Supreme Court Declines to Intervene in Madras HC Directive for Jail-based Murder Trial


LI Network

Published on: February 7, 2024 at 21:30 IST

The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, rejected a plea challenging the Madras High Court’s directive to conduct trial proceedings within prison premises.

The case stemmed from Sutherson’s appeal against the denial of bail by a Thoothukudi special court in connection with the murder of an advocate, suspected to be linked to business rivalry and property disputes.

Citing concerns about witness safety and intimidation, the Madras High Court not only denied bail but also directed the trial to be held within the jail premises.

A bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta dismissed Sutherson’s special leave petition against the October 11 order, despite the appellant questioning the appropriateness of such judicial directives, even in exceptional circumstances.

Senior Advocate S Nagamuthu, representing Sutherson, contested the jurisdiction under which the high court’s order was issued, arguing that it exceeded the court’s bail jurisdiction under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Justice Khanna rebuffed this argument, emphasizing the discretionary nature of the high court order. He asserted that while procedural frameworks are provided by the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure, the judiciary retains the authority to adopt measures ensuring a just trial process.

Justice Khanna added, “This order has been passed for the convenience of the witnesses and the police.”

Despite attempts to persuade the bench, Nagamuthu raised concerns about the legal system, prompting Justice Khanna to defend the court’s decision based on the unique circumstances of the case, including the murder of a witness and the need for an expedited trial. The bench, in its final pronouncement, stated, “In view of the peculiar facts of the present case, we are not inclined to interfere with the impugned judgment, and the special leave petition is dismissed.”

While acknowledging Nagamuthu’s concerns, Justice Khanna affirmed that the decision was based on the case’s unique circumstances, and the question of law remains open for future consideration, stating, “If it happens routinely, we will interfere. That’s why we said that the question of law will remain open.”

Case Details:
Sutherson v. Deputy Superintendent of Police & Anr. | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 422 of 2024

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