SC to study if accused to be provided records at charge-framing stage

SC to study if accused to be provided records at charge-framing stage

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to consider if the prosecution’s failure to provide Swamy Nithyananda the victims’ medical reports would affect his fundamental right to a fair trial.

Swamy Nithyananda alias Gopal Sheelum Reddy, is accused of sexual offences including rape.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar appointed senior advocate Sidharth Luthra as amicus curiae after Swamy's counsel contended that the prosecution, along with Karnataka police, by suppressing records, were trying to convict him.

The Karnataka government, represented by Additional Advocate General Devadutt Kamat, challenged the July 21 order of the high court, wherein the prosecution was ordered to provide to the accused the statements of 32 witnesses, including that of Tamil actress Ranjitha Menon, whose purported CD with the Swamy had led to registration of criminal cases. It had also directed furnishing medical records of another victim and her email conversations.

“For the purpose of framing of charges, what is relevant is records of the case — charge sheets and other documents —  which prosecution prefers to rely upon,” Kamat contended. The counsel added that at this stage, the accused was not entitled to documents which were not part of the charge sheet.

Framing of charges is a crucial stage where the trial court after taking prima facie view of the charge sheet puts the accused on trial, by fixing the date of examination of witnesses. The court can also reject the charge sheet and discharge the accused.

Countering his arguments, Swamy's counsel senior advocates Shekhar Naphade, supported by C V Nagesh and advocate Sanjay M Nuli, contended, “The intention of the prosecution is to suppress the materials to prove my culpability.”

The bench, however, asked, “Suppose charge sheet is filed after 100 witnesses were examined by the police, the prosecution says those statements are not on record. Should the trial court direct production of those statements at the charge framing stage or at later stage?”

“The question of fairness is required even at the stage of framing of charges,” Swamy's counsel responded.

The bench then shot back, “What about the victims? Should victims go somewhere in the glacier? Why are you avoiding trial? What has been your conduct so far?”

“Even if my conduct is bad, should I be hanged?” the counsel again submitted.The bench put the matter for further consideration on April 5.

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