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Landmark Judgements of SC On Criminal Law- 2019

Power of Magistrate to direct the accused to give voice samples during investigation

The issue in this case before the Supreme Court was whether a Magistrate has power to direct the investigating agency to record voice samples of the accused. A three judges bench led by the CJI settled the issue referred to it by a two judges bench and held that a Magistrate has power to direct an accused to give his voice samples during investigation even without his consent.

The apex court observed that in the absence of specific provisions in the CrPC, 1973, inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution should be invoked.

(Ritesh Sinha v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Crl Appeal No. 2003/2012)

Victim’s right to assist the court

The Court observed that though the Magistrate is not bound to grant permission to a victim to conduct prosecution at the mere asking but the victim has a right to assist the Court in a trial before the Magistrate.

(Amir Hamza Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra, Criminal Appeal No. 1217 of 2019)

Complaint under Section 498A, IPC can be filed where the woman takes shelter

A 3 judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and SK Kaul held that the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

(Rupali Devi v. State of Uttar Pradesh Criminal Appeal No.71 OF 2012)

Section 148 of the Negotiable Instruments Act has retrospective effect

In an important judgement a Division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah explained the object of 2018 amendment and held that Section 148 of the Negotiable Instruments Act as inserted in 2018, which provides for payment pending appeal against conviction, is retrospective in nature. In this sense Section 148 shall be applicable even in a case where the complaint under Section 138 of the act was filed prior to 01.09.2018.

(Surinder Singh Desawal v. Virender Gandhi, Crl Appeal 917-944/2019)

Section 143A of the Negotiable Instruments Act has prospective effect

The Supreme Court in this case settled a confusion in prosecution of cheque bounce cases and held that Section 143A of the Negotiable Instruments Act which deals with payment of interim compensation to the complainant during the pendency of the case does not have retrospective application. The apex court held that Section 143A can be applied only in cases where the offence under Section 138 was committed after the introduction of Section 143A.

(G.J. Raja v. Tejraj Surana, Crl Appeal 917-944/2019)

Contents of documents come within the definition of term ‘document’ under the Indian Evidence Act

The conundrum in this appeal was whether the contents of a memory card/ pen-drive qualify as ‘document’ under Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and Section 29 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and if so, whether it is obligatory to furnish a copy to the accused.

The Supreme Court observed that the contents of a memory card/pen-drive being an electronic record as per Section 2(1)(t), IT Act, 2000, must be regarded as document. It further observed that if the prosecution relies on such a document the accused must be furnished with a cloned copy of the same under Section 207, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

(Gopalkrishnan @ Dileep v. State of Kerala, Criminal Appeal No. 1794 of 2019)

Section 102, CrPC does not empower a Police Officer to attach immovable property

A bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna held that Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure does not empower the police to attach immovable property during investigation. The Supreme Court held that the expression 'any property' under Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure does not include 'immovable property'.

(Nevada Properties Private Limited v. State Of Maharashtra & Anr, Crl Appeal 1481 of 2019)

Magistrate’s power to order investigation under Section 156(3) can be invoked at post-cognizance stage as well

The issue before the Court in this case was whether, after a charge-sheet is filed by the police, the Magistrate has the power to order further investigation, and if so, up to what stage of a criminal proceeding. The Supreme Court overruled a 43 year old precedent and held that the power of Magistrate under Section 156(3) to order investigation by the Police Officer can be invoked at both, pre-cognizance and post-cognizance stage. The Court observed that the earlier finding that the power under Section 156(3) can be exercised only at a pre-cognizance stage is erroneous.

(Vinubhai Haribhai Malaviya and others v. State of Gujarat, Crl Appeal Nos. 478-479 of 2017)

Wife divorced by husband on ground of desertion is also entitled to maintenance

A 2 judges bench comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose took the view that a wife, who has been divorced by the husband, on the ground that the wife has deserted him, is entitled to claim maintenance from the ex-husband under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Bench observed that this view has been consistently taken by the Supreme Court and is in line with both the letter and spirit of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

(Dr. Swapan Kumar Banerjee v. State of WB, Crl Appeal Nos. 232-233 of 2015)

Post conviction mental illness is a valid ground for commutation of death sentence

In this landmark judgement the Supreme Court commuted death penalty of a person convicted of rape and murder of two minor girls. The Court held that post-conviction severe mental illness is a mitigating factor while deciding appeals for commutation of death penalty. However, the burden of proof is on the accused to prove such mental illness.

(Accused X v. State of Maharashtra, Crl Appeal No. 680 of 2007)






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