Trial court duty bound to decide on adding or altering charges, says Madras High Court in Sathankulam case
However, the accused policemen argued that there is no evidence to support the charges which are sought to be added by the agency and requested the HC to dismiss the revision petition.
MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court in a recent order said it is the duty of the trial court to decide whether or not to include additional charges against the nine policemen in Sathankulam custodial death case, based on the supplementary chargesheet filed by the CBI, and no direction is required from the HC for it. Justice G Ilangovan said this while disposing of a revision petition filed by the CBI last year.
On March 24, 2021, the trial court in Madurai dismissed CBI's plea -- to add 120B (criminal conspiracy) and a few other IPC charges against the policemen -- as non-maintainable. As per Section 216 of CrPC, the charges can be altered or added to at any time before the pronouncement of the judgment, so a petition to that effect is totally unnecessary at this stage, the trial judge had observed. Questioning the legality of this order, the CBI filed the above revision petition in HC. While the revision petition was pending for over a year, CBI submitted a supplementary chargesheet in the case before the trial court in August 2022.
Citing this development and the deadline fixed by the HC to complete the trial by December, the Special Public Prosecutor for CBI requested the HC to set aside the trial court's order and direct the trial court to reconsider its decision in light of the newly available materials. However, the accused policemen argued that there is no evidence to support the charges which are sought to be added by the agency and requested the HC to dismiss the revision petition.
Justice Ilangovan noted that the order of the trial court was only 'interlocutory' (not final) in nature, against which a revision petition cannot be filed. However, he also opined that the trial court was wrong to question the right of the agency to file the plea, adding that the said portion of the order is liable to be set aside. But he clarified he would not give any positive direction to add or alter any charges. Based on the supplementary chargesheet, the trial court may decide whether any charges need to be added or altered and no direction is required from the HC for it, he observed.