Section 319 Cr.P.C. springs out of the doctrine judex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur (Judge is condemned when guilty is acquitted) and this doctrine is used as a beacon light while explaining the ambit and the spirit underlying the enactment of Section 319 Cr.P.C.

It is the duty of the Court to do justice by punishing the real culprit. Where the investigating agency for any reason does not array one of the real culprits as an accused, the court is not powerless in calling the said accused to face trial.

The Provision

Section 319 Cr.P.C. is quoted hereunder:

319 Cr.P.C. -Power to proceed against other persons appearing to be guilty of offence.-

(1) Where, in the course of any inquiry into, or trial of, an offence, it appears from the evidence that any person not being the accused has committed any offence for which such person could be tried together with the accused, the Court may proceed against such person for the offence which he appears to have committed.

(2) Where such person is not attending the Court, he may be arrested or summoned, as the circumstances of the case may require, for the purpose aforesaid.

(3) Any person attending the Court, although not under arrest or upon a summons, may be detained by such Court for the purpose of the inquiry into, or trial of, the offence which he appears to have committed.

(4) Where the Court proceeds against any person under sub- section (1), then-

(a) the proceedings in respect of such person shall be commenced afresh, and the witnesses re-heard;

(b) subject to the provisions of clause (a), the case may proceed as if such person had been an accused person when the Court took cognizance of the offence upon which the inquiry or trial was commenced.”

The object to insert the provision

For the empowerment of the courts to ensure that the criminal administration of justice works properly, the law was appropriately codified and modified by the legislature under the Cr.P.C. indicating as to how the courts should proceed in order to ultimately find out the truth so that an innocent does not get punished but at the same time, the guilty are brought to book under the law.

Arraignment as accused

In Joginder Singh & Anr. v. State of Punjab & Anr., AIR 1979 SC 339, a three-Judge Bench of Supreme Court held that as regards the contention that the phrase “any person not being the accused” occurring in Section 319 Cr.P.C. excludes from its operation an accused who has been released by the police under Section 169 Cr.P.C. and has been shown in Column 2 of the charge-sheet, the contention has merely to be rejected.

The said expression clearly covers any person who is not being tried already by the Court and the very purpose of enacting such a provision like Section 319 (1) Cr.P.C. clearly shows that even persons who have been dropped by the police during investigation but against whom evidence showing their involvement in the offence comes before the criminal court, are included in the said expression.

In Anju Chaudhary v. State of U.P. & Anr., (2013) 6 SCC 384, a two-Judge Bench of the Court held that even in the cases where report under Section 173(2) Cr.P.C. is filed in the court and investigation records the name of a person in Column 2, or even does not name the person as an accused at all, the court in exercise of its powers vested under Section 319 Cr.P.C. can summon the person as an accused and even at that stage of summoning, no hearing is contemplated under the law.

In Suman v. State of Rajasthan & Anr., AIR 2010 SC 518, a two- Judge Bench of the Court observed that there is nothing in the language of this sub-section from which it can be inferred that a person who is named in the FIR or complaint, but against whom charge- sheet is not filed by the police, cannot be proceeded against even though in the course of any inquiry into or trial of any offence, the court finds that such person has committed an offence for which he could be tried together with the other accused.

In Lal Suraj @ Suraj Singh & Anr. v. State of Jharkhand, (2009) 2 SCC 696, a two-Judge Bench held that there is no dispute with the legal proposition that even if a person had not been charge-sheeted, he may come within the purview of the description of such a person as contained in Section 319 Cr.P.C.

The Constitution Bench in Dharam Pal & Ors. v. State of Haryana & Anr., (2004) 13 SCC 9 (CB) has held that the Sessions Court can also exercise its original jurisdiction and summon a person as an accused in case his name appears in Column 2 of the chargesheet, once the case had been committed to it.

It means that a person whose name does not appear even in the FIR or in the chargesheet or whose name appears in the FIR and not in the main part of the chargesheet but in Column 2 and has not been summoned as an accused in exercise of the powers under Section 193 Cr.P.C. can still be summoned by the court, provided the court is satisfied that the conditions provided in the said statutory provisions stand fulfilled.

The person who has been discharged

In Sohan Lal & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan, (1990) 4 SCC 580, a two-Judge Bench of the Court held that once an accused has been discharged, the procedure for enquiry envisaged under Section 398 Cr.P.C. cannot be circumvented by prescribing to procedure under Section 319 Cr.P.C.

In Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Ram Kishan Rohtagi & Ors., AIR 1983 SC 67, the Court held that if the prosecution can at any stage produce evidence which satisfies the court that those who have not been arraigned as accused or against whom proceedings have been quashed, have also committed the offence, the Court can take cognizance against them under Section 319 Cr.P.C. and try them along with the other accused.

In the ‘Hardeep Puri v. State of Punjab (2014)’, the court said that, there is a great difference with regard to a person who has been discharged. A person who has been discharged stands on a different footing than a person who was never subjected to investigation or if subjected to, but not charge-sheeted. Such a person has stood the stage of inquiry before the court and upon judicial examination of the material collected during investigation; the court had come to the conclusion that there is not even a prima facie case to proceed against such person.

Generally, the stage of evidence in trial is merely proving the material collected during investigation and therefore, there is not much change as regards the material existing against the person so discharged. Therefore, there must exist compelling circumstances to exercise such power. The Court should keep in mind that the witness when giving evidence against the person so discharged, is not doing so merely to seek revenge or is naming him at the behest of someone or for such other extraneous considerations.

The court has to be circumspect in treating such evidence and try to separate the chaff from the grain. If after such careful examination of the evidence, the court is of the opinion that there does exist evidence to proceed against the person so discharged, it may take steps but only in accordance with Section 398 Cr.P.C. without resorting to the provision of Section 319 Cr.P.C. directly.

Power under Section 398 Cr.P.C. is in the nature of revisional power which can be exercised only by the High Court or the Sessions Judge, as the case may be. According to Section 300 (5) Cr.P.C., a person discharged under Section 258 Cr.P.C. shall not be tried again for the same offence except with the consent of the Court by which he was discharged or of any other Court to which the first-mentioned Court is subordinate.

Further, Section 398 Cr.P.C. provides that the High Court or the Sessions Judge may direct the Chief Judicial Magistrate by himself or by any of the Magistrate subordinate to him to make an inquiry into the case against any person who has already been discharged.

Both these provisions contemplate an inquiry to be conducted before any person, who has already been discharged, is asked to again face trial if some evidence appears against him. As held earlier, Section 319 Cr.P.C. can also be invoked at the stage of inquiry.

The court further said that, “We do not see any reason why inquiry as contemplated by Section 300(5) Cr.P.C. and Section 398 Cr.P.C. cannot be an inquiry under Section 319 Cr.P.C. Accordingly, a person discharged can also be arraigned again as an accused but only after an inquiry as contemplated by Sections 300(5) and 398 Cr.P.C. If during or after such inquiry, there appears to be an evidence against such person, power under Section 319 Cr.P.C. can be exercised.

We may clarify that the word ‘trial’ under Section 319 Cr.P.C. would be eclipsed by virtue of above provisions and the same cannot be invoked so far as a person discharged is concerned, but no more.

109. Thus, it is evident that power under Section 319 Cr.P.C. can be exercised against a person not subjected to investigation, or a person placed in the Column 2 of the Charge-Sheet and against whom cognizance had not been taken, or a person who has been discharged.

However, concerning a person who has been discharged, no proceedings can be commenced against him directly under Section 319 Cr.P.C. without taking recourse to provisions of Section 300(5) read with Section 398 Cr.P.C.