P. PONNUSAMY VERSUS THE STATE OF TAMIL NADU

P. PONNUSAMY VERSUS THE STATE OF TAMIL NADU 

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



1
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S). OF 2022
 [@ SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL.) NO(S). 9288 of 2022]
P. PONNUSAMY …APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
THE STATE OF TAMIL NADU …RESPONDENT(S)
1. Leave granted. This appeal arises out of an order dated 14.09.2022 in RT
No. 2/2021, by the High Court of Judicature at Madras. In those proceedings, the
High Court had by order dated 27.04.2022 fixed the hearing of the main
proceeding – which is a death reference.
2. The appellant and some others were convicted under Section 302 of the
IPC along with other provisions and Section 120B. The appellant (A1); A3; A4;
A5; A7; A8 and A9 were sentenced to death. Consequently, reference was made
to the High Court which was seized of all the proceedings and heard it from time
to time. On 27.04.2022 after ascertaining convenience of all the counsels the
appeals were listed for final hearing on 15.06.2022. The judgment of
Bela Trivedi J., has recounted all these facts in detail. The further proceedings
which took place before the High Court, the hearing and the order made on
2
14.09.2022, declining to direct State to produce documents enlisted in letter
written to the public prosecutor on behalf of the appellant on 05.09.2022, is
impugned here.
3. The final order proposed by Bela Trivedi J., of rejecting an appeal is in our
opinion justified in the circumstances of the case. However, we are unable to
agree with the observations made during the course of her order as to the nature
of the directions made in Suo Motu W.P. (Crl.) No. 1 of 2017, concerning the
right of the accused to be supplied with documents or material, seized or collected
during the investigation, but not relied upon.
4. While hearing a criminal appeal1
and connected matters, concern was
raised regarding common deficiencies and practices adopted by trial courts in the
course of criminal trial and disposal of cases, in the absence of uniform
guidelines. This resulted in Suo Motu WP (Crl.) No. 1 of 2017, wherein this court
appointed amici curiae, and issued notice to all High Courts and governments of
all States and Union Territories, so general consensus could be arrived at
regarding the need to amend rules of practice/criminal manuals to bring about
uniform best practices across the country.2 The court noted salient aspects and
inconsistencies in the practices and rules of the High Courts.
5. A wide consultative process was undertaken. Firstly, High Courts and
governments of States/Union Territories, filed their responses. Taking note of
1 Criminal Appeal No. 400/2006
2 Order dated 30.03.2017 in Suo Motu WP (Crl) No. 1/2017.
3
these, the amici curiae prepared a consultation paper and invited written
responses from stakeholders. Next, a colloquium was convened on 30.03.2019 to
discuss this paper, wherein High Courts, governments of States/Union Territories
and police departments participated. Based on the feedback, the amici curiae
prepared a report containing the ‘Draft Rules of Criminal Practice, 2020’ which
was taken on record on 05.03.2020 and made available3 publicly through the
Supreme Court website.
6. Before passing directions on the same, this court thought it appropriate to
hear the High Courts again, on these draft rules.4 Once responses were received
from all High Courts, the matter was heard; in the final order dated 20.04.20215
it was noted that most of the suggestions had been agreed upon, except in regard
to few aspects – the divergence, or additional points of view, were taken note of6
.
7. The amici curiae had pointed out that before the commencement of the
trial, the accused only receives a list of documents and statements relied upon by
the prosecution but is kept in the dark on other material in the possession of the
prosecution, even if it has exculpatory value. On this, the court unequivocally
held:
“11. … This Court is of the opinion that while furnishing the list of
statements, documents and material objects under Sections 207/208 CrPC,
the Magistrate should also ensure that a list of other materials, (such as
statements, or objects/documents seized, but not relied on) should be
3 <https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/LU/06032020_103012.pdf> (accessed on 31.10.2022, 18:28 pm).
4 See order dated 27.10.2020, and again on 19.01.2021 in Suo Motu WP (Crl) No. 1/2017.
5 Reported as Criminal Trials Guidelines Regarding Inadequacies and Deficiencies, In re. v. State of Andhra
Pradesh and Ors., (2021) 10 SCC 598.
6
Ibid, para 9.
