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Supreme Court Highlights High Courts’ Duty to Prevent Unwarranted Prosecutions and Prolonged Trials

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Published on: December 1, 2023 at 11:47 IST

The Supreme Court recently emphasized the responsibility of High Courts in preventing criminal trials from dragging on due to vexatious prosecutions, as highlighted in the case of Vishnu Kumar Shukla and anr vs State of Uttar Pradesh.

Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah stressed that subjecting an accused person to a full-fledged criminal trial in the absence of suspicion is unjustified.

The court stated that the protection against unwarranted prosecutions and unnecessary trials is a duty cast upon High Courts, whether through quashing an FIR/Complaint, allowing an appeal against an order rejecting discharge, or by any other legally permissible route.

This duty had been previously emphasized by the Supreme Court in the case of Priyanka Mishra v State of Uttar Pradesh.

The bench criticized the Allahabad High Court for not discharging the accused in a theft case, despite doubts about the authenticity of the criminal complaint against them.

The Supreme Court asserted that the High Court should have intervened and discharged the accused, considering the doubts raised.

In the specific case, where the appellants were accused of breaking into and stealing from a shop, only the offense of house trespass was eventually pursued during the trial. Both the trial court and the High Court declined to discharge the accused.

However, the Supreme Court observed that the complainant’s claim over the shop was prima facie based on a forged document, and there was insufficient evidence to suspect the appellants. Consequently, the court discharged them from the case.

The Supreme Court remarked that the earlier orders of the trial court and the High Court lacked reasoning. It concluded that subjecting the appellants to a full-fledged criminal trial in the absence of strong or grave suspicion would be unjustified.

The court clarified that the discharge of the accused would not impact any civil litigation between the parties.