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Section 319 CrPC Has To Be Exercised Before Pronouncement Of Sentence In Case Of Conviction : Supreme Court

A constitutional court of the Supreme Court issued the verdict on Monday in response to the reference to the sphere of jurisdiction under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which gives the court the power to subpoena additional suspects.

The following are the issues answered by the Constitution Bench consisting of Judges Abdul Nazeer, BR Gavai, AS Bopanna, V. Ramasubramanian and BV Nagarathna,:

1. Whether the court has jurisdiction under Article 319 of the CrPC to summon other suspects when the trial of other co-defendants has ended and the sentence of conviction has been rendered on the same date before the summons was issued?

The power under Article 319 of the CrPC must be invoked and exercised before the sentence is pronounced when there is a sentence of conviction of the accused. In the case of an acquittal, the power must be exercised before the acquittal is pronounced. Therefore, the summons should precede the conclusion of the trial by imposing a penalty in case of conviction. If the warrant is issued on the same day, it will have to be examined as to the facts and circumstances of each case and if such a writ of summons is issued either after the acquittal or after the imposition of a sentence in case of conviction, the same shall apply are not sustainable.

2. Whether the court has the power under Article 319 of the CrPC to summon additional suspects when the trial regarding certain other absconding suspects (whose presence is subsequently ensured) is ongoing/pending, because it is split off from the main process?

The court has the power to summon additional suspects when the trial continues in respect of the absconding accused after securing his presence, subject to the evidence contained in the split (split) trial indicating the involvement of the wanted accused to be summoned. But the evidence recorded in the main process that has been concluded cannot form the basis of the summons if that power has not been exercised in the main process until its conclusion.

3. What are the guidelines that the competent court must follow when exercising jurisdiction under Article 319 Cr.PC?

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(i) If the competent court finds evidence or if a request is made under section 319 of the CrPC in relation to the involvement of another person in the commission of the crime on the basis of evidence recorded at any stage of the trial before the acquittal or conviction order is issued interrupts the trial at that stage.

(ii) The Court will then first decide whether or not it is necessary to subpoena and order the additional defendant.

(iii) If the decision of the court is to exercise the power under section 319 of the CrPC and summon the accused, such writ of summons shall be issued before proceeding with the main proceedings.

(iv) If the writ of summons of another defendant is issued, depending on the stage at which it is issued, the Court will also consider whether such writ of summons shall be tried jointly with the other accused or separately.

(v) If the decision relates to a joint trial, the new trial will not begin until the presence of the summoned defendant has been ensured.

(vi) If the decision is that the defendant summoned may be tried separately, there shall be no impediment to the Court by virtue of such order continuing and completing the trial of the defendant who has been prosecuted.

(vii) If the proceedings which have been interrupted as in (i) above are in a case where the defendant who was tried is to be acquitted and the decision is that the summoned defendant may be retried separately, there shall be no impediment to the judgment to be acquitted in the main action.

(viii) If the power is not invoked or exercised in the main process until its conclusion and if there is a split (divided) case, the power under section 319 of the CrPC may only be invoked or exercised if there is evidence to that effect is effect, pointing to the involvement of the additional accused to be subpoenaed in the split (split) process.

(ix) If, after the arguments have been heard and the matter reserved for judgment, the opportunity arises for the Court to invoke and exercise its jurisdiction under Section 319 of the CrPC, it shall be the proper course of action for the court to rehear the case.

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(x) When filing for a new hearing, the procedure set forth above for deciding whether to subpoena; holding a joint process or otherwise will be decided and proceeded accordingly.

(xi) Even in such a case, at that stage, if the decision is to summon additional defendants and hold a joint trial, the trial will be conducted again and the new proceeding will be held.

(xii) if, in that circumstance, the decision is to hold a separate trial in the case of the defendant summoned as previously specified; (a) The main action may be decided by pronouncing the conviction and sentence and then proceeding again against the summoned defendant. (b) In the event of an acquittal, the order to that effect is issued in the main action and proceedings are then taken again against the summoned defendant.

Power must be exercised before the process is completed

The verdict written by Justice AS Bopanna ruled that the power under Article 319 must be exercised before the conclusion of the trial. The trial ends when the verdict is handed down.

“when it comes to such power to summon the additional defendant and to try such person with the already charged defendant against whom the trial is pending, it will have to be exercised before the trial is concluded. The connotation ‘closing of the trial’ in the present case cannot be regarded as the stage until the evidence is established, but must be understood as the stage before the judgment is delivered”.

As far as the acquittal is concerned, the process is concluded when the acquittal is pronounced. However, in a case of conviction, the process does not end when the conviction is pronounced, but when the sentence is pronounced.

“it cannot be said that the process is complete on the basis of the judgment of the conviction alone, although it may be the case in the case of an acquittal within the meaning of Article 232 of the CrPC, since in that case nothing more needs to be done to be made by the learned judge, except to record an acquittal resulting in the conclusion of the trial”.

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In that view of the case, if the Court concludes from the evidence recorded at trial that another person is involved, the power to summon the accused under section 319 of the CrPC may be exercised by an order to that effect to be issued before the sentence is imposed and the sentence is completed in all respects and brings the process to an end. In arriving at such a conclusion, the requirement of subsection (4) to section 319 of the CrPC should also be taken into account.

Case Status: Sukhpal Singh Khaira v. Punjab State Crl A. Nr. 885/2019

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 1009

Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 – Article 319 – Constitution of the Supreme Court Bench issues comprehensive guidelines on the exercise of powers to summon additional suspects – paragraph 33

Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 – Article 319 – The power under Article 319 of the CrPC must be invoked and exercised before sentencing when there is a conviction of the accused. In the case of an acquittal, the power must be exercised before the acquittal is pronounced. Therefore, the summons must precede the conclusion of the trial by imposing a penalty in case of conviction – par. 33

Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 – Article 319 – The court has the power to summon additional suspects when the trial continues in respect of the absconding accused after securing his presence, subject to the evidence contained in the split (split ) process pointing to the involvement of the accused wanted to be subpoenaed. But the evidence recorded in the main trial which has concluded cannot form the basis of the summons if that power has not been exercised in the main trial until its conclusion – paragraph 33

Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 – Article 319 – Power must be exercised before the end of the trial, i.e. before the verdict – Section 20

Click here to read/download the verdict


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