Delhi High Court: Expressing that, the revisional jurisdiction is not meant to test the waters of what might happen in the trial, Chandra Dhari Singh, J., held that at the stage of framing of charge, the judge is merely required to overview the evidence in order to find out whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
A revision petition was filed seeking setting aside of the order on charge passed by the Special Judge, CBI Court and for quashing criminal proceedings against the petitioner. As per the impugned order, the petitioner had been charged under Sections 420 and 120-B of the Penal Code, 1860 read with Section 13(1)(d) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
It was alleged that, the then DG, Organizing Committee (OC), Commonwealth Games, 2010 and other officers of the OC entered into a criminal conspiracy with the Director of M/s Premier Brands Private Limited (PBPL), with Chairman M/s Compact Disc India Limited and others.
The OC officers scrapped the process of initial Request for Proposal (RFP) on flimsy grounds after receipt of the proposal of PBPL, to extend undue favour to PBPL by appointing the said company as Officer Master Licensee for Merchandising and Online Retail Concessionaire for CWG 2010 against a minimum royalty amount of Rs 7.05 crores.
After earning a huge amount from the CWG band properties, PBPL did not pay anything to the OC and the cheque amounting Rs 3.525 Crores were dishonoured by the Bank on instructions from PBPL, which caused pecuniary advantage to Suresh Kumar Seenghal and PBPL and corresponding to the Government Exchequer.
Analysis, Law and Decision
- Revisional Jurisdiction and Framing of Charge
In the Supreme Court decision of Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency (P) Ltd. v. CBI, (2018) 16 SCC 299, it was held that an order framing charge can be interfered under the revisional jurisdiction.
Further, Supreme Court recently in Sanjay Kumar Rai v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 367, reiterated the ruling pronounced in the above Supreme Court decision as well as the original position of law as laid down in Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra, (1977) 4 SCC 551.
The issue is well settled and the controversy qua revisional jurisdiction is set to rest with the actual position of law being that the order of framing charge or that discharge is neither interlocutory nor final and hence does not attract the bar of Section 397(2) of the Code.
Hence, High Court is competent to entertain a revision petition against such orders.
- Framing of Charges & Order on Charge
Bombay High Court’s decision of Samadhan Baburao Khakare v. State of Maharashtra, 1995 SCC OnLine Bom 72, highlighted the objective and importance of a Charge in a criminal trial.
The Court concerned with the framing of charges has to merely see whether the commission of offense can be a possibility from the evidence on record or not.
The charge is merely an indication to the accused about the offense for which he is being tried for.
For the above observation, Court referred to the Supreme Court decision in Esher Singh v. State of A.P., (2004) 11 SCC 585.
Framing of charge is a manifestation of the principle of Fair Trial, by giving sufficient notice along with all particulars to the accused being charged so as to enable him to prepare his defence.
In the Supreme Court decision of State of Rajasthan v. Ashok Kumar Kashyap, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 314, it was held that the at the stage of framing of the charge and/or considering the discharge application, a mini trial is not permissible.
The Court observed that the position of law that emerges is that at the stage of discharge/framing of charge, the Judge is merely required to shift the evidence in order to find out whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
- Scope of Revisional Jurisdiction – qua Order of Charge
In the case of State of Rajasthan v. Fatehkaran Mehdu, (2017) 3 SCC 198, the Supreme Court has elucidated on the scope of the interference permissible under Section 397 with regard to the framing of a charge.
Recently, in the case of State of Rajasthan v. Ashok Kumar Kashyap, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 314, the Supreme Court held that the evaluation of evidence on merits is beyond the scope of revisional jurisdiction of the High Courts, at the stage of considering the application for discharge.
Hence, under the provisions of Section 397/401 of Code, the Revisional Court has to only consider the correctness, legality or propriety of any finding inter se an order and as to the regularity of the proceedings of any inferior court.
- Section 482 of the Code
High Court has inherent power to act ex debito justitiae – to do that real and substantial justice for the administration of which alone it exists or to prevent abuse of the process of the Court.
The Section does not confer any new power, rather it only declares that the High Court possesses inherent powers for the purposes specified in the Section.
Hence, the jurisdiction under Section 482 should be exercised sparingly, with circumspection and in rarest of rare cases.
In the present matter, the petitioner failed to make out a case for exercise of the revisional jurisdiction since there was no patent error in the impugned order.
The beauty of procedural law lies in the stages and remedies available during the course of a criminal proceeding.
High Court held that every effort should be made to eradicate Corruption as at the end of the day, it is society and the downtrodden who bear the pangs of the corrupt acts of a few.
Bench added that if the lower court finds that evidence against an accused is prima facie sufficient for framing of charge, then it has the jurisdiction to proceed with the same concerned accused must face trial.
The revision petition was devoid of merit and hence dismissed. [V.K Verma v. CBI, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 1192, decided on 29-4-2022]
Advocates before the Court:
For the Petitioner:
Mr. Ajit Kumar Sinha, Senior Advocate with Mr. Srijan Sinha, Ms. Parul Dhurvey and Mr. Naveen Soni, Advocates.
For the Respondent:
Mr. Prasanta Varma, SPP