SC Summarises 10 Well-Settled Principles of Section 313 CrPC

It must be certainly most candidly conceded at the very start before stating anything else that the essence of this learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Premchand vs The State of Maharashtra in Criminal Appeal No. 211 of 2023 and cited in 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 168 that was pronounced as recently as on March […]

It must be certainly most candidly conceded at the very start before stating anything else that the essence of this learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Premchand vs The State of Maharashtra in Criminal Appeal No. 211 of 2023 and cited in 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 168 that was pronounced as recently as on March 3, 2023 in the exercise of its criminal appellate jurisdiction are the 10 well-settled principles of Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as laid down in para 15 so very clearly, cogently and convincingly which also constitutes the real backbone! Of course, Section 313 basically pertains with the power to examine the accused. It is clearly mentioned by the Apex Court that once a written statement is filed by the accused under Section 313(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Trial Court marks it as exhibit, such statement must be treated as part of the statement of the accused under Section 313(1) read with Section 313(4) Cr.P.C as stated in para 17. It is also made clear in para 16 that it is optional for the accused to explain the circumstances put to him under section 313, but the safeguard provided by it and the valuable right that it envisions, if availed of or exercised, could prove decisive and have an effect on the final outcome, which would in effect promote utility of the exercise rather than its futility.
At the very outset, this notable judgment authored by Hon’ble Mr Justice Dipankar Datta for a Bench of the Apex Court comprising of himself and Hon’ble Mr Justice S Ravindra Bhat sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This appeal, by special leave, calls in question the judgment and order dated 06th August, 2019 of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Bench at Nagpur, whereby Criminal Appeal No 211 of 2016 carried by the appellant assailing his conviction under section 302, Indian Penal Code, 1860 (for brevity ‘IPC’) and sentence of life imprisonment with a fine of Rs.6,000.00 and a default sentence of one year as well as sentence of seven years of rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs.4,000.00 for the offence punishable under section 307, IPC was dismissed.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench envisages in para 2 that, “The prosecution case was that Nandkishor Korde (for brevity ‘the victim’) was murdered on 26th September, 2013 at around 5:00 pm by the appellant. The other three victims, namely Namdeo Korde (P.W.2), Vilas Charde (P.W.3), and Kunal Babhulkar (P.W.4) received stab injuries caused by a knife, also inflicted by the appellant. A report was lodged soon thereafter by the mother of the victim Rekhabai Korde, (P.W.1), leading to registration of an F.I.R. under sections 302 and 307, IPC. The post-mortem report dated 27th September, 2013 (Ext.35) recorded “stab injury to neck” of the victim as the probable cause of death.”
As it turned out, the Bench then discloses in para 3 that, “Consequent to the registration of the F.I.R., Police Inspector Bharat Thakre (P.W.8) took up the investigation, visited the spot of the incident and prepared spot panchnama. He found the spot of the incident stained with blood and recovered a blood-stained knife, a wooden stick stained with blood, three pairs of chappals, two spectacles, and a blue dot pen. P.W.8 arrested the appellant and since he too had received injuries, he was referred to the Rural Hospital, Katol for his medical examination.”
Further, the Bench reveals in para 4 that, “Upon completion of the investigation, a charge sheet under sections 302 and 307, IPC was filed before the concerned court against the appellant. Upon committal, charges for the above-said offences were framed to which the appellant pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried.”
As we see, the Bench then mentions in para 5 that, “The prosecution examined 8 (eight) witnesses to support of its case. None was examined on behalf of the defence. However, the appellant filed a written statement, which we propose to refer to at a later part of this judgment. The Additional Sessions Judge largely relied on the statements of P.W.2, P.W.3, and P.W.4 to convict the appellant. The Court concluded that the appellant committed the murder of the victim with the knife (Art.1) and also attempted to commit the murder of P.W.2, P.W.3 and P.W.4. The defence of the appellant appeared to the Court to be false and the prosecution was held to have proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. This was followed by the convictions and sentences, noted above.”
What’s more, the Bench then points out in para 6 that, “The aforesaid judgment having been challenged before the High Court, the relevant Division Bench was of the view that the findings did not warrant any interference and that the appeal was devoid of any merit; hence, it was dismissed.”
While citing the relevant case laws, the Bench mentions in para 14 that, “A bench of three Hon’ble Judges of this Court in State of U.P. vs Lakhmi (1998) 4 SCC 336 has extensively dealt with the aspect of value or utility of a statement under section 313, Cr. P.C. The object of section 313, Cr. P.C. was explained by this Court in Sanatan Naskar vs. State of West Bengal (2010) 8 SCC 249. The rationale behind the requirement to comply with section 313, Cr. P.C. was adverted to by this Court in Reena Hazarika vs. State of Assam (2019) 13 SCC 289. Close on the heels thereof, in Parminder Kaur vs. State of Punjab (2020) 8 SCC 811, this Court restated the importance of section 313, Cr. P.C. upon noticing the view taken in Reena Hazarika (supra) and M. Abbas vs. State of Kerala (2001) 10 SCC 103.”
