Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Kushalbhai Ratanbhai Rohit V.s State of Gujarat


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.453 of 2014

      Kushalbhai Ratanbhai Rohit & Ors.


      The State of Gujarat                                      …Respondent

                                  O R D E R

      1.    This petition has been filed against  the  interim  order  dated
      27.12.2013, passed by the  High  Court  of  Gujarat  at  Ahmedabad  in
      Criminal Appeal No.2012 of 2006.

      2.    Facts and circumstances giving rise to this petition are :

      A.    That an FIR  C.R. No.60 of  2001  was  registered  at  Amraiwadi
      Police Station, Ahmedabad against one Mahalingam alias Shiva  for  the
      offence punishable  under  the  provisions  of    Narcotic  Drugs  and
      Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (for short ‘NDPS Act’).  Pursuant to
      the said FIR, case commenced  which  was  committed  to  the  Sessions
      Court, Bhadra, Ahmedabad and the trial commenced.

      B.    On 4.8.2003, Shiva, accused who was detained at Vadodara Central
      Jail, was required to be  taken  to  the  Sessions  Court  at  Bhadra,
      Ahmedabad and for that purpose an escort was  arranged,  however,  the
      case was adjourned and the accused while going back was  taken  for  a
      cup of tea to the Tea stall outside  the  court  compound.  Subsequent
      thereto, he expressed the desire to see his  ailing  mother   and  the
      escort persons tried to find the auto-rickshaw but the escort  persons
      started nauseating and vomiting as some substance  was  allegedly  had
      been mixed up with tea by the relatives of the accused and it  was  at
      that time Shiva, accused absconded from the custody of  these  persons
      although in handcuffs.  Thus, a complaint was lodged in  this  respect
      by the seniormost person of the said escort party.   In  this  regard,
      Ist   C.R. No.442 of 2003 was  recorded  for  the  offence  punishable
      under Sections 328, 222, 223, 224 and 114 of  the  Indian  Penal  Code
      1860 (hereinafter referred to as ‘IPC’).

      C.    After the  investigation,  chargesheet  was  filed  against  the
      escort  personnel  including  the  petitioners  on  5.9.2005  and  the
      petitioners were found guilty for the offence punishable under Section
      222 IPC vide judgment and order dated  9.11.2006  and  the  petitioner
      no.1 was awarded 3 years’ RI and a fine of Rs.5,000/- and  in  default
      thereto, to undergo simple  imprisonment  for  one  year.   Petitioner
      nos.2 and 3 were convicted  under Section 222 IPC but  they  had  been
      awarded the sentence for a period of two years  each  and  a  fine  of
      Rs.2,000/-each, and in default thereto, to undergo simple imprisonment
      for six months.

      D.    Aggrieved, the petitioners preferred Criminal Appeal No.2012  of
      2006 before the High Court of Gujarat and during the pendency  of  the
      appeal, the petitioners had been enlarged on  bail  vide  order  dated
      22.11.2006.  The appeal was finally heard on 11.12.2013 and the  court
      took a view that sanction of the State Government under Section 197 of
      the Code of Criminal  Procedure,  1973  (hereinafter  referred  to  as
      “Cr.P.C.”) was necessarily required, and in view  thereof,  the  order
      was dictated in open court allowing the  appeal  on  technical  issue.
      However,  the  order  dictated  in  open  court  and  acquitting   the
      petitioners vide order dated 11.12.2013 was recalled by the court  suo
      moto vide order dated 27.12.2013 and directed the  appeal  to  be  re-
      heard.  The order had been recalled  on  the  ground  that  the  court
      wanted to examine the issue further as to whether  in  the  facts  and
      circumstances  of  the  case  where  the  accused  had   been   police
      constables, the offence could not be attributed to have been committed
      under the commission of their duty where sanction  under  Section  197
      Cr.P.C. would be attracted.

            Hence, this petition.

      3.     Heard  Shri  Fakhruddin,  learned  senior   counsel   for   the
      petitioners and Shri    Anurag  Ahluwalia,  learned  counsel  for  the
      State and perused the record.

      4.    We do not find any forcible submission advanced on behalf of the
      petitioners that once the order had been dictated in open  court,  the
      order to review or recall is not permissible in view of the provisions
      of Section 362 Cr.P.C. for the simple reason that Section 362  Cr.P.C.
      puts an embargo to call, recall or review any judgment or order passed
      in criminal case once it has  been  pronounced  and  signed.   In  the
      instant case, admittedly, the order was dictated in the court, but had
      not been signed.

      5.    In Mohan Singh v. King-Emperor 1943  ILR  (Pat)  28,  a  similar
      issue was examined wherein the facts had been that  the  judgment  was
      delivered by the  High  Court  holding  that  the  trial  was  without
      jurisdiction and a direction  was  issued  to  release  the  appellant
      therein.  However, before the judgment could be typed and  signed  the
      court discovered that the copy of  the  notification  which  had  been
      relied upon was an accurate  copy  and  that  the  Special  Judge  had
      jurisdiction in respect of  the  offence  under  which  the  appellant
      therein had  been  convicted.   Thereupon,  the  order  directing  the
      release of the accused was recalled and the appeal was directed to  be
      heard de novo.  When the matter came up for re-hearing, the  objection
      that the court did not have a power to recall the order and  hear  the
      appeal de novo, was rejected.

