Can court summon an accused after verdict? SC lays down law

Five-judge bench lays down law under section 319 of CrPC

FPJ BureauUpdated: Monday, December 05, 2022, 09:56 PM IST
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Can court summon an accused after verdict? SC lays down law | Representative pic

New Delhi: A five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Justice S Abdul Nazeer, on Monday laid down guidelines for the trial court in the case of a narcotics case of Punjab that any additional accused under Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) can be summoned only before concluding the conviction with acquittal or imposing of a sentence.

It, however, ruled that the summoning order cannot be based on the evidence recorded in the main concluded trial. It said the court must pause the trial if it finds evidence or an application filed under Section 319 regarding involvement of any other person in committing the offence.

The Nov 2017 case

The bench, which also comprised Justices B R Gavai, A S Bopanna, V Ramasubramanian and B V Nagarathna, laid down the guidelines to be followed by the competent court under Section 319 CrPC. It says there should be re-hearing, if the judgment had been reserved, and there should be a joint trial. It says the trial shall be afresh and de novo proceedings be held if the decision is to summon additional accused to hold a joint trial.

However, there can be a separate trial of the summoned accused afresh against him if the main case led to acquittal or conviction.

The case relates to one Sukhpal Singh Khaira who challenged the dismissal of his case by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in November 2017 and upholding the trial court's order of October 2017. The case relates to an FIR lodged at Police Station Sadar, Jalalabaad on March 5, 2013 against 11 accused for the narcotic offences as also Arms Act and the Information Technology Act.

Only 10 accused were charge-sheeted by a sessions judge while Khaira's name was not mentioned by the witnesses, but he was named in the second application by the prosecution in July 2017. In its decision in May 2019, a 2-judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that the actual stage at which the trial concluded is required to be authoritatively considered since the power of Section 319 of CrPC is extraordinary in nature. The issue became ticklish since both the judgment and summons to Khaira were issued on the same date, i.e. 31 October 2017.

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