More than a prima facie case! Read Supreme Court’s test for invoking power under Section 319 Cr.P.C.

Supreme Court: The bench of KM Joseph* and PS Narsimha, JJ has reiterated the test laid down for invoking the power under Section 319 CrPC and has held that only when strong and cogent evidence occurs against a person from the evidence the power under Section 319[1] CrPC should be exercised. The power cannot be exercised in a casual and cavalier manner.

The Court took note of the test laid down in Hardeep Singh v. State of Punjab, (2014) 3 SCC 92, wherein it was held that though only a prima facie case is to be established from the evidence led before the court, not necessarily tested on the anvil of cross-examination, it requires much stronger evidence than mere probability of his complicity. The test that has to be applied is one which is more than prima facie case as exercised at the time of framing of charge, but short of satisfaction to an extent that the evidence, if goes unrebutted, would lead to conviction. In the absence of such satisfaction, the court should refrain from exercising power under Section 319 Cr.P.C.

It was further explained that in Section 319 Cr.P.C. the purpose of providing if ‘it appears from the evidence that any person not being the accused has committed any offence’ is clear from the words “for which such person could be tried together with the accused.” The words used are not ‘for which such person could be convicted’. There is, therefore, no scope for the court acting under Section 319 Cr.P.C. to form any opinion as to the guilt of the accused.

“105. Power under Section 319 Cr.P.C. is a discretionary and an extraordinary power. It is to be exercised sparingly and only in those cases where the circumstances of the case so warrant. It is not to be exercised because the Magistrate or the Sessions Judge is of the opinion that some other person may also be guilty of committing that offence. Only where strong and cogent evidence occurs against a person from the evidence led before the court that such power should be exercised and not in a casual and cavalier manner.”

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[Ramesh Chandra Srivastava v. State of UP, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 741, decided on 13.09.2021]

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For appellant: Advocate Gaurav Srivastava,

For State: Advocate Adarsh Upadhyay,

For respondent 2: Advocate Sansriti Pathak


[1] 319. Power to proceed against other persons appearing to be guilty of offence.—(1) Where, in the course of any inquiry into, or trial of, an offence, it appears from the evidence that any person not being the accused has committed any offence for which such person could be tried together with the accused, the Court may proceed against such person for the offence which he appears to have committed.

(2) Where such person is not attending the Court, he may be arrested or summoned, as the circumstances of the case may require, for the purpose aforesaid.

(3) Any person attending the Court, although not under arrest or upon a summons, may be detained by such Court for the purpose of the inquiry into, or trial of, the offence which he appears to have committed.

(4) Where the Court proceeds against any person under sub-section (1) then—

(a) the proceedings in respect of such person shall be commenced afresh, and the witnesses re-heard;

(b) subject to the provisions of clause (a), the case may proceed as if such person had been an accused person when the Court took cognizance of the offence upon which the inquiry or trial was commenced.


*Judgment by: Justice KM Joseph

Know Thy Judge| Justice K.M. Joseph

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