Delhi High Court Stresses Fairness in Trial Proceedings for Accused, Separate Presentation of Incriminating Evidence Required

Delhi HC underscores fair trial: Each incriminating piece of evidence must be addressed separately, ensuring clarity and opportunity for response.

In a recent ruling, the Delhi High Court emphasized the importance of ensuring a fair opportunity for an accused to explain incriminating circumstances during trial proceedings [Ajay Singhania v Central Bureau of Investigation]. Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta stressed that failure to do so could undermine the fairness of the trial and potentially affect the outcome of the case.

According to Justice Mendiratta, it is essential for the trial court to present each incriminating piece of evidence against the accused separately. This allows the accused to comprehend the allegations fully and respond adequately. The judge highlighted the need for simplicity and clarity in framing questions, ensuring that each material incriminating circumstance is addressed individually.

The court made these observations while directing a Special CBI Court to record statements under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for two accused individuals, Ajay Singhania and Ram Bharose, in a case titled CBI v Rajender Singh Rana & Ors. The case involves allegations under Sections 7, 12, and 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Singhania and Bharose, the accused petitioners, had challenged the questionnaire provided by the trial court for recording their statements under Section 313, CrPC. They argued that the questionnaire lacked clarity and failed to distinguish between incriminating and non-incriminating evidence.

The petitioners received a questionnaire consisting of 79 questions, with 75 questions reproducing the examination-in-chief of 76 prosecution witnesses, including hostile witnesses. The ambiguity in the questionnaire made it challenging for the accused to discern which portions of the witnesses' depositions constituted incriminating evidence.

After reviewing the case, Justice Mendiratta observed that the framing of questions by the trial court was ambiguous. By grouping multiple circumstances into a single question, the trial court failed to provide a clear opportunity for the accused to respond adequately. This approach hindered the fair decision-making process and potentially disadvantaged the accused.

Consequently, the High Court directed the trial court to reconsider the questionnaire and instructed it to present each piece of incriminating evidence separately. Additionally, the court ordered that a copy of its ruling be forwarded to the Director of the Delhi Judicial Academy for the purpose of conducting a session on recording statements under Section 313 CrPC for Judicial Officers of District Courts.

Senior Advocate Ramesh Gupta represented the accused, with assistance from Harsh K Sharma, Vaibhavi Sharma, Arjit Benjamin, Lakshya Parasher, and Bhumika Yadav of Prosoll Law. The CBI was represented by its Special Public Prosecutor (SPP), Mridul Jain.