“The aim of every Court is to discover the truth. Section 311 CrPC is one of many such provisions which strengthen the arms of a court in its effort to unearth the truth by procedure sanctioned by law.  At the same time, the discretionary power vested under Section 311 CrPC has to be exercised judiciously for strong and valid reasons and with caution and circumspection to meet the ends of justice.”

Supreme Court: In a case where the Karnataka High Court summarily reversed the judgment of the Trial Court without assigning any reasons, the bench of Indu Malhotra and Ajay Rastogi*, JJ held that though it is not necessary to record elaborate reasons in every case, the Courts should do so in order to facilitate the superior Courts to understand what weighed in with the Court to reverse the finding of the lower court.

In the present case, the daughter of the appellant died an unnatural death on the intervening night of 2nd/3rd April, 2004 in Bangalore where she was living with the respondents who are facing trial under Sections 498A, 304-B, 302 read with Section 34 IPC and under Sections 4 and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the trial is at the fag end of its closure and the case is listed for hearing.

At this stage, application came to be filed by Additional Special Public Prosecutor under Section 173(5) read with Section 311 CrPC for summoning the witnesses along with the concerned documents to adduce their evidence in connection with the second post-mortem conducted on the body of the deceased and after perusal of the record.

While summoning the witness along with the documents in connection with the second post mortem report, the Trial Court noticed,

“… to make out the reality under the peculiar circumstances of the PW 27  having turned hostile to the prosecution by giving the  contradictory and two divergent opinions, certainly the  efforts being endeavoured to put in by the prosecution to  summon the proposed witnesses along with the documents  certainly need to be taken into consideration in the positive  sense, only with an intention to see that the miscarriage of  justice in any manner is prevented at any point of spell and  juncture.”

However, the Karnataka High Court on the other hand, without adverting to the factual matrix noticed by the trial Judge and without taking note of the submissions made by the contesting parties, set aside the Trial Court’s judgments without assigning reasons.

Below is the impugned order of the High Court:

“4. The learned Government Pleader would however seek to  make a weak attempt to justify the apparent illegal  procedure that has been permitted by the trial Court in  allowing the aforesaid application.

Therefore, the petition is summarily allowed.  The  order dated 3.9.2016 in S.C. No. 538/2004 on the file of LI  Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge (CCH No. 52),  Bengaluru, is quashed.  The court below is directed to  proceed further, in accordance with law.”

On this, the Supreme Court noted that,

“It is not necessary that in every case, it is required to record elaborate reasons but since the matters are carried forward to this Court, the reasons, albiet brief may be, have to be recorded to facilitate this Court to understand as to what weighed with the Ld. Judge while passing the impugned judgment, moreover, when the finding of reversal has been recorded by the Ld. Judge in its impugned judgment.”

The Court explained that the object underlying Section 311 CrPC is that there may not be failure of justice on account of mistake of either party in bringing the valuable evidence on record or leaving ambiguity in the statements of the witnesses examined from either side. The determinative factor is whether it is essential to the just decision of the case. The significant expression that occurs is “at any stage of any inquiry or trial or other proceeding under this Code”.  It is, however, to be borne in mind that the discretionary power conferred under Section 311 CrPC has to be exercised judiciously, as it is always said “wider the power, greater is the necessity of caution while exercise of judicious discretion.”

The Court held that in the instant case, although the application was filed by the Additional Special Public Prosecutor under Section 173(5) read with Section 311 CrPC but it was open for the Trial Judge as well to exercise suo motu powers in summoning the witnesses whose statements ought to be recorded to subserve the cause of justice, with the object of getting the evidence in aid of a just  decision and to uphold the truth.

The Court, hence, set aside the judgment of the High Court and asked the Trial Court to complete the trial expeditiously.

[V. N. Patil v. K. Niranjan Kumar,  2021 SCC OnLine SC 172, decided on 04.03.2021]

*Judgment by: Justice Ajay Rastogi

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