Supreme Court cautions trial court against long adjournment on cross examination

The bench said this court has, on more than one occasion, condemned this practice of the trial court where cross examinations are deferred without sufficient reasons.
Last Updated : 03 July 2024, 15:27 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday sounded a note of caution for the trial court against giving routine adjournments on cross examination of witnesses, saying this may seriously prejudice the fairness of trial.

Upholding the conviction of Delhi police constable Surender Singh in a case of murder of a civilian inside the police station, a bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Rajesh Bindal said this court has, on more than one occasion, condemned this practice of the trial court where cross examinations are deferred without sufficient reasons.

"Only in very exceptional cases, and for reasons to be recorded, the cross examination should be deferred and a short adjournment can be given after taking precautions and care, for the witness, if it is required. We are constrained to make this observation as we have noticed in case after case that cross examinations are being adjourned routinely which can seriously prejudice a fair trial," the bench said.

In the aforementioned case, the court noted the cross examination of the main eye witness, an injured woman constable, was conducted after more than two months of her examination in chief. However, she remained steadfast in her deposition.

According to the prosecution on June 30, 2002, the appellant sprayed eight to nine bullets upon the deceased by his carbine. It alleged the appellant was angry with the deceased for having an illicit relationship with his wife.

The appellant contended the act was committed in self defence and there was a grave and sudden provocation.

The court, however, termed his plea as "bizarre" and "childish" in view of evidence and eye witnesses statements.

"In the present case on every possible count the case is nothing but a case of murder. The nature of weapon used; the number of gun shots fired at the deceased; the part of the body where gun shots are fired, all point towards the fact that the appellant was determined to kill the deceased. Ultimately, he achieved his task and made sure that the deceased is dead. By no stretch of logic is it a case of any lesser magnitude, and definitely not culpable homicide not amounting to murder," the bench said.

The court noted the plea of self-defence and in the alternative the plea of grave and sudden provocation taken by the appellant was based on the theory that it was the deceased who came to the police station in full speed in his car thereby first hitting the gate of the police station and then making an attempt to snatch the weapon from the appellant in order to kill him.

"But these arguments do not hold any ground and most importantly there is not even an iota of evidence to sustain this bizarre line of defence," the bench said.

The plea of self-defence is childish to say the least, in the light of the facts of the case, and on the weight of the evidence of the prosecution, the bench said.

"The case of the defence that the deceased came “unarmed” to kill the appellant knowing very well that the appellant was armed with a weapon is an awkward attempt to present the deceased as the aggressor. It does not make any sense," the bench said.

The bench referred to eye witness accounts, which proved that the appellant did not stop at the initial firing of the shot, which he had fired from a close range. Instead, he continued to spray bullets on the deceased even when he was trying to escape, which establishee a case of murder beyond any reasonable doubt, the bench said.

Published 03 July 2024, 15:27 IST

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