When Court Can Order Re-Trial in Criminal Cases? Supreme Court Frames Guidelines

Recently, the Supreme Court, while dealing with a case, formulated the principles about the power of the Court to order a retrial in a criminal case.

The Top Court has said that retrial can be ordered only in exceptional circumstances to avoid a miscarriage of justice.



A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud Vikram Nath and BV Nagarathna, further observed that if the case is re-directed for re-trial then the record and evidence of the previous trial gets completely wiped out.

In the instant case, allegations for rape were leveled against the accused (Balwinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh, and Sandeep Singh).

Later, the victim committed suicide and named the accused in the suicide note. Based on the suicide note, abetment of suicide charges was also added to the FIR lodged against the accused. Sub-Inspector Najib Singh was also arraigned as an accused in the earlier FIR.

The ASJ, Patiala, for offenses mentioned in the first FIR, convicted all accused except Najib Singh. The same action was taken in the second FIR, all accused except Najib Singh were convicted.

The convicts and the mother of the victim moved to the High Court which ordered a retrial.

When the case reached the Supreme Court, it observed that parties were unable to prove that separate trials led to a miscarriage of justice.

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In this context, and after referring to various judgments, the Supreme Court formulated the following principles regarding retrial of cases.

  • An appellate can only order a retrial when there are exceptional circumstances.
  • Mere lapses while investigating a case were not sufficient to order a retrial and the said lapses have to be grave and only then can a retrial be ordered.
  • To conclude that the investigation was not up to the mark, the court has to determine it through the evidence.
  • The Court has to have a reasoned order to say that a retrial was needed and the same cannot be ordered just because a party requested the same.
  • When a Court orders retrial, the record, and evidence of the previous trial get wiped out.

The following are some scenarios when a Court can order a retrial.

  • The Court had no jurisdiction to try the case.
  • There was irregularity/illegality as to how the trial was conducted.
  • The prosecution was unable to adduce evidence that was crucial to the case which in turn made the trial a charade or a sham.

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