Report No. 48
44. Examination of the accused.-
In the Report on Social and Economic Offences, the Commission, having regard to the nature of offences under inquiry and the magnitude of the danger posed to the national economy, recommended the insertion of a provision on the following lines1:-
(1) In every trial for an offence under this Act, the Court shall, after the charge is framed,-
(a) direct the prosecution to furnish to the accused (or, where there are more accused than one, to each of them separately), a copy of the charge and of the documents upon which the prosecution proposes to rely and of which copies have not been already furnished to the accused, and
(b) for the purpose of ascertaining the case of the accused, call upon the accused to make a statement orally or in writing signed by him, touching upon all the facts set out in the charge and in the documents of which copies have been furnished to the accused:
Provided that where the court has dispensed with the personal attendance of the accused, the court may permit him to present a written statement signed by him through his pleader.
(2) No oath shall be administered to the accused when the is examined under sub-section (1).
(3) The accused shall not render himself liable to punishment by refusing to make such statement or by making a false statement.
(4) The statement made by the accused or the failure to make a statement on all or any of the matters referred to in sub-section (1) may be taken into consideration in such trial, and put in evidence for or against him in any other inquiry into, or trial for, any other offence which such statement may tend to show he has committed.
(5) Where the court has called upon the accused to make a statement under this section, the provisions of section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, shall not apply, except as regards matters which, in the opinion of the court, had not been raised and communicated to the accused previously and in respect of which the accused should be allowed an opportunity to-explain the circumstances appearing against.
(6) Where the accused has stated his case under this section, he shall not ordinarily be allowed to go beyond that case except with the leave of court.
It appears to us that such a provision should be extended to all trials. We may note that this is not a totally new approach, as even now the Code empowers the Court2 to examine the accused before the commencement of evidence.
The comparative position in other countries on this point, and the possible constitutional objections and other related matters, were dealt with in our Report on Social and Economic Offences3. When considering the matter for the purposes of that Report, we were concerned with offences of anti-social nature or offences against the economy of the country. We have considered the question whether such a provision should be inserted for offences in general, and it appears to us that the provision which we proposed in that Report could, with advantage, be extended to all offences. Though the general run of offences may not present a danger of the same magnitude or nature as social and economic offences, it cannot be denied that the course of criminal trials could be made more smooth if the accused is required to disclose his case at the outset, and we do not think that this should cause any injustice or harassment to him.
1. 47the Report (Social and Economic Offences), para. 9.20.
2. Section 251A(2), Cr. P.C.
3. 47th Report, paras. 9.10 to 9.20.