Supreme Court: Lack of Diligence at Trial Bars Party from Introducing Additional Evidence at Appeal Stage under S.391 CrPC

LI Network

Published on: January 31, 2024 at 16:00 IST

In a recent pronouncement, the Supreme Court has established that a party failing to exhibit due diligence in presenting evidence during the trial of a criminal case cannot subsequently attempt to introduce the same evidence during the appeal stage.

Justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta emphasized that the authority to record additional evidence during the appellate phase should not be exercised routinely or casually.

This power is deemed appropriate only when the non-recording of evidence at the trial may result in a miscarriage of justice.

The Court underscored, “The law is well-settled by a catena of judgments rendered by this Court that the power to record additional evidence under Section 391 CrPC should only be exercised when the party making such request was prevented from presenting the evidence in the trial despite due diligence being exercised or that the facts giving rise to such prayer came to light at a later stage during the pendency of the appeal and that non-recording of such evidence may lead to the failure of justice.”

This legal stance was articulated in response to an appeal challenging the Appellate Court’s refusal to admit additional evidence under Section 391 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

The appellant contested his conviction in a cheque dishonor case and sought to present evidence from a handwriting expert concerning the signature at the appellate stage.

The Supreme Court highlighted that the power under Section 391 could only be invoked if the appellant had been thwarted in presenting such evidence during the trial, despite exercising due diligence.

In this case, the accused had not undertaken any efforts to challenge his signature during the trial, failing to pose any questions to the bank’s witness about the genuineness of the signature. Moreover, the cheque was returned without raising any concerns about signature inconsistencies.

The Court opined, “…if at all, the appellant was desirous of proving that the signatures appearing on the cheque issued from his account were not genuine, then he could have procured a certified copy of his specimen signatures from the Bank, and a request could have been made to summon the concerned Bank official in defense for giving evidence regarding the genuineness or otherwise of the signature on the cheque.”

This ruling, derived from the case of AJITSINH CHEHUJI RATHOD VERSUS STATE OF GUJARAT & ANR, signifies the Supreme Court’s commitment to ensuring due diligence in presenting evidence and discouraging the casual exercise of the power to introduce additional evidence during the appeal stage.

Citation: 2024 LiveLaw (SC) 64

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