4
furnished to the accused. This is to ensure that in case the accused is of the
view that such materials are necessary to be produced for a proper and just
trial, she or he may seek appropriate orders, under CrPC7
for their
production during the trial, in the interests of justice. It is directed
accordingly; the Draft Rules have been accordingly modified. [Rule 4(i)]”
 (emphasis supplied)
8. Rule 4 of Draft Rules of Criminal Practice 2021, which was appended to,
and considered part and parcel of this court’s order, reads as follows:
“4. Supply of documents under Sections 173, 207 and 208 CrPC.—(i)
Every accused shall be supplied with statements of witness recorded under
Sections 161 and 164 CrPC and a list of documents, material objects and
exhibits seized during investigation and relied upon by the investigating
officer (IO) in accordance with Sections 207 and 208 CrPC.
Explanation : The list of statements, documents, material objects and
exhibits shall specify statements, documents, material objects and exhibits
that are not relied upon by the investigating officer.”
9. The matter was disposed of with the following directions:
“19. The Court is of the opinion that the Draft Rules of Criminal Practice,
2021, (which are annexed to the present order, and shall be read as part of
it) should be hereby finalised in terms of the above discussion. The
following directions are hereby issued:
19.1. All High Courts shall take expeditious steps to incorporate the said
Draft Rules, 2021 as part of the rules governing criminal trials, and ensure
that the existing rules, notifications, orders and practice directions are
suitably modified, and promulgated (wherever necessary through the
Official Gazette) within 6 months from today. If the State Government's
co-operation is necessary in this regard, the approval of the department or
departments concerned, and the formal notification of the said Draft Rules,
shall be made within the said period of six months.
19.2. The State Governments, as well as the Union of India (in relation to
investigating agencies in its control) shall carry out consequential
amendments to their police and other manuals, within six months from
today. This direction applies, specifically in respect of Draft Rules 1-3.
7
“91. Summons to produce document or other thing.—(1) Whenever any court or any officer in charge of a
police station considers that the production of any document or other thing is necessary or desirable for the
purposes of any investigation, inquiry, trial or other proceeding under this Code by or before such Court or officer,
such Court may issue a summons, or such officer a written order, to the person in whose possession or power such
document or thing is believed to be, requiring him to attend and produce it, or to produce it, at the time and place
stated in the summons or order.(2) Any person required under this section merely to produce a document or other
thing shall be deemed to have complied with the requisition if he causes such document or thing to be produced
instead of attending personally to produce the same.(3) Nothing in this section shall be deemed—(a) to affect
Sections 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872), or the Bankers' Books Evidence Act, 1891
(13 of 1891) or(b) to apply to a letter, postcard, telegram or other document or any parcel or thing in the custody
of the postal or telegraph authority.”
5
The appropriate forms and guidelines shall be brought into force, and all
agencies instructed accordingly, within six months from today.”
10. The Draft Rules framed, therefore, were a product of a thorough
consultative exercise undertaken to remedy asymmetries caused by the lack of
uniformity in Rules across States, which could hamper appreciation of evidence,
and in turn delay proceedings, especially at the appellate stage. Recognition of
the need to streamline trials or mitigate delays, however, cannot come at the cost
of the accused’s right to fair trial.
11. Taking note of the case law in Siddharth Vasisht @ Manu Sharma v. State
of NCT Delhi8
, this court in Manoj & Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh9
,
highlighted the dual role played by the public prosecutor and the court in
safeguarding the accused’s right to fair investigation and trial, by scrutinizing the
material and ensuring fair disclosure. In light of this, and the aforementioned draft
Rule 4, this court went on to hold in Manoj that:
“…In view of the above discussion, this court holds that the prosecution,
in the interests of fairness, should as a matter of rule, in all criminal trials,
comply with the above rule, and furnish the list of statements, documents,
material objects and exhibits which are not relied upon by the investigating
officer. The presiding officers of courts in criminal trials shall ensure
compliance with such rules.”
12. In addition to the decision in Manu Sharma (as noticed in Manoj), there is
another decision – Manjeet Singh Khera v. State of Maharashtra10
- which had
8
(2010) 6 SCC 1 (referred to as ‘Manu Sharma’). See paragraphs 187, 199, 201, 202, 218-222 (relied on in
Manoj & Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh).
9
Judgment dated 20.05.2022 in Criminal Appeal Nos. 248-250 of 2015; 2022 SCC OnLine SC 677.
