V. N. Patil vs K. Niranjan Kumar on 4 March, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

V. N. Patil vs K. Niranjan Kumar on 4 March, 2021

Author: Ajay Rastogi

Bench: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Ajay Rastogi

                                                                    NON­REPORTABLE

                                     IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                   CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                  CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S). 267              OF 2021
                                (Arising out of SLP(Crl.) No(s). 8965 of 2018)


          V.N. PATIL                                                 ….APPELLANT(S)

                                                    VERSUS


          K. NIRANJAN KUMAR & ORS.                                 ….RESPONDENT(S)


                                              JUDGMENT

Rastogi, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. Respondent nos. 1 to 3 are facing criminal trial in Sessions

Case No. 538 of 2004 for offences under Sections 498A, 304­B, 302

read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code(hereinafter being

referred to as “IPC”) and under Section 4 and 6 of the Dowry

Prohibition Act, 1961 due to the death of wife of the 1 st respondent
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Charanjeet kaur
Date: 2021.03.04
18:05:37 IST
Reason:

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under unnatural circumstances on intervening night of 2 nd/3rd

April, 2004 at Bangalore.

3. During pendency of the trial, an application was filed by the

Ld. Additional Special Public Prosecutor under Section 173(5) read

with Section 311 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973(hereinafter

being referred to as “CrPC”) for summoning the witnesses along

with securing the relevant records to meet the ends of justice. The

Ld. Additional City Civil & Sessions Judge, Bengaluru City, after

detailed discussion and taking note of the scope of Section 311

CrPC allowed the application by its order dated 3 rd September,

2016, after assigning cogent reasons in support thereof.

4. This came to be challenged by respondent nos. 1 to 3 in a

petition filed under Section 482 CrPC. The Ld. Judge of the High

Court after recording submissions made by the learned counsel for

the parties, without assigning any reasons, albeit brief, which may

at least facilitate this Court to understand what weighed with the

Judge in setting aside the finding recorded by the Ld. Trial Judge in

its Order dated 3rd September 2016 by its impugned judgment

dated 11th January, 2017.

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5. Aggrieved by the order of the High Court impugned dated 11 th

January 2017, the appellant­complainant(father of the deceased)

has approached this Court by way of special leave.

6. The background facts in brief which may be relevant for the

purpose are that the marriage of Keerthi(deceased­daughter of the

appellant) was solemnized with the 1st respondent on 17th February,

2002. On the intervening night of 2nd/3rd April, 2004, at about 3.30

am, the appellant received a call that her daughter had died. In

connection with her unnatural death, on the basis of a complaint

filed by the appellant (father of the deceased), Crime No. 162/2004

came to be registered at the Sanjay Nagar Police Station, Bangalore

for an offence punishable under Section 302, 498A IPC.

7. During the course of trial, as per the record and evidence, the

examination of all the relative­witnesses and the documentary

evidence produced by the investigating officer, indicates that the

second post­mortem on the victim’s body was conducted on 4 th

April, 2004 by the team of 5 doctors in J.J. Hospital, Mumbai, in

respect of which the investigating officer/PW 44 had corresponded

under Exhibit P­140 to Exhibit P­142 seeking for the copy of the

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said second post­mortem on 13th September, 2005 itself. It further

reveals that the stated documents indicated above were not made

available to the investigating officer during the submission of the

main charge­sheet and additional charge­sheet. Ld. Trial Court had

permitted to produce the documents by its order dated 30 th

October, 2012. Even after Exhibit P­142, the original documents of

the stated second post­mortem with the other relevant documents

were still with the Mumbai doctors and police and PW 27 Dr.

Bheemappa Havanur who conducted the first post mortem on 3 rd

April, 2004 turned hostile. At this stage, application came to be

filed by the Ld. Additional Special Public Prosecutor under Section

173(5) read with Section 311 CrPC for summoning the witnesses

and to examine the Doctor who conducted the second post­mortem

to meet the ends of justice.

