SC issues fresh guidelines on criminal trials
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
SUO MOTU WRIT(CRL.) NO.1 OF 2017
IN RE: TO ISSUE CERTAIN GUIDELINES REGARDING INADEQUACIES AND DEFICIENCIES
IN CRIMINAL TRIALS
O R D E R
During the course of hearing of Criminal Appeal No.400/2006 and
connected matters, Mr. R. Basant, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the
appellants-complainant, pointed out certain common inadequacies and
deficiencies in the course of trial adopted by the trial court while
disposing of criminal cases. In particular, it was pointed out that though
there are beneficial provisions in the Rules of some of the High Courts
which ensure that certain documents such as list of witnesses and the list
of exhibits/material objects referred to, are annexed to the judgment and
order itself of the trial court, these features do not exist in Rules of
some other High Courts. Undoubtedly, the judgments and orders of the trial
court which have such lists annexed, can be appreciated much better by the
Certain other matters were also pointed out by Mr. Basant,
learned Senior Counsel for the appellants- complainant, during the course
of arguments. He made the following submissions :
A. In the course of discussions at the Bar while considering this case,
this Court had generally adverted to certain common inadequacies and
imperfections that occur in the criminal trials in our country. I venture
to suggest that in the interests of better administration of criminal
justice and to usher in a certain amount of uniformity, and acceptance of
best practices prevailing over various parts of India, this Court may
consider issue of certain general guidelines to be followed across the
board by all Criminal Courts in the country.
B. The following areas may be considered specifically:
1. The pernicious practice of the Trial Judge leaving the recording of
deposition to the clerk concerned and recording of evidence going on in
more than one case in the same Court room, at the same time, under the
presence and general supervision of the presiding officer has to be
disapproved strongly and discontinued forthwith. A visit to Delhi Trial
Courts any day will reveal this sad state of affairs, I am given to
2. The depositions of witnesses must be recorded, in typed format, using
computers, in Court, to the dictation of the presiding officers (in English
wherever possible) so that readable true copies will be available
straightaway and can be issued to both sides on the date of examination
3. The deposition of each witness must be recorded dividing it into
separate paragraphs assigning para numbers to facilitate easy reference to
specific portions later in the course of arguments and in Judgments.
4. Witnesses/documents/material objects be assigned specific
nomenclature and numbers like PWs/DWs/CWs (1 onwards); Ext. P/Ext. D/Ext. C
(1 onwards); MOs (1 onwards) etc., so that reference later becomes easy and
less time-consuming. Kindly see the Relevant Rules
Kerala Criminal Rules of Practice 1982
“Rule 62 – Marking of exhibits.-
(1) Exhibits admitted in evidence shall be marked as follows:
If filed by the prosecution, with capital letter P followed by a numeral
P1, P2, P3 etc
If filed by defence, with capital letter D followed by a numeral D1, D2, D3
If Court exhibits, with capital letter C followed by a numeral C1, C2, C3
(2) All exhibits marked by several accused shall be marked consecutively.
(3) All material objects shall be marked in Arabic numbers in continuous
series, whether exhibited for the prosecution or the defence or the Court
as M.O.1, M.O.2, M.O.3, etc”
Andhra Pradesh Criminal rules of Practice and Circular Orders, 1990
“Rule 66 – How witness shall be referred to
Witnesses shall be referred by their names or ranks as P.W.s., or D.Ws.,
and if the witnesses are not examined, but cited in the chargesheet, they
should be referred by their names and not by numbers allotted to them in
5. Every judgment must mandatorily have a preface showing the name of
the parties and an appendix showing the list of Prosecutions Witnesses,
Prosecution Exhibits, Defence Witnesses, Defence Exhibits, Court witnesses,
Court Exhibits and Material Objects. Kindly see inter alia the Relevant
rules in the Kerala Criminal Rules of Practice, 1982.
“Rule 132 – Judgment to contain certain particulars.- The Judgment in
original decision shall, apart from the particulars prescribed by Section
354 of the Code also contain a statement in Tabular Form giving the
following particulars, namely:-
|1. |Serial Number | |
|2. |Name of the Police Station | |
| |and the Crime No. of the | |
| |offence | |
|3. |Name | |
| | | |
| | |Description of the |
| | |Accused |
|4. |Father's name | |
|5. |Occupation | |
|6. |Residence | |
|7. |Age | |
|8. |Occurrence | |
| | | |
| | |Date of |
|9. |Complaint | |
|10. |Apprehension | |
|11. |Release on bail | |
|12. |Commitment | |
|13. |Commencement of trial | |
|14. |Close of trial | |
|15. |Sentence or order | |
|16. |Service of copy of judgment | |
| |or finding on accused | |
|17. |Explanation of delay | |
Note.- (1) Date of complaint in column 9 shall be the date of the filing of
the charge-sheet in respect of case instituted on police report and the
date of filing of the complaint in respect of other case.
