Supreme Court Lays Guidelines For Deferment Of Cross Examination In Criminal Cases

The Supreme Court of India while deciding the Criminal Appeal No. 1321 Of 2018 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 4652 of 2018] in case State of Kerala   Versus  Rasheed  dealing with issue of deferment of Cross examination in criminal trials    observed that

Section 231(2) of the Cr.P.C., however, confers a discretion on the

Judge to defer the cross­ examination of any witness until any other

witness or witnesses have been examined, or recall any witness for

further cross ­examination, in appropriate cases. Judicial discretion has

to be exercised in consonance with the statutory framework and context

while being aware of reasonably foreseeable consequences.5  The party

seeking deferral under Section 231(2) of the Cr.P.C. must give sufficient

reasons to invoke the exercise of discretion by the Judge, and deferral

cannot be asserted as a matter of right.

In this case, Krishnaprasad, who was the

occupant of a flat in the building where ­Narayanan was

serving   as   a   security   guard,   had   called   for   an   ambulance.

Krishnaprasad, along with others, then carried an unconscious

person out of the bathroom of the flat to the ambulance. The

unconscious person was later identified to be Satheesan, who was

declared dead on being taken to the hospital. CW 1­Narayanan

then made a statement that Krishnaprasad had been staying in

the flat for two months, and was a companion of the Respondent

Accused No. 2, Rasheed. It was alleged that the flat had been

taken on rent by the Respondent/­Accused No. 2.

Charges were framed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Thrissur.

CWs   1   to   5   were   summoned   as   Prosecution   Witnesses   on

December 16, 2017.

On the same day, after the examination ­in­ chief of CW 1

Narayanan was conducted, an Application under Section 231(2) of

the  Cr.P.C. was filed by the Counsel for the Respondent  ­Accused

No. 2 seeking adjournment of the cross ­examination of CW 1

Narayanan, as also of CWs 2 to 5, to a date after the examination

in­chief of CWs 2 to 5 was completed. It was stated in the said

Application, that the case of the Respondent ­Accused No. 2 would

be  would be revealed to the Prosecution.

The Additional Sessions Judge   dismissed the Application filed on behalf of the Respondent

 

The Supreme Court issued guidelines to the trial Courts  with regard to  deferment of cross examination in criminal trial  while observing

 While deciding an Application under Section 231(2) of the Cr.P.C., a

balance must be struck between the rights of the accused, and the

prerogative of the prosecution to lead evidence.

The following factors must be kept in consideration:

1.possibility of undue influence on witness(es);

2. possibility of threats to witness(es);

3. possibility that non ­deferral would enable subsequent witnesses

giving  evidence   on  similar   facts   to  tailor   their   testimony   to

circumvent the defence strategy;

 4.possibility of loss of memory of the witness(es) whose examination

in ­chief has been completed;

5. occurrence  of   delay   in  the  trial,   and   the   non availability   of

witnesses, if deferral is allowed, in view of Section 309(1) of the

Cr.P.C.14.

 The Supreme Court further observed that these factors are illustrative for guiding the exercise of discretion by a

Judge under Section 231(2) of the Cr.P.C.

The Supreme Court also issued practice guidelines to the Trial Courts in India for conducting a criminal trial 

in order to deal  effectively and to dispose of the trial  as early as possible that

i). a detailed case ­calendar must be prepared at the commencement

of the trial after framing of charges;

ii). the   case­ calendar   must   specify   the   dates   on   which   the

examination ­in ­chief   and   cross­ examination   (if   required)   of

witnesses is to be conducted;

iii). the case­ calendar  must  keep in  view  the proposed order   of

production of witnesses by parties, expected time required for

examination of witnesses, availability of witnesses at the relevant

time, and convenience of both the prosecution as well as the

defence, as far as possible; 

“309. Power to postpone or adjourn proceedings.–(1) In every inquiry or trial the proceedings shall be continued from day­ to­day until all the witnesses in attendance have been examined, unless the Court finds the adjournment of the same beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to be recorded…” 

Iv)testimony of witnesses deposing on the same subject­ matter must

be proximately scheduled;

v.) the request for deferral under Section 231(2) of the Cr.P.C. must

be preferably made before the preparation of the case ­calendar;

vi.) the grant for request of deferral must be premised on sufficient

reasons   justifying   the   deferral   of   cross­ examination   of   each

witness, or set of witnesses;

vii). while granting a request for deferral of cross ­examination of any

witness, the trial courts must specify a proximate date for the

cross­ examination of that witness, after the examination ­in ­chief

of such witness(es) as has been prayed for;

viii). the   case­ calendar,   prepared   in   accordance   with   the   above

guidelines, must be followed strictly, unless departure from the

same becomes absolutely necessary;

ix). in cases where trial courts have granted a request for deferral,

necessary steps must be taken to safeguard witnesses from being

subjected to undue influence, harassment or intimidation

 

 

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