Right of accused to cross-examine the witness is the basic ingredient of a fair trial: Punjab & Haryana High Court
Brief Facts of the Case
- The two accused were charged for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code.
- The State had filed an application under Section 311 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to produce certain records relevant to the case.
- This application was allowed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge on 15.09.2014, observing that no prejudice would be caused to the accused as they would be given full opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses and rebut the said record.
- However, the records were taken on file without recalling the relevant witnesses for cross-examination by the accused.
- Thereupon, the petitioners filed an independent application under Section 311 Cr.P.C to recall Ashok Kumar, DSP (PW1), Surjit Singh, Superintendent, BDPO (PW4), and Harjit Singh, Junior Engineer (PW7), for further cross-examination.
- However, by the order dated 17.05.2016, the learned Additional Sessions Judge disallowed their plea on the ground that the case had reached Section 313 Cr.P.C examination stage.
- The learned Additional Session Judge observed that it would be open to the petitioners to lead defence evidence by examining any official and that no ground was made out to allow further cross-examination.
- Aggrieved by this order, the petitioners filed the present revision petition before the Punjab & Haryana High Court.
Observation made by the Court
- The Court ruled that, surprisingly, the Additional Sessions Judge seems to have completely overlooked the earlier order dated September 15, 2014, passed by his predecessor and dismissed the application on the ground that the petitioners could lead defence evidence and examine any official from the department concerned.
- The Court also ruled that the action of the judge negated the very basic and fundamental norms of a fair trial
- This Court noted that the right of the petitioners to cross-examine the witnesses in the context of the record produced by the prosecution was the basic ingredient of a fair trial and depriving them of such opportunity of cross-examination would cause prejudice to them. The trial Court was accordingly directed not to pass a final order.
- Denial of the petitioners’ right of cross-examination cannot be countenanced. It is a valuable right given to the accused and such a right cannot be diluted in this fashion. As pointed out by this Court in the interim order, the approach adopted by the learned Additional Sessions Judge negated the very basic and fundamental norms of a fair trial.
- The Court further held that in that view of the matter, the trial Court of the learned Additional Sessions Judge/Special Judge, Tarn Taran, is directed to recall Ashok Kumar, DSP(PW1), Surjit Singh, Superintendent, BDPO (PW4), and Harjit Singh, Junior Engineer (PW7), for further cross-examination and proceed thereafter with the case in accordance with law. The revision is accordingly allowed.
Case Name: Santokh Singh and another v. State of Punjab
Case No.: CRR No.3485 of 2016
Coram: HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SANJAY KUMAR