      6.    In view of the provisions of Section 362 Cr.P.C. while  deciding
      the case, the Patna High Court relied upon the  judgment  of  Calcutta
      High Court in Amodini Dasee v. Darsan Ghose, 1911 ILR  (Cal)  828  and
      the judgment of Allahabad High Court in Emperor  v.  Pragmadho  Singh,
      1932 ILR (All.) 132.  A  similar  view  has  been  reiterated  by  the
      Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in State of Bombay v. Geoffrey
      Manners & Co., AIR 1951 Bom. 49.  The Bombay High Court had taken  the
      view that unless the judgment is  signed  and  sealed,  it  is  not  a
      judgment  in  strict  legal  sense  and  therefore,   in   exceptional
      circumstances, the order can be recalled  and  altered  to  a  certain

      7.    In Sangam Lal v. Rent Control and Eviction Officer, Allahabad  &
      Ors., AIR 1966 All. 221, while dealing with the rent  control  matter,
      the court came to the conclusion that until a judgment is  signed  and
      sealed after delivering in court, it is not a judgment and it  can  be
      changed or altered at any time before it is signed and sealed.

      8.    This Court has also dealt with the issue  in  Surendra  Singh  &
      Ors. v. State of U.P., AIR 1954 SC 194 observing as under:

           “Now up to the moment the judgment is delivered Judges have  the
           right  to  change  their  mind.  There  is  a  sort  of   'locus
           paenitentiae' and indeed last minute alterations often do occur.
           Therefore, however much a draft judgment may  have  been  signed
           beforehand, it is nothing but a draft till formally delivered as
           the judgment of the Court. Only then does it crystallise into  a
           full fledged judgment and become operative. It follows that  the
           Judge who "delivers" the judgment, or causes it to be  delivered
           by a brother Judge, must be in existence  as  a  member  of  the
           Court at the moment of delivery so that he  can,  if  necessary,
           stop delivery and say that he has changed his mind. There is  no
           need for him to be physically present in court but he must be in
           existence as a member of the Court and be in a position to  stop
           delivery and effect an  alteration  should  there  be  any  last
           minute change of mind on his part. If he hands in  a  draft  and
           signs it and indicates that he intends  that  to  be  the  final
           expository of his views it can be assumed that those  are  still
           his views at the moment of delivery if he  is  alive  and  in  a
           position to change  his  mind  but  takes  no  steps  to  arrest

                 But one cannot assume that he would not have  changed  his
           mind if he is no longer in  a  position  to  do  so.  A  Judge's
           responsibility is heavy and when a man's life and  liberty  hang
           upon his decision nothing can be left  to  chance  or  doubt  or
           conjecture; also, a question of public policy is involved. As we
           have indicated, it is frequently the practice to send  a  draft,
           sometimes a signed draft, to a brother Judge who also heard  the
           case.  This  may  be  merely  for  his   information,   or   for
           consideration and criticism. The mere signing of the draft  does
           not necessarily indicate a closed mind.  We  feel  it  would  be
           against  public  policy  to  leave  the   door   open   for   an
           investigation whether a draft sent by a Judge  was  intended  to
           embody his final and unalterable opinion or was only intended to
           be a tentative draft sent with an unwritten  understanding  that
           he is free to change his mind should fresh light drawn upon  him
           before the delivery of judgment.”

      9.     Thus,  from  the  above,  it  is   evident   that   a   Judge’s
      responsibility is very heavy, particularly, in a case  where  a  man's
      life and liberty hang upon his decision nothing can be left to  chance
      or doubt or conjecture.  Therefore, one cannot assume, that the  Judge
      would not have changed his mind before the judgment become final.

      10.   In Iqbal Ismail Sodawala v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors., AIR
      1974 SC 1880, the judgment  in  Surendra  Singh  (supra)  referred  to
      hereinabove was considered in  this  case.   In  that  case,  criminal
      appeal was heard by the Division Bench of the High Court, the judgment
      was signed by both of them but it was delivered in  court  by  one  of
      them after the death of the other.  It was  held  that  there  was  no
      valid judgment and the case should be re-heard.  This Court  took  the
      view that the judgment is the final decision of the court intimated to
      the parties and the world at large.

      11.   In view of the above, we are of the considered opinion  that  no
      exception can be taken to the procedure adopted by the High  Court  in
      the instant case.

      12.    The  petition  is  devoid  of  any  merit  and  is  accordingly
                                      (Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN)

                                                   (J. CHELAMESWAR)

                                                   (M.Y. EQBAL)
    New Delhi,
    May 6, 2014

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