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Supreme Court of India
State Of Himachal Pradesh vs Gita Ram on 8 September, 2000
Author: Thomas
Bench: K.T. Thomas, J., R.P. Sethi, J.



DATE OF JUDGMENT:	08/09/2000




Leave granted.


By the impugned judgment a single judge of the High
Court ordered a redo of the whole laborious exercise once
completed in full measure at great cost of time and energy,
solely on a technical ground.

Respondent was charge-sheeted for the offences under
Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 of the
Schedules Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of
Atrocities) Act 1989 (for short the Act).

A Magistrate committed the case to the Sessions Court
who was specified as a Special Court to try the offences
under the Act. A charge was framed by the said sessions
court against the respondent only for the offence under
Section 376 IPC. After trial the said Sessions Judge
convicted the respondent for the offence under Section 376
and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for seven years.
Respondent filed an appeal before the High Court challenging
the conviction and sentence. A learned single judge of the
High Court set aside the said conviction and sentence on one
technical ground i.e. the trial judge had no jurisdiction
as he was only the Special Court specified under the Act.
The case was committed to that court and resultantly that
court has no jurisdiction to try an offence under Section
376 of the IPC separately, according to the High Court. The
operative portion of the High Court judgment reads thus:

Consequently, the appeal is allowed. Conviction and
sentence is set aside. Since the very commitment of the
case to the Special Court by the learned Magistrate vide
order dated 24.3.1998 was illegal as he could not have taken
cognizance of the offence under the Act of 1989, the learned
trial court shall return the record of the case to the
learned Magistrate for being returned to the prosecution for
being presented to the competent court.

This Court has considered the question whether the
Sessions Court specified as a Special Court under the
provisions of the Act will cease to be a Sessions Court, or
whether he would continue to be the Sessions judge. (Vide
Gangula Ashok vs. State of Andhra Pradesh
[2000 (2) SCC
504]. This Court found that even after such specification
the Sessions Court would continue to be the Sessions Court
and a trial before that court can be held only in accordance
with the provisions contained in Chapter XVII of the Code of
Criminal Procedure. The following is the dictum laid down
by this Court:

It is clear from Sections 14 and 2(1)(d) of the Act
that it is for trial of the offences under the Act that a
particular Court of Sessions in each district is sought to
be specified as a Special Court. Though the word trial is
not defined either in the Code or in the Act it is clearly
distinguishable from inquiry. Inquiry must always be a
forerunner to the trial. Thus the Court of Session is
specified to conduct a trial and no other court can conduct
the trial of offences under the Act. Evidently the
legislature wanted the Special Court to be a Court of
Session. Hence the particular Court of Session, even after
being specified as a Special Court, would continue to be
essentially a Court of Session and designation of it as a
Special Court would not denude it of its character or even
powers as a Court of Session. The trial in such a Court can
be conducted only in the manner provided in Chapter XVIII of
the Code which contains a fasciculus of provisions for
trial before a Court of Session.

We are distressed to note that learned single judge was
not told by the government advocate of the fall out of such
a view, if taken by the single judge, that it means all the
witnesses once examined in full should be called back again,
and the whole chief-examination, cross- examination,
reexamination and questioning of the accused under Section
313 of the Code, hearing arguments, then examination of
defence witnesses further again final arguments to be heard
and preparation of judgment once again. The very object
underlined in Section 465 of the Code is that if on any
technical ground any party to the criminal proceedings is
aggrieved he must raise the objection thereof at the
earliest stage. If he did not raise it at the earliest
stage he cannot be heard on that aspect after the whole
trial is over.

The premise adopted by the learned single judge of the
High Court is patently erroneous. The Sessions Court which
tried the case for the offence under Section 376, IPC
continued to have jurisdiction to try the same, and the
order of committal was legally valid. The appeal filed
before the High Court could only be disposed of on merits
and not on the premise erroneously taken by the learned
Single Judge. He has not considered the appeal on merits.
We, therefore, set aside the impugned judgment. We remit
the case back to the High Court for disposal of the appeal
afresh on merits.

This appeal is disposed of accordingly.

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