Offence under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act

SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act as it existed prior to Amendment of 2016:

The gravamen of Section 3(2)(v) of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is that any offence, envisaged under Indian Penal Code punishable with imprisonment for a term of ten years or more, against a person belonging Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, should have been committed on the ground that “such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or such property belongs to such member”. Prior to the Amendment Act 1 of 2016, the words used in Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act are “……on the ground that such person is a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe”.

Effect of Amendment of 2016:

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Summon to Investigator to produce all material collected during investigation.

Summons to produce document or other thing:

Criminal trial:

It is settled law that at the stage of framing of charge, the accused cannot ordinarily invoke Section 91 (of Cr.P.C.). However, the court being under the obligation to impart justice and to uphold the law, is not debarred from exercising its power, if the interest of justice in a given case so require, even if the accused may have no right to invoke Section 91. To exercise this power, the court is to be satisfied that the material available with the investigator, not made part of the chargesheet, has crucial bearing on the issue of framing of charge.

Summon at the stage of framing of charge:

In State of Orissa versus Debendra Nath Padhi (2005) 1 SCC 568, it was observed: Continue reading “Summon to Investigator to produce all material collected during investigation.”

Criminal Trial must be conducted on day to day basis

Adjournment in Criminal Trial not permissible.

Section 309 o Cr. P.C. is as under:

Power to postpone or adjourn proceedings.
(1) In every inquiry or trial, the proceedings shall be held as expeditiously as possible, and in particular, when the examination of witnesses has once begun, the same shall be continued from day to day until all the witnesses in attendance have been examined, unless the Court finds the adjournment of the same beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to be recorded.
(2) If the Court, after taking cognizance of an offence, or commencement of trial, finds it necessary or advisable to postpone the commencement of, or adjourn, any inquiry or trial, it may, from time to time, for reasons to be recorded, postpone or adjourn the same on such terms as it thinks fit, for such time as it considers reasonable, and may by a warrant remand the accused if in custody:

Provided that no Magistrate shall remand an accused person to custody under this section for a term exceeding fifteen days at a time: Provided further that when witnesses are in attendance, no adjournment or postponement shall be granted, without examining them, except for special reasons to be recorded in writing:

Provided also that no adjournment shall be granted for the purpose only of enabling the accused person to show cause against the sentence proposed to be imposed on him.]

Explanation 1.- If sufficient evidence has been obtained to raise a suspicion that the accused may have committed an offence, and it appears likely that further evidence may be obtained by a remand, this is a reasonable cause for a remand.

Explanation 2.- The terms on which an adjournment or postponement may be granted include, in appropriate cases, the payment of costs by the prosecution or the accused.

Mandate of day to day trial

12. Thus, the legal position is that once examination of witnesses started, the court has to continue the trial from day to day until all witnesses in attendance have been examined (except those whom the party has given up). The court has to record reasons for deviating from the said course. Even that is forbidden when witnesses are present in court, as the requirement then is that the court has to examine them. Only if there are “special reasons”, which reasons should find a place in the order for adjournment, that alone can confer jurisdiction on the court to adjourn the case without examination of witnesses who are present in court.

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Restrictions on grant of bail under PMLA if valid

Section 45 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act is unconstitutional.

Section 45 of the 2002 Act, which was brought into force in 2005, originally read as follows:

“45. Offences to be cognizable and non- bailable.-

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974),-

(a) every offence punishable under this Act shall be cognizable;

(b) no person accused of an offence punishable for a term of imprisonment of more than three years under Part A of the Schedule shall be released on bail or on his own bond unless-

(i) the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity to oppose the application for such release; and

(ii) where the Public Prosecutor opposes the application, the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such offence and that he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail:

Provided that a person, who, is under the age of sixteen years, or is a woman or is sick or infirm, may be released on bail, if the Special Court so directs:

Provided further that the Special Court shall not take cognizance of any offence punishable under section 4 except upon a complaint in writing made by- (i) the Director; or (ii) any officer of the Central Government or a State Government authorised in writing in this behalf by the Central Government by a general or special order made in this behalf by that Government.

(2) The limitation on granting of bail specified in clause (b) of sub-section (1) is in addition to the limitations under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) or any other law for the time being in force on granting of bail.”

The change made by Section 45 is that, for the purpose of grant of bail, what was now to be looked at was offences that were punishable for a term of imprisonment of three years or more under Part A of the Schedule, and not offences under the 2002 Act itself. At this stage, Part A of the Schedule contained two paragraphs – Para 1 containing Sections 121 and 121A of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against the Government of India, and conspiracy to commit such offences. Paragraph 2 dealt with offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Part B of the Schedule, as originally enacted, referred to certain offences of a heinous nature under the Indian Penal Code, which included murder, extortion, kidnapping, forgery and counterfeiting. Paragraphs 2 to 5 of Part B dealt with certain offences under the Arms Act 1959, Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. When the Act was originally enacted, it was, thus, clear that the twin conditions applicable under Section 45(1) would only be in cases involving waging of war against the Government of India and offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Even the most heinous offences under the Indian Penal Code were contained only in Part B, so that if bail were asked for such offences, the twin conditions imposed by Section 45(1) would not apply. Incidentally, one of the reasons for classifying offences in Part A and Part B of the Schedule was that offences specified under Part B would get attracted only if the total value involved in such offences was Rs.30 lakhs or more (under Section 2(y) of the Act as it read then). Thereafter, the Act has been amended several times. The amendment made in 2005 in Section 45(1) was innocuous and is not an amendment with which we are directly concerned. The 2009 Amendment further populated Parts A and B of the Schedule. In Part A, offences under Sections 489 A and B of the Indian Penal Code, relating to counterfeiting were added and offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which dealt with terrorist activities, were added. In Part B, several other offences were added from the Indian Penal Code, as were offences under the Explosives Act 1884, Antiquities and Arts Treasures Act 1972, Securities and Exchange Board of India Act 1992, Customs Act 1962, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, Emigration Act 1983, Passports Act 1967, Foreigners Act 1946, Copyright Act 1957, Trademarks Act 1999, Information Technology Act 2000, Biological Diversity Act 2002, Protection of Plant and Farmers Rights Act 2001, Environmental Protection Act 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act) 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act) 1981 and Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms of Continental Shelf Act, 2002.

