Concept of – Fair Trial

The concept of fair trial is not a vagur idea.  It is a concrete phenomenon. It is not rigid and there cannot be any straitjacket formula for applying the same. On occasions it has the necessary flexibility. Therefore, it cannot be attributed or clothed with any kind of rigidity or flexibility in its application. It is because fair trial in its ambit requires fairness to the accused, the victim and the collective at large. Neither the accused nor the prosecution nor the victim which is a part of the society can claim absolute predominance over the other. Once absolute predominance is recognized, it will have the effect potentiality to bring in an anarchical disorder in the conducting of trial defying established legal norm. There should be passion for doing justice but it must be commanded by reasons and not propelled by any kind of vague instigation. It would be dependent on the fact situation; established norms and recognized principles and eventual appreciation of the factual scenario in entirety. There may be cases which may command compartmentalization but it cannot be stated to be an inflexible rule. Each and every irregularity cannot be imported to the arena of fair trial. There may be situations where injustice to the victim may play a vitol role. The centripodal purpose is to see that the injustice is avoided when the trial is conducted. Simultaneously the concept of fair trial cannot be allowed to such an extent so that the systemic order of conducting a trial in accordance with CrPC or other enactments get mortgaged to the whims and fancies of the defence or prosecution. The command of the Code cannot be thrown to winds. In such situation, as has been laid down in many an authority, the Courts have played a significant role. A pleas of fairness cannot be utilized to build castles in Spain or permitted to perceive a bright moon in a sunny afternoon. It cannot be acquiesced to create an organic disorder in the system. It cannot be acceded to manure a fertile mind to usher in the nemesis of the concept of trial as such.

It has been impliedly stated that fair trial should not be kept on its own pedestal. It ought to remain in its desired height but as far as its applicability is concerned, the party invoking it has to establish with the support of established principles. State of Haryana v. Ram Mehar and Others, (2016) 8 SCC 762.

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The Last Seen Theory

The “Last Seen Theory” is an important link in the chain of circumstances that would point towards the guilt of the accused with some certainty. The “Last Seen Theory” holds the courts to shift the burden of proof to the accused and the accused to offer a reasonable explanation as to the cause of death of the deceased. It is well settled that it is not prudent to base the conviction solely on “last seen theory”. “Last Seen Theory” should be applied taking into consideration the case of the prosecution in its entirety and keeping in mind the circumstances that precede and follow the point of being so last seen.

In State of Rajasthan v. Kashi Ram, (2006)12 SCC 254, it was held as under:

“It is not necessary to multiply with authorities. The principle is well settled. The provisions of Section 106 of the Evidence Act itself are unambiguous and categorical in laying down that when any fact is especially within the knowledge of a person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him. Thus, if a person is last seen with the deceased, he must offer an explanation as to how and when he parted company. He must furnish an explanation which appears to the court to be probable and satisfactory. If he does so, he must be held to have discharged his burden. If he fails to offer an explanation on the basis of facts within his special knowledge, he fails to discharge the burden cast upon him by Section 106 of the Evidence Act. Nizam and Another v. State of Rajasthan, (2016) 1 SCC 550.

 

Quashing of Criminal Proceedings vis a vis Compounding of Offences

The power of the High Court in quashing a criminal proceeding or FIR or complaint in exercise of its inherent jurisdiction is distinct and different from the power given to a criminal court for compounding the offences under Section 320 of the Code. Inherent power is of wide plenitude with no statutory limitation but it has to be exercised in accord with the guideline engrafted in such power, viz., (i) to secure the ends of justice, or (ii) to prevent abuse of the process of any court. In what cases power to quash the criminal proceeding or complaint or FIR may be exercised where the offender and the victim have settled their dispute would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and no category can be prescribed. However, before exercise of such power, the High Court may have due regard to the nature and gravity of the crime. Heinous and serious offences of mental depravity or offences like murder, rape, dacoity, etc. cannot be fittingly quashed even though the victim or victim’s family and the offender have settled the dispute. Such offences are not private in nature and have a serious impact on society. Similarly, any compromise between the victim and the offender in relation to the offences under special statutes like the Prevention of Corruption Act or the offences committed by public servants while working in that capacity, etc. cannot provide for any basis for quashing criminal proceedings involving such offences. But the criminal cases having overwhelmingly and predominatingly civil flavor stand on a different footing for the purposes of quashing, particularly the offences arising from commercial, financial, mercantile, civil, partnership or such like transactions or the offences arising out of matrimony relating to dowry etc. or the family disputes where the wrong is basically private or personal in nature and the parties have resolved their entire dispute. In these category of cases, the High Court may quash the criminal proceedings if in its view, because of the compromise between the offender and the victim, the possibility of conviction is remote and bleak and continuation of the criminal case would put the accused to great oppression and prejudice and extreme injustice would be caused to him by not quashing the case despite full and complete settlement and compromise with the victim. In other words, the High Court must consider whether it would be unfair or contrary to the interest of justice to continue with the criminal proceeding or continuation of the criminal proceeding would tanatamount to abuse of process of law despite settlement and compromise between the victim and the wrongdoer and whether to secure the ends of justice, it is appropriate that the criminal case is put to an end and if the answer to the above question(s) is in the affirmative, the High Court shall be well within its jurisdiction to quash the criminal proceeding. Gold Quest International Private Ltd. v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2014) 15 SCC 235.