10 (2013) 9 SCC 276
6
highlighted how the requirement of disclosure, is an intrinsic part of the right to
fair trial under Article 21 of the Constitution.11 Relying upon its previous decision
in V.K. Sasikala v. State12, this court noted in Manjeet Singh Khera:
“…In that case, the documents were forwarded to the court under Section
173(5) CrPC but were not relied upon by the prosecution and the accused
wanted copies/inspection of those documents. This 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: (V.K. Sasikala case [V.K. Sasikala v.
State, (2012) 9 SCC 771 : (2013) 1 SCC (Cri) 1010] , SCC p. 788, para
21)
“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 CrPC
and would travel beyond the confines of the strict language of the
provisions of CrPC 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 [V.K. Sasikala v. State, 2012 SCC
OnLine Kar 9209] 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.”
 (emphasis supplied)
11 This was also reaffirmed in P. Gopalkrishnan v. State of Kerala (2020) 9 SCC 161 where it was held that
“furnishing of documents to the accused under Section 207 of the 1973 Code is a facet of right of the accused to
a fair trial enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution”.
12 (2012) 9 SCC 771
7
13. It is true that this court in V.K. Sasikala (supra) was dealing with
material/documents that were forwarded to the Magistrate under Section 173
CrPC, but were not being relied upon by the prosecution. However, it is
undeniable that there could also arise a situation wherein the investigating officer,
ignores or does not rely on seized documents, material or evidence which favours
the accused, and fails to forward it to the Magistrate [as required under Section
173 CrPC, specifically sub-section (6)]. Merely because it is not already on the
record of the court, cannot disentitle the accused from accessing material that may
have exculpatory value. It is this gap, that was recognised and addressed
(paragraph 11 of final order) in the suo-moto proceedings, and suitably codified
in the text of the Draft Rule 4, by introducing a requirement of providing a list (at
the commencement of the trial) of all documents, material, evidence, etc. seized
during the course of investigation or in the possession of the prosecution,
regardless of whether the prosecution plans to rely on it. The facts in Manoj,
having reflected such a situation (of suppression of evidence that favoured the
accused) similarly, necessitated elaboration of this right.
14. The framework that emerges (by reading Section 173, 207, 208 and Draft
Rule 4) is that based on the list of statements, documents, etc. received at the
commencement of the trial, the accused can seek appropriate orders under Section
91 of the CrPC, wherein the magistrate on application of judicial mind, may
decide on whether it ought to be called for. Additionally, by virtue of Section
8
39113 of the CrPC, the appellate court, if it deems necessary, may take further
evidence (or direct it be taken by a magistrate or court of sessions) upon recording
reasoning. This safeguards the right of the accused in a situation where concern
has been raised regarding evidence or material in possession of the prosecution,
that had not been furnished, but was material to the trial and disposal of the case.
15. By way of Miscellaneous Application No. 505/2022 in SMW(Crl) No. 1
of 2017, this court was apprised of the fact that some states had complied, and
other had not complied with the directions in final order dated 20.04.202114
regarding adoption of the Draft Rules and amending police manuals, etc. in a
time-bound manner (6 months); the states were directed15 to comply within 8
weeks and the matter is still pending.
16. That some High Courts or governments of the States/ Union Territories
have failed to comply with this court’s order and are delayed in adopting the Draft
Rules or amending the concerned police/practice manuals, cannot prejudice the
right of an accused (to receive this list of the statements, documents, material, etc.
in the possession of the prosecution), which has unequivocally been recognized
13 391. Appellate Court may take further evidence or direct it to be taken.—(1) In dealing with any appeal
under this Chapter, the Appellate Court, if it thinks additional evidence to be necessary, shall record its reasons
and may either take such evidence itself, or direct it to be taken by a Magistrate, or when the Appellate Court is a
High Court, by a Court of Session or a Magistrate.
(2) When the additional evidence is taken by the Court of Session or the Magistrate, it or he shall certify such
evidence to the Appellate Court, and such Court shall thereupon proceed to dispose of the appeal.
(3) The accused or his pleader shall have the right to be present when the additional evidence is taken.
(4) The taking of evidence under this section shall be subject to the provisions of Chapter XXIII, as if it were an
inquiry.
14 Suo Motu WP (Crl) No. 1/2017
15 By order dated 28.04.2022 in Miscellaneous Application No. 505/2022 in SMW(Crl) No. 1/2017.
9
by this court in its final order16 of the suo-moto proceedings (paragraph 11,
extracted above), itself. Further, to say that the judgment in Manoj in relation to
this, and the right of the accused to receive the said list of documents, material,
etc. would only apply after the draft rules are adopted – would lead to an
anomalous situation where the right of the accused in one state, prejudicially
differs from that afforded to an accused, in another.
