The Supreme Court Friday ruled that a trial court can summon even a person not named in an FIR or a chargesheet as accused to thwart any attempt to let guilty go scot-free.
A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam settled the divergent views of the apex court Benches over the ambit of Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), empowering a court to summon as accused such persons who have not been named by the investigating agency in the FIR and/or chargesheet. Section 319 defines court’s power to proceed against other persons appearing to be guilty of offence.
The ruling is likely to impact the case of Sunil Bharti Mittal, CMD ofBharti Airtel, and Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia, who were summoned as accused by the special court in the 2G case although their names were not mentioned either in the 2G FIR or the chargesheet. Both of them have also challenged the summoning order in the apex court.
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Writing the judgment for the Bench, Justice B S Chauhan said: “It is the duty of the court to do justice by punishing the real culprit. Where the investigating agency for any reason does not array one of the real culprits as an accused, the court is not powerless in calling the said accused to face trial.
It said the trial court was well within its power under Section 319 to summon anyone as accused at any stage after filing of the chargesheet if the material on record discloses prima facie complicity of a person, not named as accused by the police.
“This is all the more necessary in order to ensure that the investigating and the prosecuting agencies have acted fairly in bringing before the court those persons who deserve to be tried and to prevent any person from being deliberately shielded when they ought to have been tried,” said the court.
Analysing Section 319 of the CrPC, the Bench said it is evident that power under it can be exercised against a person not subjected to investigation, or a person placed in the Column 2 of the chargesheet and against whom cognizance had not been taken, or a person who has been discharged.