SC reserves judgement on issue of summoning additional accused after pronouncing verdict

PTI, Nov 17, 2022, 3:47 PM IST

The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on the issue of whether a lower court has the power to summon additional accused even after having decided a criminal case against the others involved. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice S A Nazeer heard submissions from Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, amicus curiae S Nagamuthu and others on questions of reference.

”Arguments heard, Judgment reserved,” the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai, A S Bopanna, V Ramasubramanian and B V Nagarathna said. The top court had in 2019 framed three questions of law on the scope and ambit of section 319 (power to proceed against other persons appearing to be guilty of offence) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and referred the matter to a larger bench for adjudication.

The three issues framed by the bench included whether the trial court has the power under section 319 of CrPC for summoning additional accused when the trial with respect to other co-accused has ended and the verdict of conviction rendered on the same date before pronouncing the summoning order.

The apex court, while referring the matter to a larger bench, had said it was of the view that the power under section 319 of CrPC being extraordinary in nature, the trial courts should be cautious while summoning the accused to avoid complexities and to ensure fair trial.

The apex court’s decision came while dealing with a plea filed by then Leader of Opposition in the Punjab assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court order dismissing his plea to quash summons in a 2015 trans-border drug smuggling case.

A court in Fazilka had issued summons to Khaira to appear before it in the case. In Khaira’s matter, while the trial was going on against 10 accused in the narcotics case, the prosecution had filed an application for summoning five additional accused, including him.

The Supreme Court had in December 2017 stayed the trial court proceedings.

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