information as required by Section 173.
In terms of Section 190 of the Code, the concerned Magistrate may take cognizance of any offence inter alia upon a police report. At the stage of exercise of power under Section 190 of the Code, the Magistrate may deem fit that the matter requires further investigation on certain aspects/issues and may pass appropriate direction. It is only after taking of the cognizance and issuance of process that the accused is entitled, in terms of Sections 207 and 208 of the Code, to copies of the documents referred to in said provisions.
The filing of the charge-sheet by itself, does not entitle an accused to copies of any of the relevant documents including statement under Section 164 of the Code, unless the stages indicated above are undertaken. Thus, merely because the charge-sheet was filed by the time the High Court had passed the order in the present matter, did not entitle the accused to a copy of the statement under Section 164 of the Code.
Though, a copy of the statement recorded under Section 164 of the Code was made over to the accused, the Court set aside the order passed by the High Court and held that
“… under no circumstances copies of statements recorded under Section 164 of the Code can be furnished till appropriate orders are passed by the Court after taking cognizance in the matter.”
[Miss ‘A’ v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 817, decided on 08.10.2020]