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CrPc 174 statements can be used to Confront witness.

HIGH COURT OF CHHATTISGARH, BILASPUR

Criminal Revision No.878 of 2018

Order Reserved on : 27.8.2018

Order Passed on : 13.11.2018

1. Vishal Agrawal, S/o Ashok Agrawal, aged about 31 years, permanent R/o Ward No.16, Mangal Bhawan Complex, Near Ashutosh Textiles, Main Road Raurkela, P.S. Udit Nagar, District Sundergarh (Orissa),presently R/o House No.98, Krishna Nagar Colony, Tilda, Newra, District Raipur, Chhattisgarh

2. Ashok Kumar Agrawal, S/o Vishwanath Agrawal, aged about 57 years,

3. Smt. Kusumlata Agrawal, W/o Shri Ashok Agrawal, aged about 45 years,
Applicants No.2 and 3 both permanent R/o Ward No.16, Mangal Bhawan Complex, Near Ashutosh Textiles, Main Road Raurkela, P.S.Udit Nagar, District Sundergarh, Orissa

4. Manoj Agrawal, S/o Vishwanath Agrawal, aged about 48 years, R/o Main Road, Near Rajgaangpur Raillway Station, District Sundergarh, Orissa

5. Devashish Agrawal, S/o Ashok Agrawal, aged about 29 years,

6. Ku. Bhagyalaxmi @ Anulaxmi Agrawal, D/o Ashok Agrawal, aged about 22 years,
Applicants No.5 6 both R/o Ward No.16, Mangal Bhawan Complex, Near Ashutosh Textiles, Main Road Raurkela, P.S. Udit Nagar, District Sundergarh, Orissa
(Applicants No.4 to 6 wrongly mentioned as Absconding Accused in the cause title of Certified Copy of Order Sheets)—- Applicants

versus

State of Chhattisgarh through P.S. Newra, District Raipur, Chhattisgarh —– Respondent

For Applicants : Shri Maneesh Sharma, Advocate For Respondent/State : Shri Anil Pandey, Govt. Advocate

Hon’ble Shri Justice Arvind Singh Chandel C.A.V.

ORDER

1. This revision is directed against the order dated 25.7.2018 passed by the 1st Additional Sessions Judge, Raipur in Sessions Trial No.204 of 2017, whereby the Additional Sessions Judge has rejected the application filed by the Applicants for permitting them to confront the prosecution witnesses with their previous statements recorded during inquest proceeding for the purpose of contradictions and omissions amounting to contradictions as permitted by law under Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act.

2. A criminal trial under Sections 498A, 304B, 304B/149 in the alternative under Sections 302, 302/149 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is going on against the present Applicants before the 1 st Additional Sessions Judge, Raipur. During the course of trial, the accused/Applicants moved an application under Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for providing them a copy of the statements of witnesses which were recorded during the inquest proceeding of the deceased. Thereafter, prosecution witness Sumitra was examined. On 25.7.2018, during her cross-examination, an application was filed by the Applicants for permitting them to confront prosecution witness Sumitra and other prosecution witnesses with their previous statements recorded during the inquest proceeding, which was rejected by the Trial Court on the ground that the statements which are recorded in inquest proceeding under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be used for confronting the witnesses.

3. Learned Counsel appearing for the Applicants submitted that as provided by Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act, a witness may in cross-examination be contradicted by confronting him with his previous statement in writing or reduced into writing. He further submitted that when an inquest or inquiry is made by the prosecution into the cause of death and if certain statements are recorded during the course of the inquest proceeding then such statements being the previous statements of the witnesses are required to be filed in the Court. On the request of the Applicants, copies of the statements of witnesses, which were recorded during the course of inquest proceeding, were already provided by the Trial Court. It is settled law that the statements recorded during the inquest proceeding are previous statements and the accused has a right to confront the witnesses or contradict them with the same during their cross-examination. But, the Trial Court has failed to appreciate that not providing an opportunity to the Applicants to cross-examine the witnesses on the basis of their previous statements amounts to denial of fair opportunity to defend themselves.

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4. Learned Counsel appearing for the Respondent/State opposed the above arguments and supported the impugned order.

5. I have heard Learned Counsel appearing for the parties and perused the material available with due care.

6. Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that any police officer making an investigation under Chapter 12 of the Code may examine orally any person supposed to be acquaintedwith the facts and circumstances of the case. Such person shall be bound to answer truly all questions relating to such case put to him by such officer, other than questions the answers to which would have a tendency to expose him to a criminal charge or to a penalty or forfeiture. The police officer may reduce into writing the statement of the witness. The statement may also be recorded by audio-video electronic means.

7. Section 162 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that the statements recorded under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure are not required to be singed by the persons giving such statements. Proviso appended to sub-section (1) of Section 162 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that when any witness is called for the prosecution in such inquiry or trial whose statement has been reduced into writing, any part of his statement, if duly proved, may be used by the accused, and with the permission of the Court, by the prosecution, to contradict such witness in the manner provided by Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act. Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act reads as under:

“145. Cross­examination   as   to   previous statements   in   writing.–A   witness   may   be   cross­ examined as to previous  statements made by him in writing   or   reduced   into   writing,   and   relevant   to matters in question, without such writing being shown to   him,   or   being   provided;   but,   if   it   is   intended   to contradict   him   by   the   writing,   his   attention   must, before   the   writing   can   be   proved,   be   called   to   those parts   of   it   which   are   to   be   used   for   the   purpose   of contradicting him.”

