SC: Trial Courts can Summon Persons Other Than Accused u/s 319 CrPC Either Before Acquittal or Before Sentence in Case of Conviction

Supreme Court Law Insider

Savvy Thakur

Published on: 05 December 2022 at IST

The Constitution bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the power of the trial court to summon a person other than the accused under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) can be exercised prior to acquittal or before sentence in the event of conviction.

In a case involving the interpretation of Section 319 CrPC, the bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer, BR Gavai, AS Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian, and BV Nagarathna handed down the verdict.

The bench stated that it is necessary to take purpose behind Section 319 CrPC. “We have tried to explain the period where trial comes to an end. There we have said this power should be exercised before acquittal order. In cases where conviction is there, it is before sentence. If it (conviction and sentence) is on the same date, it has to be shown that this power was exercised before the sentence,”

If it appears to the trial court that individuals other than the accused have committed an offense in that case, Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) grants trial courts the authority to summon those individuals.

According to Section 319: “The Court may proceed against such person for the offence which he appears to have committed,” states the statute, “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.”

Last month, the Supreme Court withdrew its decision in the case.

A number of petitions related to the Division Bench’s May 2019 order referring the following questions to a larger bench were being heard by the top court:

  • Is it possible, in accordance with Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code, for the trial court to issue a summons to a second accused person after the other co-accused’s trial has ended and the judgment of conviction has been issued on the same date?
  • Is it possible, in accordance with Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code, for the trial court to summon additional accused when the trial of one or more other absconding accused is ongoing or pending after being split from the main trial?
  • When exercising its authority under Section 319 CrPC, what guidelines must the competent court adhere to?

The guidance for the counsels had contended that the force of the preliminary court under Section 319 stops after the judgment on conviction is pronounced. Respondents’ counsel argued that it can be invoked until a detailed sentencing order is issued.

Case Title: Sukhpal Singh Khair v. Union of India

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