8. Learned counsel for the respondents made various

submissions in questioning the application filed under Section

173(5) read with Section 311 CrPC when the trial reached the stage

of hearing and contended that the witnesses cited to be summoned

for the purpose of examining them on behalf of the prosecution, are

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neither the witnesses examined by the investigating officer during

the course of his investigation, nor cited as the prosecution

witnesses in the final report. What is sought to be brought on

record is the result of the private investigation said to have been

done at the instance of members of the family of the deceased

alone, and not at the instance of the investigating officer, or the

accused. After the prosecution witness PW 27 Dr. Bheemappa

Havanur, who conducted the autopsy on the dead body of the

deceased, was declared hostile, application is said to have been filed

to fill up the gap at the stage of investigation which is not

permissible in law, and also raised objections on the merits of the

matter as to what will be the effect of the second post mortem which

had been conducted on the body of the deceased in J.J. Hospital,

Mumbai.

9. The Ld. Trial Judge, after perusal of record and taking into

consideration the rival contentions of the parties, observed that the

case is registered initially at Sanjay Nagar Police Station,

Bengaluru, under Crime No. 162/2004, which was later on

investigated by the then Cord of Detectives(COD), Bengaluru, and

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thereafter the original charge­sheet and also additional charge­

sheet was submitted, in which there is a clear reference on record

documentarily as well as in the deposition of PW 44 who is stated to

be the investigating officer. The record further reveals that the

second post mortem which was got conducted at J.J. Hospital,

Mumbai appears to have been made through the Worli Police,

Mumbai by lodging the complaint there, by the members of the

family of the deceased, wherefor, at the very outset, it is not the

post mortem having made privately, as it is through the Police at

Mumbai.

10. It was further observed that as per Exhibits P­136, P­140 to

P­142, which are available on record that PW­44 Investigating

Officer had initiated the correspondence with the Worli Police, as

well with the Doctors of J.J. Hospital, seeking for sending copy of

the second post­mortem which clearly indicates that the very

intendment prevailed with PW 44 in corresponding with the Worli

Police, Mumbai and Mumbai Doctors with the Exhibits P­136 and

P­142 to obtain the said copy of the second post mortem conducted

at the J.J. Hospital, Mumbai, required for investigation by him in

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Bengaluru, by considering it as part and parcel of his investigation,

and the second post mortem is not the outcome of the personal

instance of the family members of the deceased, but the relevance

of the second post mortem with the case, which PW­44 has deposed

in his chief­examination itself, more particularly, in connection with

Exhibit P­136 and Exhibits P­140 to P­142.

11. Taking note of the factual matrix of the matter on record, the

Ld. Trial Judge, after assigning cogent reasons, allowed the

application filed under Section 311 CrPC to meet the ends of justice

observing further that no hardship or prejudice would be caused to

the respondents accused, since the said witnesses and documents

intended to be summoned, will certainly be subjected to cross­

examination and their testification, as per the provisions of CrPC.

12. The order of the Trial Court was assailed by the respondent

nos. 1 to 3 in Criminal Petition No. 7887 of 2016 under Section 482

CrPC. The High Court has not taken pains to examine the scope

and ambit of Section 311 CrPC, and the reasoning assigned by the

Ld. Trial Judge, and erroneously set aside the order of the Ld. Trial

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Judge dated 3rd September, 2016 by its impugned judgment dated

11th January, 2017.

13. After going through the rival submissions and perusal of the

record of the case with reference to the law applicable, in our

considered view, the judgment impugned before us is unsustainable

in law, and we find it difficult to approve it.

14. The scope of Section 311 CrPC which is relevant for the

present purpose is reproduced hereunder:­

“311. Power to summon material witness, or examine
person present—Any Court may, at any stage of any
inquiry, trial or other proceeding under this Code, summon
any person as a witness, or examine any person in
attendance, though not summoned as a witness, or recall
and re­examine any person already examined; and the
Court shall summon and examine or recall and re­examine
any such person if his evidence appears to it to be essential
to the just decision of the case.”

