Supreme Court explained the scope of power to discharge an accused under Sections 239 of Cr.P.C.
Adivision bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice J.B. Pardiwala stated that the High Court has not been able to comprehend the true scope and ambit of Section 239 of the CrPC.
High Court has also not been able to comprehend in what set of circumstances the revisional powers under Section 397 read with Section 401 of the CrPC are to be exercised.
The court observed that at the stage of consideration of discharge under Section 239 of the CrPC only a prima facie case is to be seen and the Special Court having recorded a satisfaction with regard to the existence of a prima facie case there cannot be said to be any material error or illegality in the orders assailed before the High Court.
Respondents in these appeals are husband and wife. The Respondent R. Soundirarasu at the relevant point of time was serving as a Motor Vehicle Inspector at Namakkal during the check period. The Respondent Suguna is the wife of the Respondent. The Respondent wife is a commerce graduate and claims to be having a separate source of income. She was a partner in a partnership firm running in the name of S.K. Mat Industries along with one R. Kumar.
The partnership came to be dissolved and, thereafter she continued as a sole proprietor. It is the case of the Respondent wife that she has been paying the income tax from 1990 onwards and her IT Returns are being scrutinized by the appropriate authorities.
Appeals are at the instance of the State of Tamil Nadu through the Deputy Superintendent of Police and are directed against the two judgments and orders passed by the High Court of Madras allowing the criminal revision applications preferred by the respondents discharging them from the prosecution under Section 13(2) read with 13(1)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 read with Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code.
V. Krishnamurthy, Additional Advocate General, appearing on behalf of the State, submitted that the High Court committed a serious error in discharging the accused persons from the prosecution.
He contended that the whole approach of the High Court, more particularly the finding that “when the prosecuting agency has come forward with a specific occasion, that the petitioners have amassed wealth which is disproportionate to their known source of income.
It is incumbent on the part of the prosecution, to prove the indictment with clinching and impeccable evidence beyond all reasonable doubts, because the allegations made against the petitioners would definitely affect their private rights and their selfrespect as well” is erroneous and unsustainable.
Senior Advocate K. Radhakrishnan, appearing for the accused persons, submitted that without considering the explanation furnished by the respondent and without calling for any explanation from his wife (second accused), the chargesheet for the offences punishable under Sections 13(2) r/w 13(1)(e) of the Act 1988 and Section 109 of the IPC could not have been filed.
The court said that Section 239 envisages a careful and objective consideration of the question whether the charge against the accused is groundless or whether there is ground for presuming that he has committed an offence.
The court added that what Section 239 prescribes is not, therefore, an empty or routine formality. It is a valuable provision to the advantage of the accused, and its breach is not permissible under the law.
It was stated bythe court that if the Judge, upon considering the record, including the examination, if any, and the hearing, is of the opinion that there is “ground for presuming” that the accused has committed the offence triable under the chapter, he is required by Section 240 to frame in writing a charge against the accused.
Further the real test for determining whether the charge should be considered groundless under Section 239 of the CrPC is that whether the materials are such that even if unrebutted make out no case whatsoever, the accused should be discharged under Section 239 of the CrPC.
The court observed that Section 13(1)(e) of the Act 1988 makes a departure from the principle of criminal jurisprudence that the burden will always lie on the prosecution to prove the ingredients of the offences charged and never shifts on the accused to disprove the charge framed against him.
The court was convinced that the impugned orders passed by the High Court are not sustainable in law and deserve to be set aside.
It was held that the circumstances emerging from the record of the case, prima facie, indicate the involvement of the accused persons in the alleged offence. Having regard to the materials on record, it cannot be said that the charge against the accused persons is groundless. There are triable issues in the matter. If there are triable issues, the Court is not expected to go into the veracity of the rival versions.
The court directed the Special Court to frame charges against the accused persons in accordance with law and put them to trial.
Case title: State v/s r. Soundirarasu etc.
Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 1452 – 1453 OF 2022