By – Lakshay Sharma
In the Supreme Court of India
|Name of the Case||Santa Singh vs the State Of Punjab|
|Citation||1976 4 SCC 190|
|Date of the Case||17th August 1976|
|Respondent(s)||State of Punjab|
|Bench/Judges||P.N. Bhagwati, Fazal Ali, Syed Murtaza|
|Statutes/Constitution Involved||Code of Criminal Procedure 1973; Indian Penal Code|
|Important Sections/Articles||S 235 of Indian Penal Code; S 235, 235 (2), 465 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973|
The principle of “Audi Alteram Partem”, is of great importance in itself. It is a most basic concept of the principle of natural justice as it denotes, “no one should be left unheard or everyone is to be heard”.
In a trial, no matter how ruthless is the crime done by an offender/accused, they can’t be or shouldn’t be condemned without hearing them in the court of law. Several Sections in the Code of Criminal Procedure are present which safeguard this right and principle in their way like S 235(2) does.
This case concerns an accused, charged with double murder and convicted under S. 302 of Indian Penal Code by session Court Ludhiana. The convict was sentenced to death by the Learned Session Judge of Ludhiana, but due to the absence of his advocate, he wasn’t heard, and neither did he contented the same at that time and went with the flow.
The case was sent to the High Court for confirmation of the Death Penalty, also the convict challenged the impugned order of the Learned Session Court of Ludhiana based on violation of S 235 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The same sentence was confirmed by the High Court and the present case arose through appeal challenging the order of the high court as well as session court.
Background of the Case
- The appellant was charged for double murder, one of his mother and the other of his stepfather/second husband of his mother.
- He was tried in the session court of Ludhiana for the same.
- After hearing the arguments and concluding the evidence from both the parties, the learned session judge pronounced the judgment on 26th February 1975.
- The advocate of the appellant was absent on the day, so the learned session judge passed the judgment and the appellant wasn’t allowed to be heard.
- The same wasn’t contented by any of the parties and the appellant himself was quiet at that moment and didn’t raise his voice for the same, believing it to be common ground.
- The case was referred to the high court for confirmation of the death penalty.
- The appellant filed an appeal in the high court as well challenging the order of the session court on basis of violation of S 235 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- The high court confirmed the death penalty and went with the order passed by the learned session judge of Ludhiana.
- The appellant aggrieved from the order moved to the apex court, where this case arose.
Facts of the Case
- The appellant is charged with double murder under the S. 302 of the Indian Penal Code.
- The appellant was convicted by the Session Court Ludhiana.
- Death Sentence was Pronounced by the Learned Session Judge, Ludhiana on 26th February 1975.
- The advocate for the appellant was not present on the date, thus the judge didn’t allow the appellant to be heard on common ground as the appellant didn’t raise contention as well.
- The high court agreed with the view of Session Court, Ludhiana as well and confirmed the death sentence.
- This appeal was filed in the supreme court in response to the impugned order passed by the high court and session court on basis of violation of S. 235 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- “Does the non-compliance with the provisions of S. 235(2) of the 1973 Code vitiate the sentence passed by the Court?”
- “Whether non-compliance with S. 235(2) is merely an irregularity which can be cured by S. 465 or it is an illegality which vitiates the sentence.”
Arguments of the Petitioner
- The appellant wasn’t allowed to be heard under S. 235 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- The death penalty was pronounced by the learned sessions judge, Ludhiana without keeping in consideration the right of the appellant under S. 235 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- The high court also erred in the same way as sessions court and confirmed the death penalty.
- If the opportunity may have been given, there would have been a possibility, the appellant may have presented something which might have increased the chances of commutation of his punishment.
- The stages prescribed under the code weren’t followed during the trial in the sessions court, thus the sentence can’t be considered standing.
Arguments by the Respondents
- The learned session judge was not aware of the new stage in the trial provided by S. 235(2).
- If the learned judge had been aware of the stage, he would have allowed the appellant to be heard.
- The high court was in the same view as that of sessions court and thus confirmed the sentence passed.
- The appellant was quiet as well during the pronouncement of the death sentence.
- The learned session judge took the common ground of silence from the appellant and proceeded with the pronouncement of the sentence.
Section 235 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973
235. Judgment of acquittal or conviction.
(1) After hearing arguments and points of law (if any), the Judge shall give a judgment in the case.
(2) If the accused is convicted, the Judge shall, unless he proceeds in accordance with the provisions of section 360, hear the accused on the question of sentence, and then pass sentence on him according to law.
Section 465 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973
465. Finding or sentence when reversible by reason of error, omission irregularity.
(1) Subject to the provisions hereinbefore contained, no finding, sentence or order passed by a Court of competent jurisdiction shall be reversed or altered by a Court of appeal, confirmation or revision on account of any error, omission or irregularity in the complaint, summons, warrant, proclamation, order, judgment or other proceedings before or during the trial or in any inquiry or other proceedings under this Code, or any error, or irregularity in any sanction for the prosecution, unless in the opinion of that Court, a failure of justice has in fact been occasioned thereby.
(2) In determining whether any error, omission or irregularity in any proceeding under this Code, or any error, or irregularity in any sanction for the prosecution has occasioned a failure of justice, the Court shall have regard to the fact whether the objection could and should have been raised at an earlier stage in the proceedings.
Section 235 in The Indian Penal Code
235. Possession of instrument, or material for the purpose of using the same for counterfeiting coin.—Whoever is in possession of any instrument or material, for the purpose of using the same for counterfeiting coin, or knowing or having reason to believe that the same is intended to be used for that purpose, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine; if Indian coin.—and if the coin to be counterfeited is 1[Indian coin], shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
- S. 235 (2) was added to the code of criminal procedure to ensure that if a person is sentenced to death or capital punishment, he has no setback in his heart that if he had the chance to speak, the punishment might have been reduced.
- S. 235 (2) describes one of the fundamental stages of the trial or criminal procedure and its non-compliance will ex-facie vitiate the order.
- The appeal was allowed in the supreme court as per both the judges and clarified the limits and expansions of the S. 235 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- The matter was sent back to the trial court again and the appellant was given another opportunity to be heard and make a representation of his own.
The importance of the trial stages to be followed in a trial was redefined in this case, as the case was sent back to the trial court allowing the appellant to be heard.
The learned judges proposed to establish training institutes to train new judicial recruits and serving judges as well with changing trends and laws.
The order passed by the learned session judge of Ludhiana was vitiated and so was that of the high court to ensure the trial stages are completed thoroughly. The S. 235 (2) has its importance to diminish any sort of resilience in the heart of any accused of not being heard in case of pronouncement of capital punishment.
 Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 235, No. 2, Central Government Act, 1974[IND]
 Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 465, No. 2, Central Government Act, 1974[IND]
 Indian Penal Code, Section 235, No. 45, Central Government Act, 1860[IND]