15. The object underlying Section 311 CrPC is that there may not

be failure of justice on account of mistake of either party in bringing

the valuable evidence on record or leaving ambiguity in the

statements of the witnesses examined from either side. The

determinative factor is whether it is essential to the just decision of

the case. The significant expression that occurs is “at any stage of

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any inquiry or trial or other proceeding under this Code”. It is,

however, to be borne in mind that the discretionary power conferred

under Section 311 CrPC has to be exercised judiciously, as it is

always said “wider the power, greater is the necessity of caution

while exercise of judicious discretion.”

16. The principles related to the exercise of the power under

Section 311 CrPC have been well settled by this Court in Vijay

Kumar Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and Another 2011(8) SCC

136.

“17. Though Section 311 confers vast discretion upon the
court and is expressed in the widest possible terms, the
discretionary power under the said section can be invoked
only for the ends of justice. Discretionary power should be
exercised consistently with the provisions of the Code and
the principles of criminal law. The discretionary power
conferred under Section 311 has to be exercised judicially
for reasons stated by the court and not arbitrarily or
capriciously. Before directing the learned Special Judge to
examine Smt Ruchi Saxena as a court witness, the High
Court did not examine the reasons assigned by the learned
Special Judge as to why it was not necessary to examine
her as a court witness and has given the impugned
direction without assigning any reason.”

17. This principle has been further reiterated in Mannan Shaikh

and Others Vs. State of West Bengal and Another 2014(13) SCC

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59 and thereafter in Ratanlal Vs. Prahlad Jat and Others

2017(9) SCC 340 and Swapan Kumar Chatterjee Vs. Central

Bureau of Investigation 2019(14) SCC 328. The relevant paras of

Swapan Kumar Chatterjee(supra) are as under:­

“10. The first part of this section which is permissive gives
purely discretionary authority to the criminal court and
enables it at any stage of inquiry, trial or other proceedings
under the Code to act in one of the three ways, namely, (i)
to summon any person as a witness; or (ii) to examine any
person in attendance, though not summoned as a witness;
or (iii) to recall and re­examine any person already
examined. The second part, which is mandatory, imposes
an obligation on the court (i) to summon and examine or (ii)
to recall and re­examine any such person if his evidence
appears to be essential to the just decision of the case.

11. It is well settled that the power conferred under Section
311
should be invoked by the court only to meet the ends of
justice. The power is to be exercised only for strong and
valid reasons and it should be exercised with great caution
and circumspection. The court has vide power under this
section to even recall witnesses for re­examination or
further examination, necessary in the interest of justice, but
the same has to be exercised after taking into consideration
the facts and circumstances of each case. The power under
this provision shall not be exercised if the court is of the
view that the application has been filed as an abuse of the
process of law.”

18. The aim of every Court is to discover the truth. Section 311

CrPC is one of many such provisions which strengthen the arms of

a court in its effort to unearth the truth by procedure sanctioned by

law. At the same time, the discretionary power vested under
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Section 311 CrPC has to be exercised judiciously for strong and

valid reasons and with caution and circumspection to meet the

ends of justice.

19. Indisputedly, the facts in the instant case are that the

daughter of the appellant died an unnatural death on the

intervening night of 2nd/3rd April, 2004 in Bangalore where she was

living with the respondents who are facing trial under Sections

498A, 304­B, 302 read with Section 34 IPC and under Sections 4

and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the trial is at the fag

end of its closure and the case is listed for hearing.

20. At this stage, application came to be filed by Ld. Additional

Special Public Prosecutor under Section 173(5) read with Section

311 CrPC for summoning the witnesses along with the concerned

documents to adduce their evidence in connection with the second

post mortem conducted on the body of the deceased and after

perusal of the record, the factual statement has been recorded by

the Ld. Trial Judge in paragraphs 9 & 10 as follows:­

“9. In connection with the same, at the very outset, on
record it could be seen that it is contended that the said
second post­mortem is got conducted in J.J. Hospital,

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Mumbai. The second post­mortem appears to have been
made through the Worli Police, Mumbai by lodging the
complaint there­at by the members of the family of the
deceased, wherefore, at the very outset, it is not the post­
mortem having got made privately, as it is through the
Police.

