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STRONG AND EFFICIENT CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM NEEDED – RAPE CASE- 2011 SC

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JUSTICE Aftab Alam and JUSTICE R.M. Lodha State of Uttar Pradesh v. Chhotey Lal, (2011) 2 SCC 550) A woman who is victim of sexual assault is not an accomplice to the crime. Her evidence cannot be tested with suspicion as that of an accomplice. As a matter of fact, the evidence of the prosecutrix is similar to the evidence of an injured complainant or witness. The testimony of prosecutrix, if found to be reliable, by itself, may be sufficient to convict the culprit and no corroboration of her evidence is necessary. In prosecutions of rape, the law does not require corroboration. It is only by way of abundant caution that court may look for some corroboration so as to satisfy its conscience and rule out any false accusations.

In examining the evidence of the prosecutrix the courts must be alive to the conditions prevalent in the Indian society and must not be swayed by beliefs in other countries. The courts must be sensitive and responsive to the plight of the female victim of sexual assault. The stigma that attaches to the victim of rape in Indian society, ordinarily, rules out the leveling of false accusations.

Rape is a heinous crime and once it is established against a person charged of the offence, justice must be done to the victim of crime by awarding suitable punishment to the crime doer. The facts that the incident is of 1989; the prosecutrix has married after the incident and A-1 has a family of his own and sending A-1 to jail now may disturb his family life, cannot be considered for a soft option.

A strong and efficient criminal justice system is a guarantee to the rule of law and vibrant civil society. Administration of criminal justice system is not working in our country as it should. The police reforms have not taken place despite directions of this Court in the case of Prakash Singh & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors. The investigators need to have professional orientation and modern tools. On many occasions impartial investigation suffers because of political interference. The criminal trials are protracted because of non-appearance of official witnesses on time and the non-availability of the facilities for recording evidence by video conferencing. The public prosecutors have their limitations; the defence lawyers do not make themselves available and the court would be routinely informed about their pre-occupation with other matters; the courts remain over-burdened with the briefs listed on the day and they do not have adequate infrastructure. The adjournments thus become routine; the casualty is justice. It is imperative that the criminal cases relating to offences against the State, corruption, dowry death, domestic violence, sexual assault, financial fraud and cyber crimes are fast tracked and decided in a fixed time frame, preferably, of three years including the appeal provisions. It is high time that immediate and urgent steps are taken in amending the procedural and other laws to achieve the objectives.

APPRECIATION OF EVIDENCE IN CRIMINAL CASES 2011 SC

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Justice B.S. Chauhan, Justice A.K. Patnaik in Takdir Samsuddin Sheikh vs State Of Gujarat & Anr Decided on 21 October, 2011 We are of the view that all omissions/contradictions pointed out by the appellants' counsel had been trivial in nature, which do not go to the root of the cause. It is settled legal proposition that while appreciating the evidence, the court has to take into consideration whether the contradictions/omissions/improvements/embellishments etc. had been of such magnitude that they may materially affect the trial. Minor contradictions, inconsistencies, omissions or improvements on trivial matters without affecting the case of the prosecution should not be made the court to reject the evidence in its entirety. The court after going through the entire evidence must form an opinion about the credibility of the witnesses and the appellate court in natural course would not be justified in reviewing the same again without justifiable reasons……… While appreciating the evidence of witness considering him as the interested witness, the court must bear in mind that the term `interested' postulates that the witness must have some direct interest in having the accused somehow or the other convicted for some other reason. …….. This Court has consistently held that as a general rule the Court can and may act on the testimony of a single witness provided he is wholly reliable. There is no legal impediment in convicting a person on the sole testimony of a single witness. That is the logic of Section 134 of the Evidence Act, 1872. But if there are doubts about the testimony, the court will insist on corroboration. In fact, it is not the number, the quantity, but the quality that is material. The time- honoured principle is that evidence has to be weighed and not counted. The test is whether the evidence has a ring of truth, is cogent, credible and trustworthy or otherwise. The legal system has laid emphasis on value, weight and quality of evidence rather than on quantity, multiplicity or plurality of witnesses. It is, therefore, open to a competent court to fully and completely rely on a solitary witness and record conviction. Conversely, it may acquit the accused in spite of testimony of several witnesses if it is not satisfied about the quality of evidence.