Most significantly, the Bench then lays bare in para 15 what constitutes the nucleus of this learned judgment propounding that, “What follows from these authorities may briefly be summarized thus:
a. section 313, Cr. P.C. [clause (b) of sub-section 1] is a valuable safeguard in the trial process for the accused to establish his innocence;
b. section 313, which is intended to ensure a direct dialogue between the court and the accused, casts a mandatory duty on the court to question the accused generally on the case for the purpose of enabling him to personally explain any circumstances appearing in the evidence against him;
c. when questioned, the accused may not admit his involvement at all and choose to flatly deny or outrightly repudiate whatever is put to him by the court;
d. the accused may even admit or own incriminating circumstances adduced against him to adopt legally recognized defences;
e. an accused can make a statement without fear of being cross-examined by the prosecution or the latter having any right to cross-examine him;
f. the explanations that an accused may furnish cannot be considered in isolation but has to be considered in conjunction with the evidence adduced by the prosecution and, therefore, no conviction can be premised solely on the basis of the section 313 statement(s);
g. statements of the accused in course of examination under section 313, since not on oath, do not constitute evidence under section 3 of the Evidence Act, yet, the answers given are relevant for finding the truth and examining the veracity of the prosecution case;
h. statement(s) of the accused cannot be dissected to rely on the inculpatory part and ignore the exculpatory part and has/have to be read in the whole, inter alia, to test the authenticity of the exculpatory nature of admission; and
i. if the accused takes a defence and proffers any alternate version of events or interpretation, the court has to carefully analyze and consider his statements;
j. any failure to consider the accused’s explanation of incriminating circumstances, in a given case, may vitiate the trial and/or endanger the conviction.”
In short, it is worth noting that the Bench notes in para 23 that, “Most importantly, the circumstances in which the incident occurred does clearly negate any suggestion of premeditation in mind. That apart, it cannot be overlooked that while the victim was middle-aged, the appellant was in his late fifties. At the time of the alleged incident, apart from P.W.s 2 and 3, Shankarrao Fartode, Umrao Charde, Ramesh Korde (all three not examined) were present at the spot, as per the version of P.W.2. It is indeed improbable that in the presence of such persons, the appellant wielding a weapon like a knife would come to the spot with an intention to commit the offence of murder overpowering all of them without any sufficient reason or provocation. In our opinion, the trial court lacked in objectivity by not examining the facts and circumstances as to whether the situation was such as is likely to reasonably cause an apprehension in the mind of the appellant that there was imminent danger to his body, of either death or grievous hurt being caused to him, if he did not act in private defence. To impute intention to cause death or the intention to cause that particular injury, which proved fatal, in these circumstances seems to be unreasonable.”
Be it noted, the Bench notes in para 25 that, “Taking an overall view of the matter, we are inclined to the opinion that the appellant was entitled to the benefit of Exception 4 to section 300, IPC.”
Briefly stated, the Bench holds in para 26 that, “The upshot of the above discussion is that this is not a case where the appellant could be convicted for murder of the victim. His conviction for murder and sentence of life imprisonment are liable to be set aside. It is ordered accordingly.”
While taking a considerate and practical approach, the Bench postulates in para 27 that, “However, we think it proper to convict the appellant under section 304, Part II, IPC. Since the appellant has suffered imprisonment for more than nine years and he is presently in his late sixties, we consider incarceration for such period as adequate punishment. The appellant shall be released from custody forthwith, unless required in connection with any other case.”
Adding more to it, the Bench adds in para 28 that, “Since the appellant has already served the sentence imposed for commission of offence under section 307, IPC, based on a conviction which is highly suspect, we allow it to rest.”
Still more, the Bench directs in para 29 that, “The appeal stands allowed to the extent indicated above. No costs.”
Finally, the Bench concludes by holding in para 30 that, “Before parting, we observe that this is a case where the police should have investigated the injuries suffered by the appellant too. The appellant also did not pursue any available remedy to right the wrong. However, in view of little less than a decade having passed since the incident took place, any direction to investigate at this distance of time may not yield any fruitful result. We, therefore, refrain from issuing such direction.”
All told, we thus must be now absolutely clear after having a cursory look at this remarkable, robust, rational and recent judgment that what are the salient principles of Section 313 of the CrPC which we have already discussed quite elaborately and the Apex Court has certainly taken the most balanced stand in deciding this case. It thus merits no reiteration that all the Trial Courts and so also the High Courts must definitely pay heed and strictly abide by what is laid down so very elegantly, eloquently and effectively in this leading case! No denying it!