17. As stated earlier, the requirement of disclosure elaborated on in Manoj, not
only was premised on the formulation of draft rules, but normatively premised on
the ratio of the three-judge bench decision in Manu Sharma (supra). In these
circumstances, the proper and suitable interpretation of the disclosure
requirement in Manoj (supra) would be that:
(a) It applies at the trial stage, after the charges are framed.
(b)The court is required to give one opportunity of disclosure, and the
accused may choose to avail of the facility at that stage.
(c) In case documents are sought, the trial court should exercise its
discretion, having regard to the rule of relevance in the context of the
accused’s right of defence. If the document or material is relevant and
does not merely have remote bearing to the defence, its production may
be directed. This opportunity cannot be sought repeatedly – the trial
court can decline to issue orders, if it feels that the attempt is to delay.
(d)At the appellate stage, the rights of the accused are to be worked out
within the parameters of Section 391 CrPC.
16 Order dated 20.04.2021 in Suo Motu WP (Crl) No. 1/2017, reported as Criminal Trials Guidelines Regarding
Inadequacies and Deficiencies, In re. v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Ors., (2021) 10 SCC 598.
10
18. That the accused, has a right to fair trial, was not in doubt; but what is
reiterated is that this right is manifested in the fair disclosure requirement
elaborated above. While the concern of delay in conclusion of trial undoubtedly
weighs heavily in the mind of the judge, it cannot entail compromise of the right
of the accused to fair investigation and trial.
19. Having regard to the above discussion we are of the opinion that the
circumstances in which the request was made – through the letter after appeal was
set down for hearing despite repeated opportunities, was not justified. The
appellant could have sought recourse by filing an appropriate application, in
accordance with the procedures set out above, well in time. We therefore agree
that the appeal made at this late stage, appears to be to prolong the hearing. In
these circumstances, the Court declines to interfere. The appeal is accordingly
dismissed.
…........................................CJI.
 [UDAY UMESH LALIT]
.....…........................................J.
 [S. RAVINDRA BHAT]
NEW DELHI
NOVEMBER 07, 2022
1
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. OF 2022
[Arising out of SLP(CRIMINAL) NO. 9288 OF 2022]
P. PONNUSAMY …APPELLANT
VERSUS
THE STATE OF TAMIL NADU …RESPONDENT
 J U D G E M E N T
BELA M. TRIVEDI, J.
1) Leave granted.
2) The appellant (original accused no. 1) has filed the present appeal being
aggrieved by the impugned order dated 14.09.2022 passed by the High
Court of Judicature at Madras in RT No. 02 of 2021, whereby the High
Court had directed the learned Counsels appearing for the parties to
proceed with the hearing of the matter on 17.10.2022. The relevant part
of the impugned order reads as under: -
“17. In our opinion, this communication is not at
all appreciable and we strongly record our
disapproval on such tactics adopted by the learned
counsel on record. All the papers relied upon by the
prosecution were placed by the Investigating
Officer before the trial court and copies were
furnished to the accused under Section 207 Cr.P.C.
The same have got translated as legal evidence
2
during trial and the case of the accused should have
to stand or fall based on that unless additional
evidence is sought to be taken.
18. Mrs. Anjana Prakash, learned Senior Counsel
requested fervently that she has discussed with all
the counsel including the Senior Counsel, who have
been engaged by various counsel on record and
sought final adjournment to 17.10.2022, on which
date, all the counsel assured that they would not
seek any adjournment.
19. This Court explain to the learned counsel that
the case of the persons, who have been sentenced to
death, has to be completed within six months,
whereas, in this case, for the last one year, there has
not been any progress on account of noncooperation of the accused. Under Section 386
Cr.P.C., if the counsel for the appellant or the Public
Prosecutor does not appear, it is open to this Court
to peruse the records and proceed with the case.
When we explained to Mrs. Anjana Prakash that the
Public Prosecutor may be permitted to begin the
case at least and that she may reply to his
submissions later, she requested us not to do that, as
it would be easier if both sides’ submissions are
heard continuously. She repeatedly assured us that
no one would seek adjournment on 17.10.2022.
Hence, more out of courtesy and respect for Mrs.
Anjana Prakash, Senior Advocate, the case is
adjourned to 17.10.2022.”