GIVING FALSE EVIDENCE BY FALSE AFFIDAVIT IS AN EVIL - CRIMINAL CONTEMPT PROCEDURE EXPLAINED 2011 SC

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Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice B.S. Chauhan, In Muthu Karuppan vs. Parithi Ilamvazhuthi & Anr., AIR 2011 SC 1645 = (2011) 5 SCC 496, Giving false evidence by filing false affidavit is an evil which must be effectively curbed with a strong hand. Prosecution should be ordered when it is considered expedient in the interest of justice to punish the delinquent, but there must be a prima facie case of deliberate falsehood on a matter of substance and the court should be satisfied that there is a reasonable foundation for the charge. In a series of decisions, this Court held that the enquiry/contempt proceedings should be initiated by the court in exceptional circumstances where the court is of the opinion that perjury has been committed by a party deliberately to have some beneficial order from the court. There must be grounds of a nature higher than mere surmise or suspicion for initiating such proceedings. There must be distinct evidence of the commission of an offence by such a person as mere suspicion cannot bring home the charge of making false statement, more so, the court has to determine as on facts whether it is expedient in the interest of justice to enquire into offence which appears to have been committed.

The contempt proceedings being quasi criminal in nature, burden and standard of proof is the same as required in criminal cases. The charges have to be framed as per the statutory rules framed for the purpose and proved beyond reasonable doubt keeping in mind that the alleged contemnor is entitled to the benefit of doubt. Law does not permit imposing any punishment in contempt proceedings on mere probabilities, equally, the court cannot punish the alleged contemnor without any foundation merely on conjectures and surmises. As observed above, the contempt proceeding being quasi criminal in nature require strict adherence to the procedure prescribed under the rules applicable in such proceedings. We have already pointed out that while dealing with criminal contempt in terms of Section 2(c) of the Act, strict procedures are to be adhered. In a series of decisions, this Court has held that jurisdiction to initiate proceedings for contempt as also the jurisdiction to punish for contempt are discretionary with the court. Contempt generally and criminal contempt certainly is a matter between the court and the alleged contemnor. No one can compel or demand as of right initiation of proceedings for contempt. The person filing an application or petition before the court does not become a complainant or petitioner in the proceedings. He is just an informer or relator. His duty ends with the facts being brought to the notice of the court. It is thereafter for the court to act on such information or not.

CASES REFERRED:-

The whole object of prescribing procedural mode of taking cognizance is to safeguard the valuable time of the Court from being wasted by frivolous contempt petitions.

In State of Kerala vs. M.S. Mani & Ors., (2001) 8 SCC 82,  Court held that the requirement of obtaining prior consent of the Advocate General in writing for initiating proceedings of criminal contempt is mandatory and failure to obtain prior consent would render the motion non-maintainable. In case, a party obtains consent subsequent to filing of the petition, it would not cure the initial defect and thus, the petition would not become maintainable.

In Bal Thackrey vs. Harish Pimpalkhute & Anr., AIR 2005 SC 396, Court held that in absence of the consent of the Advocate General in respect of a criminal contempt filed by a party under Section 15 of the Act, taking suo motu action for contempt without a prayer, was not maintainable.

Amicus Curiae vs. Prashant Bhushan and Anr., (2010) 7 SCC 592,   Court has considered the earlier judgments and held that in a rare case, even if the cognizance is deemed to have been taken in terms of Rule 3(c) of the Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court, 1975, without the consent of the Attorney General or the Solicitor General, the proceedings must be held to be maintainable in view of the fact that the issues involved in the proceedings had far reaching greater ramifications and impact on the administration of justice and on the justice delivery system and the credibility of the court in the eyes of general public.

PROSECUTION OF EX MINISTER SANCTION IS NOT NEEDED

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Abhay Singh Chautala vs C.B.I. on 4 July, 2011 Bench: V.S. Sirpurkar, T.S. Thakur

Now if the public servant holds two offices and he is accused of having abused one and from which he is removed but continues to hold the other which is neither alleged to have been used nor abused, is a sanction of the authority competent to remove him from the office which is neither alleged or shown to have been abused or misused necessary? The submission is that if the harassment of the public servant by a frivolous prosecution and criminal waste of his time in law courts keeping him away from discharging public duty, are the objects underlying Section 6, the same would be defeated if it is held that the sanction of the latter authority is not necessary. The submission does not commend to use. We fail to see how the competent authority entitled to remove the public servant from an office which is neither alleged to have been used or abused would be able to decide whether the prosecution is frivolous or tendentious. An illustration was posed to the learned Counsel that a Minister who is indisputably a public servant greased his palms by abusing his office as Minister, and then ceased to hold the office before the court was called upon to take cognizance of the offence against him and therefore, sanction as contemplated by Section 6 would not be necessary; but if after committing the offence and before the date of taking of cognizance of the offence, he was elected as a Municipal President in which capacity he was a public servant under the relevant Municipal law, and was holding that office on the date on which court proceeded to take cognizance of the offence committed by him as a Minister, would a sanction be necessary and that too of that authority competent to remove him from the office of the Municipal President. The answer was- in affirmative. But the very illustration would show that such cannot be the law. Such an interpretation of Section 6 would render it as a shield to an unscrupulous public servant. Someone interested in protecting may shift him from one office of public servant to another and thereby defeat the process of law. Ode can legitimately envisage a situation wherein a person may hold a dozen different offices, each one clothing him with the status of a public servant under Section 21 IPC and even if he has abused only one office for which either there is a valid sanction to prosecute him or he has ceased to hold that office by the time court was called upon to take cognizance, yet on this assumption, sanction of 11 different competent authorities each of which was entitled to remove him from 11 different public offices would be necessary before the court can take cognizance of the offence committed by such public servant/while abusing one office which he may have ceased to hold. Such an interpretation in contrary to all canons of construction and leads to an absurd and product which of necessity must be avoided. Legislation must at all costs be interpreted in such a way that it would not operate as a rougue's charter. We would however, like to make it abundantly clear that if the two decisions purport to lay down that even if a public servant has ceased to hold that office as public servant which he is alleged to have abused or misused for corrupt motives, but on the date of taking cognizance of an offence alleged to have been committed by him as a public servant which he ceased to be and holds an entirely different public office which he is neither alleged to have misused or abused for corrupt motives, yet the sanction of authority competent to remove him from such latter office would be necessary before taking cognizance of the offence alleged to have been committed by the public servant while holding an office which he is alleged to have abused or misused and which he has ceased to hold, the decisions in our opinion, do not lay down the correct law and cannot be accepted as making a correct interpretation of Section 6. 


