“Supreme Court Reins in High Court’s Overreach in Criminal Case Impleadment”

Case Title – N. Manogar & Anr. vs. The Inspector of Police & Ors.

Case No. – SLP (Crl.) No(s). 8696 of 2021

Dated on – 16th February, 2024

Quorum – Hon’ble Justice Vikram Nath and Hon’ble Justice Satish Chandra Sharma


Facts of the Case –

The first respondent registered an FIR on April 20, 2018, pursuant to a High Court order dated January 24, 2018, based on a complaint by the second respondent. The complaint alleged that the third respondent assaulted the complainant and her son, Vidhul, at their home, accompanied by her husband (Appellant No. 1) and another boy (Appellant No. 2). However, the chargesheet only named the third respondent, leading to the complainant’s application for re-investigation under Section 482 CrPC. The High Court, on February 5, 2019, allowed the complainant to seek impleadment of the appellants under Sections 319 and 216 CrPC.

The Trial Court, on May 6, 2019, partly allowed the application by impleading Appellant No. 1 as an accused but dismissed it regarding Appellant No. 2. Both parties filed revision petitions, resulting in the High Court remanding the matter back to the Trial Court, which again dismissed the application on October 24, 2019, citing insufficient evidence against the appellants. The High Court subsequently reversed this decision on September 13, 2021, based on prima facie findings of the appellants’ involvement.

Legal Provisions –

  • Section 216 of CrPC, 1973
  • Section 319 of CrPC, 1973
  • Section 482 of CrPC, 1973

Contentions of the appellant –

The appellants, represented by learned senior counsel Mr. S. Nagamuthu, contended before the Supreme Court that the Madras High Court had erroneously exercised its jurisdiction under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) by reversing the Trial Court’s order without a proper appreciation of the facts and evidence on record. The appellants argued that the allegations against them were vague and omnibus, lacking specificity and direct evidence of their involvement in the alleged offenses. They asserted that there was no substantial material to justify their impleadment as accused persons, and the High Court failed to adhere to the principles established in Hardeep Singh v. State of Punjab, which dictate that the power under Section 319 CrPC should be exercised sparingly and only in cases where strong and cogent evidence indicates a person’s involvement in the commission of an offense. The appellants maintained that the Trial Court’s decision was well-reasoned and did not suffer from any legal perversity, thus should not have been overturned by the High Court.


Contentions of the Respondent –

The respondents, through their learned counsel, vigorously opposed the appellants’ contentions, asserting that the High Court correctly appreciated the allegations and evidence presented. They argued that the underlying complaint, the statements recorded under Section 161 CrPC, and the examination-in-chief of the prosecution witnesses collectively disclosed sufficient material implicating the appellants in the commission of the alleged offenses. The respondents contended that the High Court properly invoked its powers under Section 319 CrPC, which requires a prima facie satisfaction of the accused’s involvement in the crime. They maintained that the allegations and evidence on record established a strong case against the appellants, thereby justifying their impleadment as accused persons. The respondents further cited the decision in Jitendra Nath Mishra v. State of Uttar Pradesh to support their stance that the High Court’s order did not suffer from any legal infirmity or perversity and was in accordance with established judicial principles.


Court Analysis and Judgement –

The Court, after hearing the submissions and perusing the records, analyzed the principles governing the exercise of jurisdiction under Section 319 of the CrPC. The Court reaffirmed the stance established in Hardeep Singh v. State of Punjab, emphasizing that the power under Section 319 is discretionary, extraordinary, and must be exercised sparingly. This power should be invoked only in cases where strong and cogent evidence is present against a person, surpassing a prima facie case but short of conclusive evidence of guilt. The Court noted that the High Court failed to apply this stringent standard and improperly exercised its discretion by setting aside the Trial Court’s well-reasoned order. The materials on record, including the vague allegations in the complaint, the statements under Section 161 CrPC, and the examination-in-chief, did not meet the requisite threshold for impleading the appellants as accused. Consequently, the Court allowed the appeal, setting aside the High Court’s order and upholding the Trial Court’s decision. All pending applications were disposed of accordingly.


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Judgement reviewed by – Anurag Das



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