Patna High Court: In a case where the appellant/accused challenged the Judgment and Order passed by the Special Judge under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (“POCSO Act”), thereby convicting him of the offences punishable under Section 376-AB of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 4 of the POCSO Act, the Division Bench of A.M. Badar* and Sandeep Kumar, JJ. held that the trial was vitiated as it got concluded in just one working day and thus, the Court remanded the matter to the Trial Court for fresh trial from before the stage of framing of the charge.
In the present case, the prosecution submitted that the accused by enticing the victim female child, who at the relevant time was eight years old, took her to the shop and then to the ‘Bagaan’ where he had committed penetrative sexual assault on her. After doing the act, the accused fled away. The victim, anyhow, returned to her house and disclosed the incident to her mother. She was then taken to the Primary Health Centre for medical treatment. The victim’s father lodged the report for this incident on the same day.
During the investigation, the accused was arrested, and routine investigation followed. The statements of the witnesses were recorded and on completion of the investigation, the charge sheet was filed against the accused. On 14-12-2021, the Trial Court took cognizance of the offences alleged to have been committed by the accused, then on 15-12-2021, the charge was framed by the Trial Court. On the same day, a charge sheet was supplied to the accused and services of the Advocate from the panel of the Legal Aid were provided to the accused. On 15-12-2021 itself, prosecution witnesses were recorded by the Trial Court and arguments were heard and the Trial Court on the same day, proceeded to pass the impugned Judgment of conviction. In other words, on the day of framing of the charge itself, police papers were supplied to the accused and the entire trial concluded on the very same day.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court noted that the accused was not granted an opportunity to address the Trial Court on the question of framing of charge against him by according to an opportunity to engage an Advocate of his choice to defend him. The Court also noted that within one day, charges were framed against the accused, statement of the accused was recorded under Section 313 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (“CrPC”), and by closing the defence evidence on the very same day, the impugned Judgment and Order was passed by the Trial Court.
The Court opined that “ugly haste had been shown by the Trial Court in disposing the present case in one day itself by showing blatant disregard to the principles of natural justice as well as Article 21 of the Constitution of India apart from throwing the statutory provisions enacted for according fair trial to the accused found in the CrPC”. The Court relied on Md. Major v. State of Bihar, 2022 SCC OnLine Pat 2069, the ratio of which was fully applicable to the present case. The Court in this case held that “in matters where death sentence could be one of the alternative punishments, the courts must be completely vigilant and see that full opportunity at every stage was afforded to the accused. This made it clear that the Trial Judge was required to follow the procedural law meticulously and scrupulously at every stage of criminal trial to see that fair trial was granted to the accused”.
The Court held that “the Trial Court had failed to follow due process of law while convicting the accused and imposing him the sentence of rigorous imprisonment for life and because of flagrant violation of principles of nature justice and blatant disregard to the mandatory statutory provisions of the CrPC, the impugned Judgment could not be sustained. Rather the trial itself was vitiated”. The Court further opined that the manner in which the trial was commenced, conducted, and concluded by the Trial Court clearly displayed and demonstrated glaring abuse of prescribed procedure of conducting the criminal trial and, therefore, there was no alternative but to direct for De-novo trial of the accused from before the stage of framing of the charge as breach of mandatory provisions of law commenced before framing of the charge causing miscarriage of justice.
Thus, the Court set aside the impugned Judgment and Order passed by the Trial Court.
[Raj Kumar Yadav v. State of Bihar, 2023 SCC OnLine Pat 922, decided on 3-4-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case:
For the Appellant: Advocate Sanjay Kumar Sharma;
Advocate Kumar Ravish;
For the State: APP Sujit Kumar Singh.
*Judgment authored by: Justice A.M. Badar