PublicationsThe Voice of the Accused – Examination under Section 313 of CRPC

April 15, 20210
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Introduction

When the trial procedure starts, be it a warrant case or summons case. After the evidence of the prosecution is taken by the competent judge, a cross-examination to that effect is permitted as per his or her discretion. Examination of the accused is the next step in trial.

According to the 41st Report of the Law Commission, Section 313 is one of the most important sections in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Section 313 requires the court to examine the accused. Through this Section, the court shall question the accused generally on the case. This enables the accused to explain the circumstances or that which leads to those circumstances with regards to the evidence appearing against him.

It is through this section that the voice of the accused is heard without silencing him. He is treated as a human being and a compassionate approach towards hearing him is initiated by the court. The court must understand the words of the accused in a way so that it is to consider him more like a human being and less like a beast.

This article discusses the various aspects of Section 313 and the importance of the same.

Relevance of this Section

In order to work according to the principles of basic fairness of a criminal trial, it is necessary for the court to ensure that every small detail in connection to the case is brought to the attention of the accused.

  • This particular section acts as a procedural safeguard through which the court has a direct dialogue with the accused to provide explanation of those incriminating circumstances which may render the accused guilty upon conviction.
  • This section uplifts the principles of righteousness and fairness for imparting criminal justice.
  • This section reflects the natural justice principle – audi alteram partem. That is the other party must be given an opportunity to be heard.
  • Further, this section puts a burden on the court to question the accused fully but not to subject him to any cross-examination in order so that he is trapped to admit something which the prosecution had failed to establish. The court is to hear the accused and not impose the accused into answering.
  • The statement of such a nature made by the accused is not by oath. Hence, he cannot be held liable for the false statements made by him during the examination. This protects the accused and which in return will help him to talk freely without any force.
  • One thing that is to be noted is that the statement made by the accused during the examination under Section 313, if found to be genuine and reasonable, is accepted and the prosecution will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is false. This improves the relevance of this section as it will uphold the maxim “Let Hundred Guilty Be Acquitted But One Innocent Should Not Be Convicted”
Explaining the Section
  • The Sub-section (1) Clause (a) of Section 313 provides that in every inquiry or trial, the court may at any stage without previously warning the accused, put in front of him any question as it considers necessary. This is for the purpose of enabling the accused to personally explain any circumstances appearing against him in the evidence.
  • Sub-section (1) Clause (b) of Section 313 imposes a duty, which is mandatory for the courts to ensure that the accused is questioned by the court after the close of the prosecution case. However, the proviso clarifies that the court may dispense with the examination of the accused in a summons case.
  • Sub-section (2) explains that no oath shall be administered to the accused, because he is not a witness when he is being examined under Section 313.
  • Sub-section (3) provides a safeguard to the accused. The accused, if he neglects to answer the questions put before him or if he gives any false answers to them, then he will not be liable to any punishment for the same.
  • Sub-section (4) of Section 313 explains that the answers given by the accused may be taken into consideration in the inquiry or trial. That is, the answers may be put in evidence for or against him in the subsequent inquiries or trials.
Duties of the Court
  • It is the duty of the court as per Section 313(1)(b) to question the accused “generally”, while exercising this power, it must ensure that no unfair interrogation is directed towards the accused. The accused must be questioned with respect to those material circumstances which are intended to be used against him. This should not be done in a sweeping manner, so as to render the duty as a mere formality. The judge must not also exceed the permissible limits.
  • No general and broad questions are to be asked by the court which are to be answered by the accused. Moreover, the accused is to be asked questions relating to various items of evidence and if those items, being relevant, were not put to the accused, the same cannot be used in evidence for or against him relying on the side of the prosecution. The questions asked by the court and the answers given by the accused must be recorded in full.

The consequence of non-compliance with this Section.

It is to be noted that Section 313 is a very important section. The non-compliance of the same will be a violation of the natural justice principle. Although the effect of the non-compliance will not result in vitiating the trial, the accused must show that there was a failure of justice in bringing the attention of the accused to an inculpatory material that depicts his involvement.[2] However, it does not mean that each and every omission, error or non-compliance of Section 313 will result in vitiation. The degree of the error, omission and so on will be taken into consideration while deciding whether the non-compliance will vitiate the trial or not.