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8. A conjoint reading of Sections 161 and 162 of the Code of Criminal Procedure makes it clear that during the course of investigation a police officer is entitled to record the oral statement of a witness and if such witness is summoned by the prosecution in support of its case then the accused would be entitled to use the previous statement of said witness for the purposes of proving contradictions or to prove such omissions which amounts to contradictions.

9. In (1999) 4 SCC 621 (State of Kerala v. Babu), the Supreme Court has observed as follows:

“11. The High Court  in the impugned  judgment proceeded on the basis that a statement recorded by an investigating officer in any case which was under investigation, being a statement made under Section 161 of the Code, the same can be used for the limited purpose provided under Section 162 of the Code read with Section 145 of the Evidence Act.  There can be no quarrel   with   this   approach   of   the   High   Court   in regard   to   the   use   of   the   previous   statements   of   a witness   made  in  the  course  of  another  investigation being   used   in   the   course   of   another   criminal   trial. This is because as seen from the observations of this Court in the case of Tahsildar Singh v. State of U.P., AIR   1959   SC   1012   the   very   object   of   enactment   of Section   161   of   the   Code   and   Section   145   of   the Evidence   Act   is   to   create   a   right   in   the   accused   to make use of the previous statements of the witnesses for   the   purpose   of   contradiction   and   for   impeaching the   merit   of   the   witness.     This   right   has   not   been taken away by Section 172 of the Code and, as noticed above, there is no prohibition in regard to this right of the   accused   either   under   the   Code   or   under   the Evidence Act.   But the question for consideration is, how   does   the   accused   exercise   this   right   with reference to a previous statement of a witness made in another   case   which   is   recorded   by   the   investigating officer in that case under the provisions of Section 161 of the Code?  In our opinion, this right certainly does not   flow   under   Section   172   of   the   Code   nor   is   the accused  entitled   to   these   previous  statements   under Section 207 of the Code.  But, this does not mean that the accused is denied of his limited benefit of using the   said   previous   statements   recorded   during   the course of another investigation.   The answer to this question, in our considered view, lies in Section 91(1) of the Code which reads thus:

“91. Summons   to   produce   document   or other   thing.–(1)   Whenever   any   court   or   any officer in charge of a police station considers that the production of any document or other thing is necessary   or   desirable   for   the   purposes   of   any investigation, enquiry, trial or other proceeding under   this   Code   by   or   before   such   court   or officer, such court may issue a summons, or such officer a   written  order,  to the person  in whose possession or power such document or thing is believed   to   be,   requiring   him   to   attend   and produce it, or to produce it, at the time and place stated in the summons or order.

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(2) Any person required under this section merely   to   produce   a   document   or   other   thing shall   be   deemed   to   have   complied   with   the requisition if he causes such document or thing to be produced instead of attending personally to produce the same.

(3) Nothing   in   this   section   shall   be deemed–

(a) to affect Sections 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872), or the Bankers’ Books Evidence Act, 1891 (13 of 1891), or

(b) to   apply   to   a   letter,   postcard, telegram or other document or any parcel or   thing   in   the   custody   of   the   postal   or telegraph authority.”

10. In 2001 LawSuit (Chh) 86 (Santosh v. State of Chhattisgarh), this Court has observed thus:

“11. Section   174   of   the   Code   of   Criminal Procedure when authorises a police officer to prepare the   Panchanama   and   record   the   statements   of   the witnesses then it does not put embargo on the powers of the police officer from obtaining the signatures of the witnesses on their respective statements but the said statements  recorded during  the course of the inquest continue   to   remain   the   previous   statements   of   such witnesses.

12. In   a   given   case   if   the   witnesses   do   speak against   the   accused   then   it   provides   a   foundation   in favour of the prosecution but if in the first statements the witnessed do not say even a single word against the accused and in their subsequent statements they start levelling   allegations   against   the   accused   then   the accused would be entitled to confront the witnesses or contradict them with their earlier statements.

13. True, it is that proceedings under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure have a very limited scope   but   that   does   not   mean   that   the   statements recorded during the proceedings under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be used for the purposes of proving the contradictions.  The statements recorded   during   the   inquest   report,   as   those   are   the previous   statements   recorded   by   the   police   would   be covered under Section 162 and certainly can be used for the   purposes   of   proving   contradictions.     The   inquest report is not a piece of substantive evidence but can be utilised for contradicting the witnesses of the inquest. In the matter of Suresh Rai v. State of Bihar (AIR 2000 SC 2207) the Supreme Court  has observed that such statements   can   always   be   used   for   contradicting   the witness of the inquest.”

11. Thus, in the light of above observations, it is clear that the earlier statements recorded during inquest proceeding are the previous statements recorded by the police and would be covered under Section 162 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and certainly can be used for the purposes of proving the contradictions.

12. In the premises of aforestated, I find that the impugned order dated 25.7.2018 passed by the Trial Court is contrary to law and is, therefore, set aside. The instant revision is allowed. The Trial Court is directed to permit the defence/Applicants to confront the prosecution witnesses with their previous statements recorded during the inquest proceeding for the purpose of contradictions and omissions amounting to contradictions as permitted by law under Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act.

Sd/-

(Arvind Singh Chandel) JUDGE Gopal

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