3) The appellant instead of appearing before the High Court on 17.10.2022,
rushed to this Court challenging the said order. This Court on 17.10.2022
passed the following order:-
“Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, learned Senior
Advocate submits that:
3
a) This Court in its decision dated 22.05.2022
passed in Manoj & Others v. State of Madhya
Pradesh, reported in 2022 (9) SCALE 67, dealt with
certain issues from paragraph 170 of the decision
whereafter conclusions were drawn in paragraph
179.
b) Relying on these observations, a letter was
written on behalf of the accused on 05.09.2022
seeking documents which were in the possession of
the investigating machinery.
c) Without deciding the issues raised in said letter,
the High Court has proceeded to fix the matter for
hearing in death confirmation case.
We issue notice on this petition, returnable on
20.10.2022 and direct that the matter be placed
before the same Bench which dealt with and
rendered the decision in Manoj & Others (supra).
Dasti service, in addition, is permitted.
Liberty is granted to serve the learned Standing
Counsel for the State.
Since the matter is posted before the High Court for
final disposal, at this stage, we do not deem it
appropriate to pass any interim directions except to
request the High Court not to pronounce the final
order in case the matter is taken up for final
disposal.”
4) In the present Appeal, we need not go deep into the merits of the Appeals
or the Reference case, which are pending before the High Court. Suffice
it to say that the appellant along with other eight accused were convicted
and sentenced by the City Civil and Sessions Court, Chennai in Sessions
Case No. 348/2015 for the offences punishable under Section 120-B,
4
109, 341, 302 read with section 34 of IPC. Some of the accused were
sentenced to death penalty and some with life imprisonment and other
sentences. The Sessions Court had referred its judgement and order to the
High Court for confirmation of the death penalty awarded to some of the
accused under Section 366 Cr.P.C., which was registered as RT No. 02
of 2021. The accused also had filed separate nine appeals before the High
Court challenging the judgement and order passed by the Sessions Court
in the said sessions case. All the said appeals were directed to be tagged
with RT No. 02 of 2021 by the High Court.
5) As transpiring from the impugned order, the High Court after
ascertaining the convenience of all the advocates appearing for the parties
had fixed the date for final hearing on 15.06.2022 vide the order dated
27.04.2022. Thereafter, the roster was changed and the matters were
listed on 06.09.2022 on which date the hearing was adjourned at the
request made by the learned counsel for the appellant-accused and
therefore, it was again adjourned to 14.09.2022 for final disposal. On
14.09.2022, though the State Public Prosecutor was ready to argue, one
of the learned senior advocates from Delhi appeared before the High
Court and requested the High Court to adjourn the hearing. At that time,
the State Public Prosecutor drew the attention of the High Court to a letter
dated 05.09.2022 sent by Mr. G. Sriram, learned counsel appearing for
the present appellant (accused no. 1) P. Ponnusamy, the accused no. 02
5
Mary Pushpam and the accused no. 03 Basil, addressed to the Inspector
(Law and Order) E-4 Abiramapuram Police Station, Chennai, asking him
to produce certain documents, stating therein inter-alia that the said
documents were required for fair adjudication of their case, in the light
of the Supreme Court’s decision (in case of Manoj and others Vs. State
of Madhya Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 248-250 of 2015 decided on
20th May, 2022). The said letter was placed on record by the State Public
Prosecutor. On the said date i.e., 14.09.2022, the learned senior advocate
who had come from Delhi assured the court that she had discussed with
all the counsels who were appearing for the appellants and that all had
assured her that they would proceed with the hearing on 17.10.2022. The
High Court appraised her that the case pertained to the sentence of death
penalty, which had to be completed within six months and that for the
last one year there was no progress in the case on account of noncooperation of the accused. However, she repeatedly assured the court
that no one would seek adjournment on 17.10.2022, and therefore the
High Court out of sheer courtesy and respect for the senior advocate
adjourned the case to 17.10.2022.
6) Despite such assurance having been given by the senior advocate and all
other advocates including other senior advocates appearing for the other
appellants-accused to the High Court to proceed with the hearing of the
Reference case and the appeals, the appellant rushed to this Court to
6
hamper the hearing fixed before the High Court on 17.10.2022. Such a
dilatory tactics adopted by the parties and their advocates and thereby
deflecting the course of justice in the cases like the present one, where
some of the appellant-accused are facing the death penalty and some
sentence of life imprisonment are strongly deprecated. It is needless to
say that the death Reference cases referred by the Sessions Courts to the
High Court have to be given utmost priority and should be heard and
completed by the High Court as expeditiously as possible and preferably
within six months. However, as transpiring from the observations made
by the High Court in the impugned order, which have remained
unchallenged before us, it was only because of the non-cooperation on
behalf of the counsels appearing for the appellant-accused, the High
Court was not able to hear the Reference case. The court may not have
to remind the senior advocates of their duties to assist the courts for the
cause of justice, and not to indulge into dilatory tactics and hamper the
cause of justice.
