‘Discharge’ is a Valuable Right provided to the Accused: Supreme Court

While addressing if the High Court has jurisdiction for a revision petition, the Supreme Court held that orders which frame the charge or the orders which refuse discharge are neither interlocutory nor final. Therefore, they do not face the bar provided under section 397(2) of Cr.P.C. This judgment was passed in the case of Sanjay Kumar Rai vs. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr. [Cr.A.No. 472/201] by a Double Bench consisting of Hon’ble The Chief Justice and Hon’ble Shri Justice Surya Kant.

The appeal in the present case arose when the High Court of Allahabad by a criminal revision against the order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) refused to discharge the appellant under Sections 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The appellant is a partner at the ‘Kalpana Indane Service gas agency. A complaint was lodged by Respondent no.2 a journalist in a newspaper, where he alleged malpractices against the above-mentioned gas agency. He also applied for information under RTI to conduct an investigation on the malpractices. It is alleged that, while receiving calls from Respondent no.2 the appellant threatened to kill him with multiple bullets on his face and started calling him names.  On an application under section 155(2) Cr.P.C by Respondent no. 2 the CJM ordered for a police investigation. The complaint herein contained 2 witnesses Mohd. Sharif Khan and Umesh Kumar Bhatt. Without taking the version of the appellant the charge sheet was filed.

Before the framing of the charges, the appellant filed for discharge of charges under section 239 of Cr.P.C. contending that the following does not constitute an offence under sections 504 and 506 of IPC. It was also contended that the investigation was unilateral and not fair. However, the CJM discharged the same and the High court also sustained the order of CJM. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant approached the SC through Special Leave Petition.

The Supreme Court first sought to first address the dismissal of Criminal revision by the High Court on the ground of lack of jurisdiction under section 397 of Cr.P.C. It was observed by the Supreme Court all the cases relied on by the High Court, gave the High Court inherent jurisdiction to prevent abuse of process or secure the ends of justice. It was also observed that in the case of Madhu Limaye vs. State of Maharashtra [(1977) 4 SCC 551], the orders framing charges or refusing charges were not interlocutory or final and thus are not affected by section 397(2) of Cr.P.C. The High Court should invoke the same carefully and judiciously for the effective administration of the criminal justice system. The High court must prevent the abuse of the process of law especially when the material and on record evidence show a brazen attempt to persecute an innocent.

It was held that the trial court while addressing a discharge application must sift through the evidence and find if there are sufficient grounds to suspect. The Supreme Court went on to hold the discharge application is a valuable right provided to the accused and the High court committed a jurisdiction error by not addressing the merits of such an application. the Supreme court considered it imperative for the high court to revisit the case by ordering it to decide the revision petition afresh.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court concluded by holding, “we set aside the impugned order dated 28.11.2018 and remand the case back to the High Court for its reconsideration in accordance with law.”

Click here for the Judgment.

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