Orders framing charge or discharge are neither interlocutory nor final in nature and therefore not affected by the bar of Section 397 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The Supreme Court was hearing a criminal appeal filed by the appellant against the Allahabad High Court order whereby a Criminal Revision Petition against a Trial court order dismissing a discharge application was turned down.
In Revision Petition, the High Court after relying on Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. v. Central Bureau of Investigation (2018) 16 SCC 299 hold that interference in the order framing charges or refusing to discharge is called for in rarest of rare case only to correct the patent error of jurisdiction.
Before the Supreme Court:
In appeal, the bench observed that the High Court has apparently under-appreciated the judgment in Asian Resurfacing and has limited the scope of criminal revision to jurisdictional errors alone.
The Bench further observed that the High Court has committed jurisdictional error by not entertaining the revision petition on merits and overlooked the fact that ‘discharge’ is a valuable right provided to the accused.
The bench importantly observed that the High Court is imbued with inherent jurisdiction to prevent abuse of process or to secure ends of justice having regard to the facts and circumstance of individual cases. Referring to Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra (1977) 4 SCC 551, the bench observed:
15…The correct position of law as laid down in Madhu Limaye (supra), thus, is that orders framing charges or refusing discharge are neither interlocutory nor final in nature and are therefore not affected by the bar of Section 397 (2) of CrPC. That apart, this Court in the abovecited cases has unequivocally acknowledged that the High Court is imbued with inherent jurisdiction to prevent abuse of process or to secure ends of justice having regard to the facts and circumstance of individual cases. As a caveat it may be stated that the High Court, while exercising its aforestated jurisdiction ought to be circumspect. The discretion vested in the High Court is to be invoked carefully and judiciously for effective and timely administration of criminal justice system. This Court, nonetheless, does not recommend a complete hands off approach. Albeit, there should be interference, may be, in exceptional cases, failing which there is likelihood of serious prejudice to the rights of a citizen. For example, when the contents of a complaint or the other purported material on record is a brazen attempt to persecute an 12 innocent person, it becomes imperative upon the Court to prevent the abuse of process of law.
The court added that the trial court while considering the discharge application is not to act as a mere post office.
“16… The Court has to sift through the evidence in order to find out whether there are sufficient grounds to try the suspect. The court has to consider the broad probabilities, total effect of evidence and documents produced and the basic infirmities appearing in the case and so on. [Union of India v. Prafulla Kumar Samal ]. Likewise, the Court has sufficient discretion to order further investigation in appropriate cases, if need be.
The Bench while allowing the appeal set aside the impugned order and remanded case back to High Court for its reconsideration in accordance with law.
Case Details: Sanjay Kumar Rai Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh [CrA 472 OF 2021]
Coram: CJI NV Ramana, Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose