S.319 CrPC | The degree of satisfaction required is much stricter as it is a discretionary and extraordinary power: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court stated on Thursday that the required degree of satisfaction is much stricter, as it concerns a discretionary and extraordinary power.

The bank of Justices Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha and Aravind Kumar was hearing the appeal against the judgment of the Allahabad High Court wherein the High Court refused to quash a summons issued under Section 319 of the Cr.PC by the Additional District and Sessions Judge where the appellants were required to undergo trial before a offense under Section 302 IPC.

In this case, the first FIR was filed by the mother of the deceased alleging that the present appellants had committed murder along with others out of old enmity. However, during the investigation, statements of the mother and other witnesses under Section 161 Cr.PC suggested that the appellants were not involved in the crime. The charge sheet filed by the investigating officer also did not name the present appellants as suspects as their involvement was false.

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Nevertheless, the court granted the request submitted by the assistant public prosecutor to summon the current appellants on the principle that if during the trial someone who is not mentioned on the charge sheet is involved, they can be summoned to court. The appellants challenged this decision before the High Court under Section 482 Cr.PC, which was dismissed. The High Court observed that at the section 482 stage, the court has only to consider whether there is a prima facie case.

The question for the bank was:

Is there sufficient material against the appellant that compels the court to issue summons under Section 319 Cr.PC?

The court noted that the evidence before the court must be such that if not rebutted, it should result in the conviction of the person sought. As can be seen from the above decision, the degree of satisfaction required to exercise power under Section 319 Cr.PC is much stricter as it is a discretionary and an extraordinary power. Only when the evidence is strong and reliable can power be exercised. It requires much stronger evidence than the mere likelihood of his complicity.

The High Court noted that the appellants were named in the first information statement, but in the statement under Section 161 Cr.PC, PW-1 clarified that the names of appellants were written in the FIR falsely and without complete information. She also stated that appellants were not involved in the murder of her son. Even in the charge sheet, the names of the appellants were not mentioned as suspects. Only in her statement before the Court of Justice do the names of the suspects surface again.

The court noted that there were no other witnesses who testified against the appellants. There is no evidence collected by the prosecution against the appellants. There is absolutely no role for appellants. The statement of PW-1 is also in line and consistent with her statement under Section 161. When these factors are viewed in a holistic manner, it would be clear that the higher degree of satisfaction required for exercise of power under Section 319 Cr. PC is not met in this case.

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The Supreme Court ruled that the Trial Court committed a serious error in granting the application under Article 319 and issuing summons to the appellants. The High Court should have exercised its jurisdiction under Article 482 and quashed the order.

In view of the foregoing, the court declared the appeal well-founded.

Case title: Shankar v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors.

Bank: Justices Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha and Aravind Kumar
Case number: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 2367 OF 2024

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