On June 8, a Single Judge Bench of the Kerala High Court, Justice V G Arun while allowing a criminal revision petition, ruled that monosyllabic answer ‘yes’ in the questionnaire prepared at the stage of framing of charges cannot be termed as a plea of guilty, due to which the Court convicted him. The Court ruled that any conviction because of such an act is liable to be set aside.
The petitioner filed the instant after Judicial Magistrate First Class convicted him. The case relates to an offence in 2014 wherein the prosecution alleged that the petitioner blocked a school procession and beat up some volunteers. As a result, the police charged the petitioner u/s 143, 353, 147 r/w 149 of IPC and u/s 35 Kerala Prevention of Disturbances of Public Meetings Act. The Trial Court’s order was challenged on the ground the procedure adopted by the Trial Court was patently illegal.
Contentions raised by the Plaintiffs:-
Counsel of the plaintiff, D Anilkumar, raised the following contentions:-
- Magistrate failed to ensure that the petitioner’s plea was clear, voluntary and unambiguous.
- It was stated that a monosyllabic ‘yes’ to pointed questions about the petitioner’s guilt would not satisfy the requirement to convict the petitioner.
- The order was passed without application of mind.
- The petitioner was not appraised about the consequences of pleading guilty.
- The Court read and framed charges to the accused on 09/03/2017; after that, the Court asked the accused if he had committed the offence.
- The petitioner answered yes when the COurt asked if he had committed the offence, and he was then convicted.
- Therefore it is clear that the conviction was based on the plea of guilty and was not an empty formality.
Observations of the Court:-
According to the Court, the term ‘pleading guilty’ requires an informed and positive action and admission about all offence elements. Therefore, merely saying ‘yes’ can be equated to pleading guilty.
To reach this conclusion, the Bench relied on an Assam High Court order stating that an order convicting an accused due to his/her admission is not final and is open to revision.
As per the Bench, having pleading guilty to the first instance and recording a monosyllabic yes cannot be termed as pleading guilty, and such a judgement is liable to be set aside.
Therefore, the Court allowed the revision petition.