An illustration was posed to the learned Counsel that a Minister who is indisputably a public servant greased his palms by abusing his office as Minister, and then ceased to hold the office before the court was called upon to take cognizance of the offence against him and therefore, sanction as contemplated by Section 6 would not be necessary; but if after committing the offence and before the date of taking of cognizance of the offence, he was elected as a Municipal President in which capacity he was a public servant under the relevant Municipal law, and was holding that office on the date on which court proceeded to take cognizance of the offence committed by him as a Minister, would a sanction be necessary and that too of that authority competent to remove him from the office of the Municipal President. The answer was- in affirmative. But the very illustration would show that such cannot be the law. Such an interpretation of Section 6 would render it as a shield to an unscrupulous public servant. Someone interested in protecting may shift him from one office of public servant to another and thereby defeat the process of law. One can legitimately envisage a situation wherein a person may hold a dozen different offices, each one clothing him with the status of a public servant under Section 21 IPC and even if he has abused only one office for which either there is a valid sanction to prosecute him or he has ceased to hold that office by the time court was called upon to take cognizance, yet on this assumption, sanction of 11 different competent authorities each of which was entitled to remove him from 11 different public offices would be necessary before the court can take cognizance of the offence committed by such public servant/while abusing one office which he may have ceased to hold. Such an interpretation in contrary to all canons of construction and leads to an absurd and product which of necessity must be avoided. Legislation must at all costs be interpreted in such a way that it would not operate as a rougue's charter. 

The relevant time, …………….. is the date on which the cognizance is taken. If on that date, the appellant is not a public servant, there will be no question of any sanction. If he continues to be a public servant but in a different capacity or holding a different office than the one which is alleged to have been abused, still there will be no question of sanction and in that case, there will also be no question of any doubt arising because the doubt can arise only when the sanction is necessary.

NATURE OF BURDEN OF PROOF TO REBUTE PRESUMTION IN CHEQUE BOUNCE CASE

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JUSTICE P. Sathasivam, & JUSTICE J.M. Panchal of Supreme Court of India, in a case of Rangappa Vs. Sri Mohan reported in AIR 2010 SC 1898 “However, it must be remembered that the offence made punishable by Section 138 can be better described as a regulatory offence since the bouncing of a cheque is largely in the nature of a civil wrong whose impact is usually confined to the private parties involved in commercial transactions. In such a scenario, the test of proportionality should guide the construction and interpretation of reverse onus clauses and the accused/defendant cannot be expected to discharge an unduly high standard or proof. In the absence of compelling justifications, reverse onus clauses usually impose an evidentiary burden and not a persuasive burden. Keeping this in view, it is a settled position that when an accused has to rebut the presumption under Section 139, the standard of proof for doing so is that of `preponderance of probabilities'. Therefore, if the accused is able to raise a probable defence which creates doubts about the existence of a legally enforceable debt or liability, the prosecution can fail. As clarified in the citations, the accused can rely on the materials submitted by the complainant in order to raise such a defence and it is conceivable that in some cases the accused may not need to adduce evidence of his/her own.”

Suspension of sentence nor bail merely on ground that accused is an MLA is not permitted

Justice B. Sudershan Reddy, and Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar in Kanaka Rekha Naik v. Manoj Kumar Pradhan, (2011) The law does not make any distinction between the representatives of the people and others, accused of criminal offences. Neither they can claim any privilege nor can it be granted by any Court. The law treats all equally. 

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