FURNSHING COPIES OF DOCUMENTS TO ACCUSED IS SOLEMN DUTY OF THE COURT


Introduction:-

An omission to comply with section 207 Cr. P.C. read with section 238 Cr. P.C. is bound to cause a serious prejudice to the accused. It is obligatory for the Trial Magistrate to ensure supply of copies of the relevant documents upon which the prosecution intends to rely upon during trial. The Hon’ble Apex Court held that it was incumbent upon the trial court to supply the copies of these documents to the accused as that entitlement was a facet of just, fair and transparent investigation/trial and constituted an inalienable attribute of the process of a fair trial which Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees to every accused. We would like to reproduce the following portion of the said judgment discussing this aspect: “21.The issue that has emerged before us is, therefore, somewhat larger than what has been projected by the State and what has been dealt with by the High Court. The question arising would no longer be one of compliance or non-compliance with the provisions of Section 207 Cr.P.C. and would travel beyond the confines of the strict language of the provisions of Cr.P.C. and touch upon the larger doctrine of a free and fair trial that has been painstakingly built up by the courts on a purposive interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution. It is not the stage of making of the request; the efflux of time that has occurred or the prior conduct of the accused that is material. What is of significance is if in a given situation the accused comes to the court contending that some papers forwarded to the court by the investigating agency have not been exhibited by the prosecution as the same favours the accused the court must concede a right to the accused to have an access to the said documents, if so claimed. This, according to us, is the core issue in the case which must be answered affirmatively. In this regard, we would like to be specific in saying that we find it difficult to agree with the view taken by the High Court that the accused must be made to await the conclusion of the trial to test the plea of prejudice that he may have raised. Such a plea must be answered at the earliest and certainly before the conclusion of the trial, even though it may be raised by the accused belatedly. This is how the scales of justice in our criminal jurisprudence have to be balanced. (This was observed in Manjeet Singh Khera Versus State of Maharashtra,SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO.5897 OF 2013. Also see V.K. Sasikala v. State Represented by Superintendent of Police (2012) 9 SCC 771).

What does Section 238 of Cr.P.C say?

238. Compliance with section 207 –
When in any warrant-case instituted on a police report, the accused appears or is brought before a Magistrate at the commencement of the trial, the Magistrate shall satisfy himself that he has complied with the provisions of section 207.

1. Object of Section 238 :- Section 238 of Cr.P.C unequivocally provides that a solemn duty is cast on the Magistrate to satisfy himself that he has strictly complied with the provisions of 207 Cr. P.C viz. furnishing the accused, free of cost, copies of documents as prayed for by him and referred to in that section itself without delay and such satisfaction has to be invariably judicial satisfaction. An omission to comply with the mandatory provision of law as enshrined in section 207 Cr. P.C. read with Section 238 Cr. P.C. is bound to cause a serious prejudice to the accused and such a situation may even vitiate the criminal trial. The supply of documents and statements prepared at the investigating stage as mandated under section 207 Cr. P.C. cannot be treated as mere superfluity or empty formality. The underlying purpose in prescribing this procedure is to ensure speedy disposal of warrant cases instituted on police reports without in any way prejudicing the accused. Both the section 207 Cr. P.C and 238 Cr. P.C. taken together leaves no room for doubt that it is obligatory for the Trial Magistrate to ensure supply of copies of the relevant documents upon which the prosecution intends to rely upon during trial and it is highly improper and irregular on his part to shirk his responsibility in this regard and put the accused at the mercy of the prosecution by merely observing inter alia that it is the duty of the prosecution ‘to follow the rules of natural justice.’

2. Essential conditions to comply with section 207:-
The rulings of the Hon’ble Supreme court of India reported in AIR 1957 S.C. 623 (Gurbachan Singh, Appellant v. State of Punjab, Respondent) and 2008 CRI. L. J. 3540 (Bharat Parikh v. CBI & Anr.) and also another ruling of the Division Bench of Kolkata HIgh Court reported in 1975 CRI. L. J. 832 (The Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs, West Bengal, Petitioner v. Anthony Alten Fletcher and Anr., Opposite Parties), it is held accordingly ;

3. Accused could not be refused to supply of documents even at the stage of trial:- (i) That the accused could not be refused supply of some of the documents as prayed for, if relied upon by the prosecution, even at the stage of trial on the anvil of statutory requirement of 207 Cr. P.C. for the simple reason, that it would tantamount to denial of a valuable statutory right to the accused in a criminal trial.

4. Duty of the magistrate himself to supply copies of relevant documents to accused:- (ii) It is the duty of the Magistrate himself to supply copies of relevant documents to the accused and to cause relevant endorsement in the order sheet to that effect.

5. The accused is entitled to copies of the documents which were seized under seizure list:- (iii) The accused is entitled to copies of the documents which were seized under two separate seizure lists and kept in the Zimma of the Bank Officials and the de facto complainant as is evident from the endorsement of the I.O. in the relevant column of the charge-sheet in the instant case.

6. Notice to the accused:- (iv) Since the whole purpose of the provision of section 207 is to give adequate notice to the accused of the materials to be used against him, during trial, ld. Magistrate should exercise abundant care and utmost caution to avoid unpalatable situation of causing prejudice to the accused.

7. It is a solemn duty of Court:- (v)Section 238 Cr. P.C. unequivocally provides that a solemn duty is cast on the Magistrate to satisfy himself that he has strictly complied with the provisions of Section 207 Cr. P.C. viz. furnishing the accused, free of cost, copies of documents as prayed for by him and referred to in that section itself without delay and such satisfaction has to be invariably judicial satisfaction.

8. Omission to comply with section 207 causes a serious prejudice to the accused:- (vi) An omission to comply with the mandatory provision of law as enshrined in section 207 Cr. P.C. read with section 238 Cr. P.C. is bound to cause a serious prejudice to the accused and such a situation may even vitiate the criminal trial.

Conclusion:-
If we go carefully go through the ratio laid down in V.K. Sasikala v. State Represented by Superintendent of Police (2012) 9 SCC 771 and in the ratio laid down in case of Manjeet Singh Khera Versus State of Maharashtra (supra) and the ratio in the case of Shivjee Singh vs Nagendra Tiwary & Ors, we get clear idea about the solemn duty of the Court to supply copies of documents to accused. In short, it is apt to say that Section 207 casts a duty on the Magistrate to supply to the accused, copies of the police report, the first information report recorded under Section 154, the statements recorded under Section 161(3), the confessions and statements, if any, recorded under Section 164 and any other document or relevant extract thereof, which is forwarded to the Magistrate along with police report. Section 208 provides for supply of copies of statement and documents to accused in the cases triable by the Court of Sessions. It lays down that if the case, instituted otherwise than on a police report, is triable exclusively by the Court of Sessions, the Magistrate shall furnish to the accused, free of cost, copies of the statements recorded under Section 200 or Section 202, statements and confessions recorded under Section 161 or Section 164 and any other document on which prosecution proposes to rely.
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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. A vadivelan
    Oct 03, 2017 @ 08:11:12

    Shper sir

    Reply

  2. A vadivelan
    Oct 03, 2017 @ 08:12:03

    Super sir

    Reply

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