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.”

Section 351 of the old code

In old code ‘Criminal Procedure Code, 1898’, Section 351 was analogous of section 319, empowering the court to summon any person other than the accused if he is found to be connected with the commission of the offence. When the new Cr.P.C. was being drafted, regard was had to 41st Report of the Law Commission where in the paragraphs 24.80 and 24.81 recommendations were made to make this provision more comprehensive. The said recommendations read:

“24.80 It happens sometimes, though not very often, that a Magistrate hearing a case against certain accused finds from the evidence that some person, other than the accused before him, is also concerned in that very offence or in a connected offence. It is proper that Magistrate should have the power to call and join him in proceedings.

Section 351 provides for such a situation, but only if that person happens to be attending the Court. He can then be detained and proceeded against. There is no express provision in Section 351 for summoning such a person if he is not present in court. Such a provision would make Section 351 fairly comprehensive, and we think it proper to expressly provide for that situation.

24.81 Section 351 assumes that the Magistrate proceeding under it has the power of taking cognizance of the new case. It does not, however, say in what manner cognizance is taken by the Magistrate. The modes of taking cognizance are mentioned in Section 190, and are apparently exhaustive. The question is, whether against the newly added accused, cognizance will be supposed to have been taken on the Magistrates own information under Section 190(1), or only in the manner in which cognizance was first taken of the offence against the accused.

The question is important, because the methods of inquiry and trial in the two cases differ. About the true position under the existing law, there has been difference of opinion, and we think it should be made clear. It seems to us that the main purpose of this particular provision is that the whole case against all known suspects should be proceeded with expeditiously and convenience requires that cognizance against the newly added accused should be taken in the same manner against the other accused.

We, therefore, propose to recast Section 351 making it comprehensive and providing that there will be no difference in the mode of taking cognizance if a new person is added as an accused during the proceedings. It is, of course, necessary (as is already provided) that in such a situation the evidence must he reheard in the presence of the newly added accused.”

The object to insert the provision

The Constitutional mandate under Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Constitution’) provides a protective umbrella for the smooth administration of justice making adequate provisions to ensure a fair and efficacious trial so that the accused does not get prejudiced after the law has been put into motion to try him for the offence but at the same time also gives equal protection to victims and to the society at large to ensure that the guilty does not get away from the clutches of law.

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.

It is these ideals as enshrined under the Constitution and our laws that have led to several decisions, whereby innovating methods and progressive tools have been forged to find out the real truth and to ensure that the guilty does not go unpunished. The presumption of innocence is the general law of the land as every man is presumed to be innocent unless proven to be guilty.

Alternatively, certain statutory presumptions in relation to certain class of offences have been raised against the accused whereby the presumption of guilt prevails till the accused discharges his burden upon an onus being cast upon him under the law to prove himself to be innocent. These competing theories have been kept in mind by the legislature.

The entire effort, therefore, is not to allow the real perpetrator of an offence to get away unpunished. This is also a part of fair trial and in our opinion, in order to achieve this very end that the legislature thought of incorporating provisions of Section 319 Cr.P.C.

It is with the said object in mind that a constructive and purposive interpretation should be adopted that advances the cause of justice and does not dilute the intention of the statute conferring powers on the court to carry out the above mentioned avowed object and purpose to try the person to the satisfaction of the court as an accomplice in the commission of the offence that is subject matter of trial.