(2) Date of apprehension in column 10 shall be the date of arrest.
(3) Date of commencement of trial in column 13 shall be :
(a) In summons cases, the date on which the particulars of the offence
are stated to the accused under section 251 of the Code.
(b) In warrant cases instituted on police report, the date on which the
documents under section 207 of the Code are furnished to the accused and
the Magistrate satisfied himself of the same under section 238 of the Code.
(c) In other warrant cases, when the recording of evidence is commenced
under section 244 of the Code.
(d) In Sessions trials, when the charge is read out and explained to the
accused under section 228 of the Code.
“Rule 134 – List of witnesses etc. to be Appended to Judgement.
There shall be appended to every judgment a list of the witnesses examined
by the prosecution and for the defence and by the Court and also a list of
exhibits and material objects marked.”
6. Once numbers are assigned to the accused, witnesses and exhibits,
they be referred to, subsequently in the proceedings and in the judgments
with the help of such numbers only. The practice of referring to the names
of the accused/witnesses and documents descriptively in the proceedings
paper and judgments creates a lot of confusion. Whenever there is need to
refer to them by name their rank as Accused/Witness must be shown in
7. Repetition of pleadings, evidence, and arguments in the judgments and
orders of the Trial Court, Appellate and Revisional Courts be avoided.
Repetition of facts, evidence, and contentions before lower Courts make the
judgments cumbersome, and takes away the precious time of the Court
unnecessarily. The Appellate/Revisional Court judgment/order is the
continuation of the lower court judgment and must ideally start with “ in
this appeal/revision, the impugned judgment is assailed on the following
grounds” or “the points that arise for consideration in this
appeal/revision are”. This does not of course, take away the
option/jurisdiction of the Appellate/Revisional Courts to re-narrate facts
and contentions if they be inadequately or insufficiently narrated in the
judgment. Mechanical re narration to be avoided at any rate.
8. In every case file, a judgment folder to be maintained, and the first
para in the appellate/revisional judgment to be numbered as the next
paragraph after the last para in the impugned judgment. This would cater to
a better culture of judgment writing saving precious court time.
9. The healthy practice in some states of the Investigating Officer
obtaining and producing (or the wound certificate/ post mortem certificate
showing) the front and rear sketch of the human torso showing the injuries
listed in the medical documents specifically, may be uniformly insisted.
This would help the judges to have a clearer and surer understanding of the
situs of the injuries.
10. Marking of contradictions – A healthy practice of marking the
contradictions/Omissions properly does not appear to exist in several
States. Ideally the relevant portions of case diary statement used for
contradicting a witness must be extracted fully in the deposition. If the
same is cumbersome at least the opening and closing words of the
contradiction in the case diary statement must be referred to in the
deposition and marked separately as a Prosecution/Defence exhibit.
11. The practice of omnibus marking of S. 164 statement of witness
deserves to be deprecated. The relevant portion of such prior statements of
living persons used for contradiction or corroboration U/s. 145/157 of the
Evidence Act deserves to be marked separately and specifically.
12. The practice of whole sale marking of confession statement of accused
persons for introduction of the relevant statement admissible under S. 27
of Evidence Act deserves to be deprecated. Ideally the admissible portion
and that portion alone, must be extracted in the recovery memos (Mahazar or
Panch – different nomenclature used in different parts of the land) within
inverted commas. Otherwise the relevant portion alone written separately
must be proved by the Investigating Officer. Back door access to
inadmissible evidence by marking the entire confession statement in the
attempt to prove the admissible portion under S. 27 of Evidence Act should
be strictly avoided.
13. The Trial Courts must be mandatorily obliged to specify in the
Judgment the period of set off under Section 428 Cr.P.C specifying date and
not leave it to be resolved later by jail authorities or successor
presiding officers. The Judgements and the consequent warrant of committal
must specify the period of set off clearly.
In the circumstances, we direct that notices be issued to the
Registrars General of all the High Courts, and the Chief Secretaries/the
Administrators and the Advocates-General/Senior Standing Counsel of all the
States/Union Territories, so that general consensus can be arrived at on
the need to amend the relevant Rules of Practice/ Criminal Manuals to bring
about uniform best practices across the country. This Court may also
consider issuance of directions under Article 142 of the Constitution. They
can be given the option to give suggestions also on other areas of concern.
[S. A. BOBDE]
[L. NAGESWARA RAO]
MARCH 30, 2017.