Himachal Pradesh Vs. Gita Ram  INSC 472 (8
THOMAS, J. & R.P. SETHI, J.THOMAS, J.
By the impugned judgment a single judge of the High Court ordered a redo of the
whole laborious exercise once completed in full measure at great cost of time
and energy, solely on a technical ground.
was charge-sheeted for the offences under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code
and Section 3 of the Schedules Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of
Atrocities) Act 1989 (for short the Act).
Magistrate committed the case to the Sessions Court who was specified as a Special Court to try the offences under the Act.
A charge was framed by the said sessions court against the respondent only for
the offence under Section 376 IPC. After trial the said Sessions Judge
convicted the respondent for the offence under Section 376 and sentenced him to
undergo imprisonment for seven years.
filed an appeal before the High Court challenging the conviction and sentence.
A learned single judge of the High Court set aside the said conviction and
sentence on one technical ground i.e. the trial judge had no jurisdiction as he
was only the Special
Court specified under
case was committed to that court and resultantly that court has no jurisdiction
to try an offence under Section 376 of the IPC separately, according to the
High Court. The operative portion of the High Court judgment reads thus:
the appeal is allowed. Conviction and sentence is set aside. Since the very
commitment of the case to the Special Court by the learned Magistrate vide
order dated 24.3.1998 was illegal as he could not have taken cognizance of the
offence under the Act of 1989, the learned trial court shall return the record
of the case to the learned Magistrate for being returned to the prosecution for
being presented to the competent court.
Court has considered the question whether the Sessions Court specified as a Special Court under the provisions of the Act
will cease to be a Sessions Court, or whether he would continue to be the
Sessions judge. (Vide Gangula Ashok vs. State of Andhra Pradesh [2000 (2) SCC 504]. This Court found that even after such
specification the Sessions Court would continue to be the Sessions Court and a
trial before that court can be held only in accordance with the provisions
contained in Chapter XVII of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The following is
the dictum laid down by this Court:
clear from Sections 14 and 2(1)(d) of the Act that it is for trial of the
offences under the Act that a particular Court of Sessions in each district is
sought to be specified as a Special Court.
Though the word trial is not defined either in the Code or in the Act it is
clearly distinguishable from inquiry. Inquiry must always be a forerunner to
the trial. Thus the Court of Session is specified to conduct a trial and no
other court can conduct the trial of offences under the Act. Evidently the
legislature wanted the Special
Court to be a Court
of Session. Hence the particular Court of Session, even after being specified
as a Special Court, would continue to be essentially a
Court of Session and designation of it as a Special Court would not denude it of its character or even powers as a
Court of Session. The trial in such a Court can be conducted only in the manner
provided in Chapter XVIII of the Code which contains a fasciculus of provisions
for trial before a Court of Session.
distressed to note that learned single judge was not told by the government
advocate of the fall out of such a view, if taken by the single judge, that it
means all the witnesses once examined in full should be called back again, and
the whole chief-examination, cross- examination, reexamination and questioning
of the accused under Section 313 of the Code, hearing arguments, then
examination of defence witnesses further again final arguments to be heard and
preparation of judgment once again. The very object underlined in Section 465
of the Code is that if on any technical ground any party to the criminal
proceedings is aggrieved he must raise the objection thereof at the earliest
stage. If he did not raise it at the earliest stage he cannot be heard on that
aspect after the whole trial is over.
premise adopted by the learned single judge of the High Court is patently
erroneous. The Sessions Court which tried the case for the offence under
Section 376, IPC continued to have jurisdiction to try the same, and the order
of committal was legally valid. The appeal filed before the High Court could
only be disposed of on merits and not on the premise erroneously taken by the
learned Single Judge. He has not considered the appeal on merits.
therefore, set aside the impugned judgment. We remit the case back to the High
Court for disposal of the appeal afresh on merits.
appeal is disposed of accordingly.