7) Having said that, let us examine the merits of the submissions made
before us. Placing heavy reliance on the observations made by this court
in case of Manoj and others Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (supra), the
learned senior counsel for the appellant submitted that the appellant
alongwith the other two accused on 05.09.2022 had sent a letter
addressed to the Inspector (Law and Order) E-4 Abiramapuram Police
7
Station, Chennai requesting him to produce certain documents as
mentioned in the letter, which were required for fair adjudication in the
case. He further submitted that till the copies of the documents demanded
by the accused as mentioned in the said letter were furnished to them, it
was not possible for them to proceed with the hearing of the appeals or
the Reference case pending before the High Court. According to them,
the observations made by this Court in para 177 to 179 in case of Manoj
and others Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (supra) were very much
significant for safeguarding the rights of the accused to a fair
investigation carried out by the mighty State’s police machinery; and that
the interest of the justice warranted that the further hearing of RT No. 02
of 2021 pending before the High Court be stayed till the appellants and
other accused were provided with the documents demanded by them.
8) The said submissions made by the learned senior advocates appearing for
the appellant deserve to be outrightly rejected, having been advanced out
of sheer misconception of the law and misinterpretation of the
observations made by this Court in case of Manoj and others Vs. State
of Madhya Pradesh (supra). The precise observations made by this Court
in para 177, 178 and 179 of the judgement in the said case of Manoj and
others may be reproduced here under: -
8
“177. In this manner, the public prosecutor, and
then the trial court’s scrutiny, both play an essential
role in safeguarding the accused’s right to fair
investigation, when faced with the might of the
state’s police machinery.
178. This view was endorsed in a recent three judge
decision of this court in Criminal trials guidelines
regarding Inadequacies and Deficiencies, in re v.
State of Andhra Pradesh. This court has highlighted
the inadequacy mentioned above, which would
impede a fair trial, and inter alia, required the
framing of rules by all states and High Courts, in
this regard, compelling disclosure of a list
containing mention of all materials seized and taken
in, during investigation-to the accused. The relevant
draft guideline, approved by this Court, for adoption
by all states is as follows:
“4. SUPPLY OF DOCUMENTS
UNDER SECTIONS 173, 207 AND 208
CR.PC
Every Accused shall be supplied with
statements of witness recorded under
Sections 161 and 164 Cr.PC and a list of
documents, material objects and exhibits
seized during investigation and relied
upon by the Investigating Officer (I.O) in
accordance with Sections 207 and 208,
Cr.PC.
Explanation: the list of statements,
documents, material objects and exhibits
shall specify statements, documents,
material objects and exhibits that are not
relied upon by the Investigating Officer.”
9
179. In view of the above discussion, this court
holds that the prosecution, in the interests of
fairness, should as a matter of rule, in all criminal
trials, comply with the above rule, and furnish the
list of statements, documents, material objects and
exhibits which are not relied upon by the
investigating officer. The presiding officers of
courts in criminal trials shall ensure compliance
with such rules.”
9) It may be noted that the draft guidelines were given by this Court to all
the High Courts and the State Governments and Union of India in the
suo-moto proceedings initiated by this Court under Article 32, during the
course of hearing of a criminal appeal, whereby the court had noticed
certain common deficiencies occurring during the course of criminal
trials and certain practices adopted by the trial courts in the criminal
proceedings. The said suo moto proceedings were registered as
“Criminal Trials Guidelines Regarding Inadequacies and Deficiencies,
in Re Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and others1
.” The said case related,
amongst others to deficiencies/lapses with regard to the manner in which
the documents (list of witnesses, list of exhibits, list of material objects)
referred to and presented and exhibited in the judgements, and lack of
uniform practices in regard to preparation of injury reports, deposition of
witnesses, translation of statements, numbering and nomenclature of

1
(2021) 10 SCC 598
10
witnesses, labeling of material objects etc. which often led to a
asymmetries and hamper appreciation of evidence, which in turn had a
tendency prolonging the proceedings especially at the appellate stage.