The main object of this Section is to give an opportunity to the accused to speak. The contentions of the accused must be heard and his mental agonies must be acknowledged by the court. Therefore, the court must hear the accused no matter what. Hence, the provisions of Section 313 become mandatory.

Case Laws

Promotha Nath V Emperor – AIR 1923 Cal 470

 In this case, the court observed that the object of this section and the intention of the statute is to put aside all Counsel, all pleaders, all witnesses and all representatives so as to call upon the accused face to face, by the authority of the court and provide him with an opportunity make a statement from his place in order that the Court may have the advantage of hearing his defence from his own lips.

Parameswaran and Others V State of Kerala – 1989 (1) KLT 35

It was held that the accused should be subject to those questions regarding various items of the evidence and if those items being relevant are not put into question offering the accused to give an explanation to the same, the same cannot be used against the accused relying only on the evidence of these witnesses.

Dehal Singh V State of Himachal Pradesh – (2010) 9 SCC 85

 In this case law, the Supreme Court observed the evidentiary value of the statement made under Section 313. It was held that the statement recorded by the court without administering the oath and without the witness being cross-examined as per Section 313; it does not come under Section 3 of the Evidence Act.

In Raj Kumar Singh V. State of Rajasthan – AIR 2013 SC 3150, the court held that the accused has the right to remain silent during the examination but an adverse inference can be taken by the judge on if there are circumstances pointing out that the accused is not able to initiate any explanation for the same.

Analysis

Examination of the accused is not just a formality that has to be complied with as a procedural duty. The accused must be given an opportunity to articulate the adverse circumstances leading to the commission of such offence. As a law student who is interested in the area of Human Rights, I believe that the voice of the accused is to be heard without any bias and as a human being his contentions are to be fully dealt with one hundred per cent genuineness. We have evolved to a point where we stress the importance of correcting the wrongdoer rather than punishing him. Likewise, hearing out the accused is to be treated as a remedial measure. The voice of the accused envisages the adverse circumstances of his life which cannot be ignored while imparting justice. The accused is to be questioned about each material fact separately in such a way that a normal person with a sound mind can understand the questions raised. Section 313 is that which has got a dynamic nature and a  wide scope for evolution.  In the recent case of Maheshwar Tigga v. State of Jharkhand, [3] the court made it crystal clear that the statements made by the accused cannot be made to use against him. This particular section acts as a vein that pumps blood to the ever-evolving concept of Human Rights, therefore the same has to be dealt with integrity and seriousness.

Conclusion

 Section 313 is one of the most important sections in the Code of Criminal Procedure. It gives the authority to the court to examine the accused as well as imposes a duty upon the court to provide an opportunity to the accused to speak. The intention of the lawmakers is clear. It is to uplift the principle of natural justice. That is, audi alteram partem, This Section imparts a fair, just and reasonable application of the same. It is a procedural safeguard through which the court acts. The primary object of this Section is to provide the accused with an opportunity to explain those circumstances which appear in the prosecution evidence against him. The accused should not be silenced, his circumstances and mental agonies should be heard by the court. Moreover, there should be a proper way to get in touch with the needs of the accused. Even though our legal system leans towards the administration of justice, when the accused is not given the basic right to be heard, we miserably fail in the upliftment of justice as a whole. We must discontinue the practice of such inhumane treatments towards the accused persons and treat them as proper human being in need of help instead of treating them as a beast of vices.

Reference

[1]Section 313 of CrPC

[2]41st Law Commission Report  – p 204,  para 24.40

-State (Delhi Administration) v. Dharampal; AIR 2001 SC 2924

[3] Maheshwar Tigga v. State of Jharkhand – Crl Appeal No. 635 of 2020 arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 393 of 2020.

[4] https://www.latestlaws.com/latest-news/sc-expounds-circumstances-not-put-to-an-accused-under-section-313-crpc-cannot-be-used-against-him-read-judgment/

This Article is submitted by – Sidhida Varma . S, 4 th Year, B. A. LL.B, Government Law College Thiruvananthapuram

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Author: Sidhida Varma S

Designation: 4th Year BA LLB

College/Organisation: Government Law College Thiruvananthapuram

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