Title: AJITSINH CHEHUJI RATHOD V STATE OF GUJARAT & ANR.
Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S). OF 2024 (Arising out of SLP(Crl.) No(s). 16641 of 2023)
Dated on: 29.1.2024
Corum: HON’BLE JUSTICE B.R GAVAI & JUSTICE SANDEEP MEHTA
Facts of the case
The present case focuses around a cheque issued by Ajitsinh Chehuji Rathod for Rs. 10 lakhs that bounced due to inadequate funds and account dormancy. Rathod attempted to appeal his conviction by introducing further evidence to indicate that his signature on the cheque was faked. He further claimed that he had not received the notice under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. In trial court Rathod, undeterred by his conviction, filed an appeal with the Principal Sessions Judge in Gandhinagar. During the appeal, he submitted an application under Section 391 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This application sought authorization to introduce new evidence at the appellate stage, with the express goal of obtaining the opinion of a handwriting expert for a signature comparison. Rathod also asked the summons of a Post Office official to support his defence claim that he never received the notice under Section 138 of the NI Act. Unfortunately for Rathod, the Principal Sessions Judge, Gandhinagar, denied his application under Section 391 CrPC in a detailed ruling. Determined, Rathod filed Criminal appeal before the High Court of Gujarat. However, in a ruling the High Court dismissed Rathod’s claim under Sections 482 and 391 CrPC, prompting the current appeal to the Supreme Court.
Section 391 of CrPC is a provision that empowers the appellate court to take additional evidence or direct it to be taken by a lower court, if it thinks it is necessary for the disposal of the appeal. Section 482 of CrPC is a provision that saves the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to prevent abuse of the process of any court or to secure the ends of justice.
The appellant had filed an appeal with the appellate court under Section 391 of the CrPC, requesting that the cheque be sent to a handwriting expert and the post office official be summoned to substantiate his defence. The appellate court denied his application, and he appealed the decision to the High Court under Section 482 of the CrPC. The High Court also dismissed his petition, ruling that the application under Section 391 of the CrPC was unjustified and that the inherent powers under Section 482 of the CrPC could not be utilized to bridge a gap in the defence evidence.
Court analysis and judgement
They accepted that the ability to record further evidence under Section 391 CrPC should be used sparingly, only when reasonable diligence was exercised throughout the trial or new facts were discovered during the appeal, preventing the party from submitting evidence. The Court noted that throughout the trial, Rathod cross-examined a witness from the Bank of Baroda to bolster his argument. However, no queries were made to the witness about the authenticity of the signatures on the cheque. Hence court found no reason to interfere with the HC orders and concluded that the case lacked merit and dismissed the said appeal.
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Written by- Namitha Ramesh