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The monosyllabic “yes” in the questionnaire created at the time of charge framing could not, in any way, be interpreted as a plea of guilt by the petitioner, on the basis of which the Court could have found him guilty: Kerala High Court

The monosyllabic “yes” in the questionnaire created at the time of charge framing could not, in any way, be interpreted as a plea of guilt by the petitioner, on the basis of which the Court could have found him guilty is upheld by the Kerala High Court in the case of Raseen Babu K.M. v. State of Kerala (CRL. REV.PET No. 228 of 2021) through Justice T.R.Ravi.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The petitioner was found guilty by the Magistrate for allegedly attacking several of the volunteers while obstructing the procession leaving the Thrikkulam Government High School in connection with the school entrance celebration. The Kerala Prevention of Disturbances of Public Meetings Act, 1961, Section 35 (sic), and Sections 143, 147, and 353 read with 149 of the IPC were the offences for which the FIR was filed. The Trial Court found all of the accused guilty after they entered guilty pleas to the charges.

The petitioner argued that the conviction of an accused based on his plea of guilty results in that person being convicted and punished without a trial, and as a result, the Magistrates are required to ensure that the plea is voluntary, clear, and unambiguous and is put forth after understanding the implications of such an admission.

The petitioner challenged the judgments primarily on the basis of the procedure used by the Trial Court. Despite the fact that his name was on the ranking list of Constables, the petitioner claimed he was not informed of the implications of pleading guilty and that this unawareness had prevented him from being appointed (Telecommunication).

JUDGMENT

The Court observed that when the accused were asked if they had committed the offences, they responded no, according to the diary excerpt and evidence acquired from the lower court. After a few delays, the proceedings were resumed, and when it was asked again whether the accused had committed the offences, the accused responded “yes.”

The defendants were found guilty because this response was interpreted as a confession of guilt. In accordance with Sections 240 and 241 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a conviction of an accused based on a guilty plea is not merely a formality. The established process must be scrupulously followed because if the plea is accepted, the offender would be found guilty without a trial.

The Court made clear that the phrases ‘plea and guilty,’ ‘pleading guilty,’ should demand a positive and informed act of confessing all the components of the offense(s). Under no circumstances may the accused’s admission of guilt be equated with or accepted as mere lip service or a monosyllabic “yes” in response to a direct query from the court.

As a result, the Court issued the certain instructions to be followed before acting on an accused’s admission of guilt which included that the Magistrate shall set forth the charge, defining the offences alleged against the Accused, the accused should be read the charge and given an explanation, the accused should be asked if he wishes to enter a plea of guilty to the charge(s) against him,the accused should enter a plea of guilty only after fully comprehending the gravity of the charges and the potential consequences of doing so and the appeal must be made voluntarily and in unmistakable language. To the degree practicable, the magistrate should record the accused’s guilty plea in his or her own words and the Magistrate should use his discretion to decide whether to accept the plea of guilty after taking all pertinent considerations into account. If the plea is accepted, the accused may be found guilty and subject to the appropriate punishment.

In light of the foregoing, the Court decided that since the petitioner had initially entered a not guilty plea, recording the monosyllabic “yes” in the questionnaire created at the time of charge framing could not, in any way, be interpreted as a plea of guilt by the petitioner, on the basis of which the Court could have found him guilty. As a result, the convictions of the petitioner were subject to appeal. The petition was approved as a result, and the conviction order was overturned.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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