News Details

SC issues fresh guidelines on criminal trials


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                      SUO MOTU WRIT(CRL.) NO.1 OF 2017
                         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
appellate courts.
            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
the charge-sheet.”
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]
New Delhi;
      MARCH 30, 2017.