By the Amendment Act of 2012, which is Act 2 of 2013, a very important amendment was made to the Schedule by which the entire Part B offences were transplanted into Part A.

Unreasonable classification

The classification of three years or more of offences contained in Part A of the Schedule must have a reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved under the 2002 Act. Continue reading “Restrictions on grant of bail under PMLA if valid”

Summon of witnesses in Criminal Trial: Powers of Court

Power to summon material witness, or examine person present.

Section 311 of Criminal Procedure Code provides as under:

Any Court may, at any stage of any inquiry, trial or other proceeding under this Code, summon any person as a witness, or examine any person in attendance, though not summoned as a witness, or. recall and re- examine any person already examined; and the Court shall summon and examine or recall and re- examine any such person if his evidence appears to it to be essential to the just decision of the case.

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Reduced sentence due to ill health and advance age

Considerations for sentence:

Conviction under Prevention of Corruption Act:

On thorough examination of the entire evidence on record and after considering the submissions made by the prosecution and the defence, the trial court convicted the Appellant and the other two accused under Sections 420, 465, 467, 468 and 471 of the IPC and Sections 13 (1)(c) and (d) of the PC Act. The Appellant was sentenced to undergo three years rigorous imprisonment for the offences punishable under the IPC and two years imprisonment for the offences punishable under the PC Act to run concurrently by taking note of the fact that the Appellant had already retired from service. The trial court further took notice of the age of the Petitioner and his ill-health while imposing the sentence. The Appellant along with the other two accused filed an Appeal in the High Court. The High Court scrutinised the entire evidence on record. After examining the submissions made by the counsel of both sides, the High Court found no fault with the judgment of the trial court and affirmed the same.

We have examined the judgments of the courts below and we are of the opinion that there is no error committed in holding the Appellant guilty of the offences alleged. Both the courts below have thoroughly examined the oral as well as documentary evidence on record and dealt with the submissions made on behalf of the defence in a detailed manner. It is settled law that this Court need not re-appreciate evidence while affirming the judgments of the courts below in criminal cases.

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Suspicion cannot replace proof in a criminal trial

Benefit of reasonable doubt

In a criminal trial suspicion however grave cannot take the place of proof and the prosecution to succeed has to prove its case and establish the charge by adducing convincing evidence to ward off any reasonable doubt about the complicity of the accused. For this, the prosecution case has to be in the category of “must be true” and not “may be true”.

[Source: Khekh Ram vs. State of H.P., decided by SC on 10 November 2017]
A criminal trial is not like a fairy tale wherein one in free to give flight to one’s imagination and phantasm.

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Bail under Prevention of Money Laundering Act

Conditions for bail under PMLA

Section 45 of PMLA is as under:

45. Offences to be cognizable and non­bailable.—(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), no person accused of an offence punishable for a term of imprisonment of more than three years under Part A of the Schedule shall be released on bail or on his own bond unless­

(i) the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity to oppose the application for such release; and

(ii) where the Public Prosecutor opposes the application, the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such offence and that he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail:

Provided that a person who is under the age of sixteen years or is a woman or is sick or infirm, may be released on bail, if the Special Court so directs:

Provided further that the Special Court shall not take cognizance of any offence punishable under section 4 except upon a complaint in writing made by—

(i) the Director; or

(ii) any officer of the Central Government or a State Government authorised in writing in this behalf by the Central Government by a general or a special order made in this behalf by that Government.

(1A) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), or any other provision of this Act, no police officer shall investigate into an offence under this Act unless specifically authorised, by the Central Government by a general or special order, and, subject to such conditions as may be prescribed.

(2) The limitation on granting of bail specified in sub­section (1) is in addition to the limitations under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) or any other law for the time being in force on granting of bail.”

Provision if binding on High Court

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When imposition of jail sentence and fine on the accused is mandatory.

Mandatory Jail Term

Section 325 of IPC is as under:

“325. Punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt.-Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 335, voluntarily causes grievous hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Section 428 of Cr.PC is as under:

“428. Period of detention undergone by the accused to be set off against the sentence of imprisonment.-Where an accused person has, on conviction, been sentenced to imprisonment for a term, not being imprisonment in default of payment of fine, the period of detention, if any, undergone by him during the investigation, inquiry or trial of the same case and before the date of such conviction, shall be set off against the term of imprisonment imposed on him on such conviction, and the liability of such person to undergo imprisonment on such conviction shall be restricted to the remainder, if any, of the term of imprisonment imposed on him:

Provided that in cases referred to in section 433A, such period of detention shall be set off against the period of fourteen years referred to in that section.”

So far as Section 325 IPC is concerned, its reading would show that once the accused is held guilty of commission of offence punishable under Section 325 IPC, then imposition of jail sentence and fine on the accused is mandatory. In other words, the award of punishment would include both, i.e., jail sentence and fine. So far as jail sentence is concerned, it may extend upto 7 years as per Court’s discretion whereas so far as fine amount is concerned, its quantum would also depend upon the Court’s discretion. Continue reading “When imposition of jail sentence and fine on the accused is mandatory.”