The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that any alternate version of events or interpretation proffered by the accused must be carefully analysed and considered by the trial Court in compliance with the mandate of Section 313(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It held that once a plausible version has been put forth in defence under Section 313 CRPC then it is for the prosecution to negate such a defence plea.
A three judge Bench of Justice NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Krishna Murari also noted that failure of the trial Court to fairly apply its mind and consider such defence, could endanger the conviction itself.
A Criminal Appeal was filed by Parminder Kaur, challenging the judgment of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana that confirmed her conviction of three years rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 2000 under Sections 366A and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
In the present case, the appellant was a single lady living with her child, mother and a young boy as her tenant in the neighbourhood of the prosecutrix’s house. She allegedly called the prosecutrix to her house and tried to entice her to indulge in illicit intercourse with the rich tenant boy in return for clothes and trips from him. Later she allegedly also pushed her into the room occupied by the tenant boy and bolted it from the outside. On hearing the prosecutrix’s screams the door and her family was standing outside. Swiftly, the boy ran out of the room and successfully escaped.
After a few days, when the appellant caught hold of the prosecutrix outside her house and threatened to kill her brother if anyone was informed of the matter, the prosecutrix reported the matter and lodged a complaint.
The appellant however denied all allegations and offered an alternate version in her statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, claiming that there was no tenant at all in her home and that the complaint was nothing but motivated revenge at the instance of one Bhola Singh against whom she had levelled allegations of rape a few months ago.
The trial Court held that the appellant had intentionally induced the prosecutrix to perform illicit intercourse with her male tenant, and had also criminally intimidated the prosecutrix by threatening her family member. The Court took note of the large number of dependents that the appellant had to support as a single lady, and lack of commission of any assault or rape against the prosecutrix, and therefore sentenced her to three and one years rigorous imprisonment under Section 366A and Section 506 of IPC respectively.
The High Court dismissed her appeal and observed that the statement of the accused under Section 313 CrPC appeared to be an afterthought, and in the absence of any evidence proving enmity between the parties it was impossible that anyone would falsely implicate a woman in such like offence.
The Apex Court allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction and sentence awarded against the appellant on the ground that the prosecution has failed to discharge its burden of proving the guilt of the appellant under Section 366A and 506 of the IPC beyond reasonable doubt.
The Court called into question the conviction for criminal intimidation, stating that proving intention of the appellant to cause alarm or compel doing/abstaining from some act, is a prerequisite of successful conviction under Section 506 of IPC but trial court didn’t undertake any separate analysis or recorded any finding regarding this.
Talking about the importance of Section 313 of CrPC, the Court stated that after the prosecution closes its evidence and examines all its witnesses, the accused is given an opportunity of explanation through Section 313(1) (b) and such opportunity is a valuable right of the accused to seek justice and defend oneself. Any alternate version of events or interpretation proffered by the accused must be carefully analysed and considered by the trial Court in compliance with the mandate of Section 313(4). Failure of the trial Court to fairly apply its mind and consider the defence, could endanger the conviction itself.
Once a plausible version has been put forth in defence at the Section 313 CrPC examination stage, then it is for the prosecution to negate such defence plea.
In the case at hand, the alternate version given by the appellant could not be lightly brushed aside. The trial Court’s analysis of the appellant’s Section 313 defence should have therefore been deeper, before concluding it as being false or untrustworthy.
Read the judgment here;
-India Legal Bureau
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