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Clean chit given by an investigating agency cannot ensure acquittal: SC

The apex court said where the investigating agency does not array one of the real culprits as an accused, the court is not powerless in calling such person to face trial and it can summon him as an accused.

Holding that an accused always makes efforts to get absolved at the stage of probe, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said, ‘it will be inappropriate to deny the existence of such powers with the courts in our criminal justice system where it is not uncommon that the real accused, at times, get away by manipulating the investigating and/or the prosecuting agency’.

Analysing Section 319 of Criminal Procedure Code, 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 charge sheet and against whom cognizance had not been taken, or a person who has been discharged.

‘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. The question remains under what circumstances and at what stage should the court exercise its power as contemplated in Section 319,’ it said, adding, ‘The court is the sole repository of justice and a duty is cast upon it to uphold the rule of law.’ .

bench said that once examination-in-chief is conducted, the statement becomes part of the record and it is evidence on the basis of which a trial court can come to a prima facie opinion as to complicity of some other person who may be connected with the offence.

‘Therefore, even on the basis of Examination-in-Chief, the Court or the Magistrate can proceed against a person as long as the court is satisfied that the evidence appearing against such person is such that it prima facie necessitates bringing such person to face trial. In fact, Examination-in-Chief untested by cross examination, undoubtedly in itself, is an evidence,’ it said.
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