Orders framing charges or refusing discharge that is neither interlocutory nor final; Not affected by U / Sec bar 397 (2) CrPC: Supreme Court


The Supreme Court ruled that orders framing charges or refusing discharge are neither interlocutory nor final and are therefore not affected by the prohibition in Article 397 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. allowing the appeal against the order of the Allahabad High Court which dismissed a petition for criminal review against a …

The Supreme Court ruled that orders fixing charges or refusing discharge were neither of an interlocutory nor final nature and therefore not affected by the prohibition in Article 397 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The bench led by CJI NV Ramana thus observed while allowing the appeal against the order of the High Court of Allahabad which dismissed a petition for criminal review against an order of the first instance court dismissing a request for release. The High Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction under Article 397 of the Cr.PC to interfere with the CJM order. He relied on Asian Resurfacing from Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. vs. Central Bureau of Investigation (2018) 16 SCC 299 to conclude that interference with the order fixing the charges or refusal to discharge is required only in the rarest of cases, only to correct the manifest error of jurisdiction.

On appeal, the judiciary also including Judges Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, observed that the High Court erred in jurisdiction in failing to consider the petition for review on the merits and ignored the fact that “discharge” is a valuable right granted to the accused. At Asian resurfacing jjudgment, the court said:

13 … It seems to us that while limiting the scope of a criminal review to jurisdictional errors only, the High Court apparently underestimated the Asian Resurfacing judgment (supra). We say this for at least two reasons. First, 9 the essential facts in the above-mentioned case concerned a challenge to the charges made under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 (“POCA”). The cited judgment itself illuminates that not only is POCA special legislation, but also contains a specific bar under Article 19 against the routine exercise of review jurisdiction. Second, this Court in Asian Resurfacing (Supra), while expressing concern about the need to address endemic addiction and backlogs in our criminal law system, followed the ratio set in an earlier decision in Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra,

Orders fixing costs or refusing discharge are neither interlocutory nor final.

The bench added that the High Court has inherent jurisdiction to prevent abuse of process or to secure the ends of justice given the facts and circumstances of individual cases. Referring to Madhu Limaye c. Maharashtra State (1977) 4 SCC 551, the judiciary observed:

15 … The correct position of the law as stated in Madhu Limaye (supra), therefore, is that orders framing charges or denying discharge are neither interlocutory nor final in nature and are therefore unaffected by the bar of Article 397 (2) of the CrPC. That aside, this Court in the above cases has unequivocally recognized that the High Court has inherent jurisdiction to prevent abuse of process or to secure the ends of justice having regard to the facts and circumstances of individual cases. As a caveat, it can be said that the High Court, while exercising its aforementioned jurisdiction, must be cautious. The discretion conferred on the High Court must be used carefully and judiciously for the efficient and timely administration of the criminal justice system. This Court, however, does not recommend an approach without full intervention. Even if there should be interference, there may be, in exceptional cases, otherwise there is a risk of serious prejudice to the rights of a citizen. For example, when the content of a complaint or other suspected material on the record is a brazen attempt to persecute an innocent person, it becomes imperative for the court to prevent abuse of judicial process.

The court of first instance, while considering the request for release, should not act as a mere post office

The court added that the court of first instance, while considering the discharge request, should not act as a mere post office.

“16 … The court must sift through the evidence to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to try the suspect. The court must consider the general probabilities, the total effect of the evidence and documents produced and the fundamental infirmities appearing in the case and so on. [Union of India v. Prafulla Kumar Samal ]. Likewise, the Court has sufficient discretion to order further investigation in appropriate cases, if any.

Taking note of the facts of the case, the judiciary overturned the High Court’s order and remanded the case for reconsideration in accordance with the law.

Case: Sanjay Kumar Rai versus. State of Uttar Pradesh [CrA 472 OF 2021]
Reference: LL 2021 SC 246
Coram: CJI NV Ramana, Judges Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose

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