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-Report by Utkarsh Kamal

In the present case supreme court discusses the conviction when the trails court records are absent and can not be obtained. White discussing the present case by the division bench of Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Sanjay Karol observed that the job of the Court of Appeal is not to depend on the lower Court’s judgment to uphold the conviction but, based on the record available before it duly called from the Trial Court and the arguments advanced before it, to come to a conclusion thereon…Had there been properly preserved records of the Trial Court, the issue in the present appeal as to whether the High Court could uphold a conviction having not perused the complete Trial Court record, would not have arisen they also talk about the digitalisation of the court for smoothening the judicial process.

Facts of the case:

The prosecution has been successful in proving that accused J.K Rode being working at the post of a   Public   Servant as   Assistant   Commercial Manager,   Northern   Railway,   Lucknow made a 2 demand of   Rupees   Five   Hundred from   Chief Ticket   Inspector   Shri   Jai   Prakash   Narayan Upadhyay on 03.05.95 to dispose of the charge sheet issued against him. He was caught red-handed receiving the bribe on 03.05.95. He received Rs. 500 (Rupees five hundred) from said J.P.N Upadhya being posted as a public servant misusing his post as a public servant for his gain in a corrupt and illegal manner.   Thus,   the offence under sections 7, 13(1) and 13(2) of the PC Act 1988 is proved against the accused and he is liable to be punished for these charges. Accused is on bail and his bail bonds are discharged. The accused should be taken into custody then the accused person moves to the High Court where the High Court upheld the conviction of the accused person.

Legal issue:

1)Whether in the absence of the records of the Court of Trial, the appellate Court could have upheld the conviction and enhanced the quantum of the fine.

2)Whether, given the language employed under Section 385 of CrPC, the present situation constitutes a violation of the accused’s fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Indian constitution

Related laws:

1)Sec 7 of the Prevention of corruption act: Public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act.—Whoever, being, or expecting to be a public servant, accepts or obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain from any person, for himself or for any other person, any gratification whatever, other than legal remuneration, as a motive or reward for doing or forbearing to do any official act or for showing or forbearing to show, in the exercise of his official functions, favour or disfavour to any person or for rendering or attempting to render any service or disservice to any person, with the Central Government or any State Government or Parliament or the Legislature of any State or with any local authority, corporation or Government company referred to in clause (c) of section 2, or with any public servant, whether named or otherwise, shall be punishable with imprisonment which shall be not less than six months but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.

2) Sec 13(1),Sec13(2) of the prevention of the corruption act 

3)SEC.385. of Criminal Procedure code Procedure for hearing appeals not dismissed summarily.—(1) If the Appellate Court does not dismiss the appeal summarily, it shall cause notice of the time and place at which such appeal will be heard to be given—

(i) to the Appellant or his pleader;

(ii) to such officer as the State Government may appoint on this behalf;

(iii) if the appeal is from a judgment of conviction in a case instituted upon complaint to the complainant;

Appellant’s contention:

On the surface of the record, it is clear that the relevant portions of the record, in particular, could never have been recreated by the relevant District Court. Despite this, the Court sustained the conviction on the basis of the partially reconstructed record, which only contained a few documents, such as the FIR. The knowledgeable attorney for the appellant claims that the law is clear on the matter and that without these records, it is impossible to say that a conviction was obtained on solid evidence and is therefore subject to being overturned.

Respondent’s contention : 

Not every conviction alters a person’s personality forever. A conviction may occasionally have little to no effect on a person’s behaviour and character. Furthermore, even though key evidence was lacking, it would be reasonable to uphold the conviction in particular circumstances. Although 500 rupees may not seem like much, if the evidence leads to a conviction, the accused should still be held accountable for their acts. The absence of an appeal does not necessarily imply that the defendant is innocent or deserves a second chance. Instead, in order to reach a fair and just judgment, the relevant data should be thoroughly analyzed and taken into account

Judgment: 

The Court of Appeal’s responsibility is to reach a decision on the matter “based on the record available to duly called from the Trial Court and the arguments advanced before it,” rather than relying on the lower court’s decision to affirm the conviction. The Court further held that in the absence of a fair legal process, the protection of Article 21 rights includes the freedom from any restrictions thereon. This includes the right of the person filing an appeal to contest the findings of fact made by the trial court, which can only be done when the record is available to the Court of Appeal. We hold that noncompliance with the mandate of the section, in certain cases contingent upon specific facts and circumstances of the case, would result in a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which we find to be the case in the instant case. Therefore, in the considered opinion of this Court, it is not within prudence to lay down a straightjacket formula.

As a result, the Court overturned the appellant’s conviction.

Court also directed the High Court to the digitization of the lower courts so these kinds of situations could not arise in the future.

READ FULL JUDGEMENT: https://bit.ly/3oRvPjS

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