When Accused Can be Discharged in a Criminal Case? Explains Supreme Court

Recently, The Supreme Court answered an important question that when accused can be discharged in a criminal case.

The bench of Justices Abhay S. Oka and Rajesh Bindal was dealing with the appeal challenging the order passed by the Bombay High Court by which the Court has set aside the order passed by the court below vide which application filed by the Respondent nos.1 and 2 for discharge, was dismissed.  

In this case, The dispute arises out of an FIR registered for murder of Manmohan Singh Sukhdev Singh Virdi, a resident of Virdi’s Bungalow, Thombarewadi, Lonawala. His body was found lying in a pool of blood in his bedroom.

Counsel for the Appellant submitted that a bare perusal of the impugned order passed by the High Court shows that a mini-trial has been conducted merely by referring to some of the statements recorded by the police during the investigation, which were forming part of the charge sheet. This was beyond the scope of jurisdiction of the Court at the time of consideration of an application for discharge.

The bench noted that at the stage of hearing on the charges entire evidence produced by the prosecution is to be believed. In case no offence is made out then only an accused can be discharged. Truthfulness, sufficiency and acceptability of the material produced can be done only at the stage of trial. At the stage of charge, the Court has to satisfy that a prima facie case is made out against the accused persons. Interference of the Court at that stage is required only if there is strong reasons to hold that in case the trial is allowed to proceed, the same would amount to abuse of process of the Court.

Supreme Court observed that the High Court vide impugned order had summed up the entire evidence in two paras without even referring to the Psychological Evaluation including Psychological Profiling, Polygraph Testing and Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature Profiling (BEOS) tests of the accused and the other aides of respondent no.1 and ordered discharge of Respondent Nos.1 and 2.

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The bench opined that though Psychological Evaluation test report only may not be sufficient to convict an accused but certainly a material piece of evidence. Despite this material on record, the High Court could not have opined that the case was not made out even for framing of charge, for which only prima facie case is to be seen.

Supreme Court stated that the High Court has not even referred to the evidence collected by Investigating Agency produced along with the chargesheet in its entirety. Rather there is a selective reference to the statements of some of the persons recorded during the investigation. It shows that there was total non-application of mind. The High Court had exercised the jurisdiction in a manner which is not vested in it to scuttle the trial of a heinous crime. 

In view of the above, the bench allowed the appeal. 

Case Title: Captain Manjit Singh Virdi (Retd.) v. Hussain Mohammed Shattaf & Ors.

Bench: Justices Abhay S. Oka and Rajesh Bindal 

Case No.: Criminal Appeal No. 1399 of 2023

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