The court in the said case had noticed that on these aspects, some High
Courts had framed the rules, however some had not, which had led to a
lack of clarity and uniformity in regard to the presentation of trial court
proceedings and records, for the purpose of appreciation at the High
Court and Supreme Court level. The court in the said case, after
considering the suggestions/submissions of the Amici Curie and of the
counsels appearing for the High Courts, States and the Union Territories,
on “the Draft Rules of Criminal Practice 2020” prepared by the Amici
Curie, had given the following directions vide the order dated
20.04.2021:-
“19. The Court is of the opinion that the Draft Rules
of Criminal Practice, 2021, (which are annexed to
the present order, and shall be read as part of it)
should be hereby finalised in terms of the above
discussion. The following directions are hereby
issued:
19.1. All High Courts shall take expeditious steps to
incorporate the said Draft Rules, 2021 as part of the
rules governing criminal trials, and ensure that the
existing rules, notifications, orders and practice
directions are suitably modified, and promulgated
(wherever necessary through the Official Gazette)
within 6 months from today. If the State
Government's co-operation is necessary in this
11
regard, the approval of the department or
departments concerned, and the formal notification
of the said Draft Rules, shall be made within the said
period of six months.
19.2. The State Governments, as well as the Union
of India (in relation to investigating agencies in its
control) shall carry out consequential amendments
to their police and other manuals, within six months
from today. This direction applies, specifically in
respect of Draft Rules 1-3. The appropriate forms
and guidelines shall be brought into force, and all
agencies instructed accordingly, within six months
from today.”
10) From the above, it clearly emerges that this Court in the afore-stated suo
moto proceedings had directed all the High Courts to take expeditious
steps to incorporate the said Draft Rules as part of the Rules governing
criminal trials and to ensure that the existing rules, notifications, orders
and practice are suitably modified and promulgated, wherever necessary
through the official gazette within six months from the date of the said
order. The court had also directed the State Governments as well as the
Union of India to carry out consequential amendments to the police and
other manuals. However, neither the High Courts nor the State
Governments appear to have taken any steps pursuant to the said
directions. As a result thereof, the said Draft Rules have neither been
adopted by the respective High Courts/State Governments nor have come
into force. Unless and until the Draft Rules as suggested by the court in
12
the suo moto proceedings are incorporated by the High Courts in the
Rules governing criminal trials and unless the consequential amendments
are made by the State Governments and the Union of India in the Police
and other Manuals, the same could not have been pressed into service by
any party to a criminal proceeding. The observations made in para 179
of the judgement in case of Manoj and others Vs. State of Madhya
Pradesh (Supra) were in the context of the said directions given by the
court in the suo moto proceedings and therefore were required to be read
in conjunction with the earlier paras 177 and 178 of the said judgement.
Meaning thereby, the prosecution is expected to comply with the Draft
Rule no. 4 pertaining to the supply of documents, as and when the said
set of Draft Rules are adopted by the High Courts and State
Governments, giving them a statutory force.
11) May it be noted that in any case, the Draft Rule no. 4 with regard to the
supply of documents under Sections 173, 207 and 208 Cr.P.C. is part of
the Chapter I of the said Draft Rules, to be followed during the course of
investigation and before the commencement of the trial. The said Draft
Rule no.4 as and when brought into force after following the due process
of law could be pressed into service by the accused only during the course
of investigation and during the course of trial, and not at the appellate
stage before the High Court or the Supreme Court.
13
12) In the aforesaid premises, the attempt made on behalf of the appellantaccused and the other accused to delay the hearing of the appeals and the
death Reference case pending before the High Court, under the guise that
they had demanded certain documents from the Investigating Officer was
absolutely reprehensible. As observed by the High Court in the impugned
order, “all the papers relied upon by the prosecution were placed by the
Investigating Officer before the trial court and copies were furnished to
the accused under Section 207 Cr.P.C. The same have got translated as
legal evidence during trial and the case of the accused should have to
stand or fall based on that unless additional evidence is sought to be
taken.”
13) This Court does not express any opinion on the merits of the case, and
dismisses the present appeal being devoid of merits.
14) The registry is directed to circulate a copy of this order to all the High
Courts, who in turn shall circulate the same to their respective
subordinate courts.
 …..................................J.
 [BELA M. TRIVEDI]
NEW DELHI
07.11.2022

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