Depositions of complainant/witnesses recorded under Chapter XV of the CrPC would not constitute evidence for framing charges: SC

The Supreme Court of India clarified that the depositions of the complainant and his witnesses recorded under Chapter XV of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 before cognizance is taken by the Magistrate would not constitute evidence for the Magistrate to frame charges against the accused under Part B of Chapter XIX of the said Code.
Chapter XV of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 deals with complaints made to Magistrates.
Chapter XIX of the Code regulates trial of warrant cases by Magistrates and Part B deals with cases instituted otherwise than on a police report.
The Court observed “The trial of an accused under Chapter XIX and the evidence relevant to the same has no nexus proximate or otherwise with the evidence adduced at the initial stage where the Magistrate records depositions and examines the evidence for purposes of deciding whether a case for proceeding further has been made out. All that may be said is that evidence that was adduced before a Magistrate at the stage of taking cognizance and summoning of the accused may often be the same as is adduced before the Court once the accused appears pursuant to the summons. There is, however, a qualitative difference between the approach that the Court adopts and the evidence adduced at the stage of taking cognizance and summoning the accused and that recorded at the trial. The difference lies in the fact that while the former is a process that is conducted in the absence of the accused, the latter is undertaken in his presence with an opportunity to him to cross-examine the witnesses produced by the prosecution.”
“…….evidence under Chapter XIX (B) has to be recorded in the presence of the accused and if a right of cross-examination was not available to him, he would be no more than an idle spectator in the entire process. The whole object underlying recording of evidence under Section 244 after the accused has appeared is to ensure that not only does the accused have the opportunity to hear the evidence adduced against him, but also to defend himself by cross-examining the witnesses with a view to showing that the witness is either unreliable or that a statement made by him does not have any evidentiary value or that it does not incriminate him”, the Court said.

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