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EXAMINATION OF ACCUSED THROUGH THE LENS OF SECTION 313 OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE, 1973.

Introduction


The punishment for crime, any act or omission prohibited and punishable by law, is determined by the procedures of a criminal trial. These procedures aim at resolving the accusations brought against a person who has been accused of a crime. In India, criminal trials are well-established statutory, administrative, and judicial frameworks.[1] Basically, criminal cases in India encompass five stages i.e. pre-trial stage, evidence stage, trial stage, stage of evidence of the prosecution, and post-trial stage. With regards to the criminal trial, there are seven stages i.e. examination of accused, discharge and framing of charge; conviction on a plea of guilt; evidence for prosecution; examination of accused; evidence for the defence; argument; and judgment.[2] This article is concerned with the aspect of examination of statement of accused under section 313 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which is a vital component of the stage of evidence of prosecution. This statutory provision finds its basis in the fundamental concept of natural justice for the accused, who must have knowledge of the circumstances they are in so that they can get a fair chance of explaining themselves. The courts are mandated to ensure conformity to the section and give the accused a fair chance to explain their conduct; however, any omission on the part of the court doesn’t ipso facto invalidate the trial unless something can prove that prejudice was done against the accused.

Analysis of the Provisions of Section 313


Section 313, as already mentioned, is about the power to examine the accused. The objective of this section, as laid down in the case of Sanatan Naskar and Another v. State of West Bengal[3], is firstly, to direct a direct conversation between the court and the accused and giving the accused a chance to explain their side of the story and the inculpatory evidence against them; and secondly, to check the accuracy and truthfulness of the prosecution’s case established before the court.[4] Its sub-sections are:


(1) In every inquiry or trial, for the purpose of enabling the accused personally to explain any circumstances appearing in the evidence against him, the Court-

(a) may at any stage, without previously warning the accused put such questions to him as the Court considers necessary;

(b) shall, after the witnesses for the prosecution have been examined and before he is called on for his defence, question him generally on the case:


Provided that in a summons case, where the Court has dispensed with the personal attendance of the accused, it may also dispense with his examination under clause (b).


In the aforementioned subsection, it is clear that clause 1(a) is discretionary and non-compulsory and the court can question the accused if need be, without any prior knowledge to the accused. However, clause 1(b) is mandatory and the accused shall be generally asked questions on the case, but it has an attached condition i.e. the court may dispense with this examination of circumstances if it is a summons- case where the court already has discharged the accused with personal attendance. A summons- case is the one in which the offence is trivial and the non-cognizable offences for which the punishment is not more than 2 years. In Nar Singh v. State of Haryana 2014, it was held that section 313 (1) (b) isn’t merely a formality but obligates the court to afford the accused an opportunity to explain every bit of the case’s circumstances and incriminating evidence against them.[5]


(2) No oath shall be administered to the accused when he is examined under sub-section (1).

In this clause, it has been provided that the accused shall not be examined on oath. In the case of Dehal Singh v. State of HP 2010[6], the assertion of the accused wasn’t treated as evidence because it was not recorded with the administering the oath. The reasoning that was provided for not treating the statement as recorded under section 313 was that the accused cannot be cross-examined with respect to those statements, unlike when they appear as witnesses in defence to establish the inaccuracy of the charge.


(3) The accused shall not render himself liable to punishment by refusing to answer such questions, or by giving false answers to them.


In the case of Raj Kumar Singh v. State of Rajasthan 2013[7], with regards to sub-section (3), the court held that section 313 casts the duty of giving the accused an opportunity to furnish an explanation with reference to the accusations and the incriminating material presented against them. But, if the accused is given the freedom to remain silent during the investigation process as well as in front of the court, they may choose to do so or may even remain in absolute denial while the statement is recorded under section 313. However, at the same time, in this event, the court has the entitlement to deduce an inference even an adverse one against the accused, as it will accordance with the law.

(4) The answers given by the accused may be taken into consideration in such inquiry or trial and put in evidence for or against him in any other inquiry into, or trial for, any other offence which such answers may tend to show he has committed.


This clause indicates that the accused person’s recorded statement may be referred to in such inquiry or trial and be used as evidence in their favor or against in any other probe into any other offence or trial for such other offence which the recorded statement may tend to reflect they are guilty of. In the case of Sanatan Naskar & Another v. State of West Bengal 2010[8], the court asserted that the appropriate responses given by the accused ought not to be considered in confinement but in combination with the proof given by the arraignment.


[(5) The Court may take help of Prosecutor and Defence Counsel in preparing relevant questions which are to be put to the accused and the Court may permit the filing of written statement by the accused as sufficient compliance of this section.]


The aforementioned sub-section was added under section 313 through the Amendment Act of 2008 vide clause 22, keeping in mind the objective of eliminating delay in trials. The court, if need be, may seek assistance from the Prosecutor and Defence Counsel in the process of forming relevant questions to be asked while recording the accused person’s statement. In United Phosphorous vs Sunita Narain and Another 2010[9], it was observed that this sub-section extends the right of the accused to file a written statement as allowed under section 233 (2) and section 243 (1). It was also recognized that there exists no limitation in filing the said written statements on the basis of legal advice.

