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Report No. 154

Chapter XI

Examination of Accused under Section 313

1. Section 313 empowers the court to examine the accused at any stage of any inquiry or trial for the purpose of enabling the accused to explain any circumstances in the evidence appearing against him.1 It also makes it mandatory for the court to question the accused after the examination of evidence of the prosecution and before he enters on his defence.2 The object of questioning under section 313 is that the important circumstances which if unexplained would lead to a conviction, should be specifically pointed out to him to enable him to give an explanation, if any. The rationale of the provision is based on the rules of natural justice, audi alteram partem.

1. Section 313(1)(a).

2. Section 313(1)(b).

2.1. The principles of natural justice evolved by the Indian judiciary comprise the fundamental rules of fair procedure, namely, that a man's defence must always be fairly heard and an adjudicator must give reasons for his decision. These principles form the bulwark of procedural due process in matters of judicial and quasi-judicial adjudication. In the criminal justice system the principle of audi alteram or fair hearing is incorporated in section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which empowers a trial judge to give a reasonable opportunity to an accused to explain incriminating facts and circumstances in the case.

2.2. Fair procedure pre-supposes that both sides should be heard audi alteram partem, 'hear the other side'. This is the most important principle of natural justice as it includes almost every aspect of fair procedure. This principle is broader in that it would include the rule against bias since a fair hearing must be an unbiased hearing.

2.3. All the three principles of natural justice form part of a specific design for ensuring that power is exercised considerately and fairly.

3. The accused in compliance with the provision, can file written statements with the permission of the court. In Tilkeshwar Singh v. State of Bihar, AIR 1956 SC 238, in a prosecution for murder under section 302 read with section 34 of I.P.C., the Supreme Court found that written statements were filed by the accused under section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 and they were found to be very elaborate and furnished answers to all the points raised, in the prosecution evidence. Though the examination of the accused was not in the question-answer form, the Supreme Court found that by filing of written statements, no prejudice was caused to him. The Supreme Court observed1:

"It is no doubt true that section 342 contemplates an examination in court and the practice of filing statements is to be deprecated. But that is not a ground for interference, unless prejudice is established. And it is nothing unusual for the accused to prefer filing statements instead of answering questions under section 342 lest they should suffer by inadvertent admissions or by damaging statements."

This decision lays down that whatever be the form of examination of accused under section 313, no prejudice should result to the accused.2

1. Ibid., at 241.

2. See also Ajmer Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1953 SC 76; Veer Punerjai v. State of Rajasthan, 1990 Cr LJ 1692.

4. The operation of this provision in practice is to have long and elaborate stereotype questions put to the accused to provide answers which many a time are found to be mechanical and meaningless without understanding the implications of the questions. The provision envisages a meaningful and realistic role of the judges in the examination of the accused putting such relevant question to him so that he can explain the circumstances appearing in the evidence against him.

Preparation of questions should be in accordance with the objective enshrined in the provisions. Unwarranted and time-consuming examination causes delay of the trial. But we find that many a time the questions are prepared by the Bench Clerk of the court in a mechanical and stereotyped manner.

5. In the Workshops held at various places the Judges and senior Advocates, while reiterating the need for this provision as a valuable safeguard to the accused in the trial processes, felt that with a view to eliminating delays in trials, the Judges could take the help of prosecutor and defence counsel in preparing relevant questions.

6. We are of the view that the Court can take the assistance of the prosecutor and defence counsel and prepare the questions which are to be put in a concise form to the accused under section 313. The Court can also permit the filing of written statements by the accused as sufficient compliance with section 313.

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 Back

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