10. Notwithstanding as to whether the Worli Police have
further continued the investigation or otherwise or directly
connected to the instant case in hand, it is clear from the
records as per Exhibits P­136, P­140 to P­142 which are
available on record that the PW­44/Investigating Officer
had initiated the correspondence with the Worli Police as
well as the Doctors of J.J. Hospital seeking for sending the
copy of the second post­mortem, which clearly goes to
indicate that the very intendment prevailed with the PW­
44/Investigating Officer in corresponding with the said
Worli Police, Mumbai and Mumbai Doctors in accordance
with the Exhibits P­136 and P­142, reveals that the said
copy of the second post­mortem conducted at the J.J.
Hospital, Mumbai, was required for the investigation by him
in Bengaluru, by considering it as the part and parcel of his
investigation.”

21. What had further transpired for summoning the witness along

with the documents in connection with the second post mortem

report has been noticed in paragraph 18 of the judgment of the

Trial Court which is extracted hereunder:­

“18. It is also significant to note that, the Doctor by name
Bhimappa Havanur having stated to have conducted the
first post­mortem at Bowring Hospital in Bengaluru, has
turned hostile to the prosecution, according to the
prosecution, by giving the two different contradictory and
divergent opinions in connection with the cause of death,
wherefore, now, it is equivalently incumbent upon this
Court to determine and trace­out the real cause of death of
the deceased through the medical experts only who have
conducted the post­mortem. Therefore, to make out the

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reality under the peculiar circumstances of the PW 27
having turned hostile to the prosecution by giving the
contradictory and two divergent opinions, certainly the
efforts being endeavoured to put in by the prosecution to
summon the proposed witnesses along with the documents
certainly need to be taken into consideration in the positive
sense, only with an intention to see that the miscarriage of
justice in any manner is prevented at any point of spell and
juncture.”

22. In the instant case, although the application was filed by the

Ld. Additional Special Public Prosecutor under Section 173(5) read

with Section 311 CrPC but it was open for the Ld. Trial Judge as

well to exercise suo motu powers in summoning the witnesses

whose statements ought to be recorded to subserve the cause of

justice, with the object of getting the evidence in aid of a just

decision and to uphold the truth.

23. We find that the Ld. Judge of the High Court has not adverted

to the factual matrix noticed by the Ld. trial Judge in its Order

dated 3rd September, 2016 and taking note of the submissions

made by the contesting parties summarily, without assigning any

reasons, albeit brief it may be, set aside the judgment of the Ld.

trial Judge. We consider it appropriate to quote what has been

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observed by the High Court in its impugned judgment dated 11 th

January, 2017 which is as under:­

“4. The learned Government Pleader would however seek to
make a weak attempt to justify the apparent illegal
procedure that has been permitted by the trial Court in
allowing the aforesaid application.

Therefore, the petition is summarily allowed. The
order dated 3.9.2016 in S.C. No. 538/2004 on the file of LI
Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge (CCH No. 52),
Bengaluru, is quashed. The court below is directed to
proceed further, in accordance with law.”

24. It is not necessary that in every case, it is required to record

elaborate reasons but since the matters are carried forward to this

Court, the reasons, albiet brief may be, have to be recorded to

facilitate this Court to understand as to what weighed with the Ld.

Judge while passing the impugned judgment, moreover, when the

finding of reversal has been recorded by the Ld. Judge in its

impugned judgment.

25. Consequently, the appeal succeeds and is allowed. The

judgment of the High Court impugned dated 11th January, 2017 is

hereby set aside. Since the trial is pending for almost 16 years by

this time, the Ld. Trial Judge may proceed in compliance of the

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Order dated 3rd September, 2016 expeditiously and conclude the

pending trial at the earliest.

26. Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of.

…………………………………….J.

(INDU MALHOTRA)

…………………………………….J.

(AJAY RASTOGI)
New Delhi
March 04, 2021

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