Fair Hearing of the Accused


Proper administration of justice requires assurance of the right to free trial which is a fundamental guarantee of rule of law and human rights. A fair trial incorporates proper and fair chances allowed by law to prove innocence and not just absolutely rely on the prosecution’s case. As per Article 10 of UDHR, everyone equally has the right to a fair hearing and public hearing by a competent, impartial and independent tribunal, while it determines any criminal charges against them. Also, Article 41 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) declares that all people are entitled to be treated equally before the courts and tribunals. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution forbids the condemnation of people’s right to life or liberty, except in conformity to the procedure established by law. In the case of Moti Lal Saraf v. State of Jammu & Kashmir & Another 2007[10], it was laid down that the right to fair trial flows from right to life guaranteed under Article 21.


With regards to section 313, in the case of Reena Hazarika v. State of Assam[11], it was adjudged that the section confers an important right on the accused to prove their innocence and can reasonably be given a status of the constitutional right to a fair trial under Article 21 of the Constitution as against a mere statutory right. Therefore, the Supreme Court has upgraded the section from a statutory provision to a constitutional provision as a fundamental right and has taken a step further to say that if an accused takes defence post the closing of prosecution evidence under section 313 (1) (b), the court is obligated to consider the same under section 313 (4).[12]


Omitting the questioning of the accused on any incriminating evidence or circumstance is the non-compliance with section 313 of CrPC. To understand the implications of this non-compliance, it is important to understand the scope and significance of section 313. As per section 313(1), there are two kinds of examinations that take place: clause (a) of the section pertains to any stage of the trial or inquiry, and clause (b) of the section applies to post the examination of prosecution witnesses and pre- calling upon of the accused to enter upon their defence.[13] The former one is optional and specific; however, the latter one is mandatory and general.


In another important case, Shivaji Sahabrao Bobde & Another v. State of Maharashtra[14], the court said that to acquaint the prisoner to every incriminating material so as to enable them to explain it is criminal trial’s basic fairness, failing at ensuring which can follow consequential miscarriage of justice, hence impacting the validity of the trial.

Conclusion


The Section bestows a reasonable, just, and sensible use of natural justice. It is a procedural defence through which the court acts. The essential aim of this Section is to furnish the accused with a chance to clarify those conditions which show up in the prosecution evidence against him. In addition to the fact that it enables the courts to scrutinize the accused at any stage all of a sudden, it empowers the accused too to actually go into an exchange with the court to clarify their honesty. It allows the accused to talk transparently and without the hazard of discipline, as the attestation recorded is without a promise, and the accused can't convey them to be capable by offering sham reactions.

[1] All about the various stages of the criminal trial in India iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/all-about-the-various-stages-of-criminal-trial-in-india/ (last visited Apr 17, 2021)

[2] 6-Examination of accused us 313-by P Pandu Ranga Reddy .pdf, https://districts.ecourts.gov.in/sites/default/files/6-Examination%20of%20accused%20us%20313-by%20P%20Pandu%20Ranga%20Reddy%20.pdf (last visited Apr 17, 2021)

[3] Sanatan Naskar and Another v. State of West Bengal, AIR 2010 SC 3507

[4] Scope and Significance of Examination of Accused under Section 313, CrPC iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/scope-and-significance-of-examination-of-accused-under-section-313-crpc/ (last visited Apr 19, 2021)

[5] Nar Singh v. State of Haryana, AIR 2015 SC 310

[6] Dehal Singh v. State of HP, AIR 2010 SC 3594

[7] Raj Kumar Singh v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 2013 SC 3150

[8] Sanatan Naskar & Another v. State of West Bengal, AIR 2010 SC 3507

[9] United Phosphorus v. Sunita Narain and Another, CRL.M.C.2116/2010

[10]Moti Lal Saraf v. State of Jammu & Kashmir & Another AIR 2007 SC 56

[11] Reena Hazarika v. State of Assam, SCC Online SCC 2281

[12] Spectrum of Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Court’s power to examine the accused., , Law Times Journal (2020), https://lawtimesjournal.in/spectrum-of-section-313-of-the-code-of-criminal-procedure-1973-courts-power-to-examine-the-accused/ (last visited May 26, 2021).

[13] The victim of the offense or the accused should not suffer for laches or omission of the Court; SC issues guidelines for Appellate Courts for dealing with the plea of non-compliance of S. 313 Cr. P.C..., https://www.livelaw.in/victim-offence-accused-suffer-laches-omission-court-sc-issues-guidelines-appellate-courts-dealing-plea-non-compliance-s-313-cr-p-c/ (last visited Apr 21, 2021)

[14] Shivaji Sahabrao Bobade & Anr. v. State of Maharashtra; (1973) 2 SCC 793: (AIR 1973 SC 2622)



Navin Kumar Jaggi

Vanshika Mehra

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