Supreme Court of India on Discharge, Section 227 Cr.P.C. P. Vijayan …. Appellant (s) Versus State of Kerala & Anr. …. Respondent(s)

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 192 OF 2010
(Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 4708 of 2007)

P. Vijayan …. Appellant (s)

Versus

State of Kerala & Anr. …. Respondent(s)

JUDGMENT

P. Sathasivam, J.

1) Leave granted.

2) This appeal is directed against the judgment and order

of the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam dated

04.07.2007 passed in Criminal Revision Petition No. 2455

of 2007, in and by which, the learned single Judge, after

finding no ground to interfere with the order passed by the

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Trial Judge dismissing discharge petition filed by the

appellant herein, refused to interfere in his revision.

3) According to the appellant, he is a retired IPS officer

aged about 85 years. He enjoyed a considerable

reputation as an IPS officer and had retired as the

Director General of Police, Kerala. In the course of his

tenure as a senior police officer, he controlled the Naxalite

militancy which was rampant in Kerala in the 1970s. In

the 1970s, Naxalites under the banner of CPI(ML), a

militant organization, had taken up the cause of the poor

through armed appraisal and violence. The said

organization committed various brutal murders and

dacoities including attacking police stations and

murdering innocent policemen. The State Government

which was in power at the relevant time took serious note

of the said atrocities committed by the cadres of CPI (ML)

and took a decision to put an end to the said atrocities.

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4) It is his further case that Naxalite Varghese was a

prominent leader of the CPI (ML) in Kerala during 1970s.

He was an accused in cases relating to murder of

landlords as well as attack on policemen. Since, he was

wanted in many grave criminal offences, he was hiding. A

special team consisting members of the Kerala Police as

well as CRPF was formed to nab Naxalite Varghese. On

18.02.1970, the police received a tip off that he was

present in the hut of one Shivaraman Nair and based on

the said information, the special team rushed to the spot

and broke open the door of the said hut and arrested

Naxalite Varghese. However, while he was being taken to

the Mananthavadi police station in a police jeep, he tried

to escape and attacked the policemen resulting in clash

between the police party and Naxalite Varghese. During

the said clash, in order to prevent Naxalite Varghese from

escaping, the police had to fire and in the shoot out he

was killed. The capture of Naxalite Varghese was

highlighted as one of the achievements of the Kerala Police

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at that time and the police personnel involved in the said

operation were given out of turn promotions and

increments in appreciation of being part of the team. The

appellant had also received various medals while in

service for his role in tackling the naxalite militancy in

Kerala.

5) It was further pointed out that from 1970 till 1998,

there was no allegation that the said encounter was a fake

encounter. Only in the year 1998, reports appeared in

various newspapers in Kerala that the killing of Varghese

in the year 1970 was in a fake encounter and that senior

police officers are involved in the said fake encounter.

Pursuant to the said news reports, several writ petitions

were filed by various individuals and organizations before

the High Court of Kerala with a prayer that the

investigation may be transferred to Central Bureau of

Investigation (CBI). In the said writ petition, Constable

Ramachandran Nair filed a counter affidavit dated

11.01.1999 in which he made a confession that he had

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shot Naxalite Varghese on the instruction of the then

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Lakshmana. He

also stated that the appellant was present when the

incident occurred. By order dated 27.01.1999, learned

single Judge of the High Court of Kerala passed an order

directing the CBI to register an FIR on the facts disclosed

in the counter affidavit filed by Constable Ramachandran

Nair. Accordingly, the CBI registered an FIR on

03.03.1999 in which Constable Ramachandran Nair was

named as accused No. 1, Mr. Lakshmana was named as

accused No. 2 and Mr. P. Vijayan, the appellant herein,

was named as accused No. 3 for an offence under Section

302 IPC read with Section 34 IPC. After investigation, the

CBI filed a charge-sheet before the Special Judge (CBI),

Ernakulam on 11.12.2002 wherein all the above

mentioned persons were named as A1 to A3 respectively

for an offence under Sections 302 and 34 IPC.

6) By pointing out various reasons, his meritorious

service and nothing whispered for a period of twenty

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years, the appellant filed a petition on 17.05.2007 under

Section 227 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (in short

“CrPC”) for discharge. The learned Trial Judge by order

dated 08.06.2007, dismissed the said petition and passed

an order for framing charge for offence under Sections 302

and 34 IPC. Aggrieved by the aforesaid order, the

appellant filed a Criminal Revision Petition No. 2455 of

2007 before the High Court of Kerala. By an impugned

order dated 04.07.2007, learned single Judge of the High

Court dismissed the said Criminal Revision Petition.

Questioning the said order, the appellant filed the above

appeal by way of Special Leave Petition.

7) We have heard Mr. Raghenth Basant, learned counsel

for the appellant and Mr. H.P. Raval, learned Additional

Solicitor General for CBI-second respondent herein.

8) The questions that arose for consideration in this

appeal are (i) whether the appellant established sufficient

ground for discharge under Section 227 of the CrPC, and

(ii) whether the Trial Judge as well as the High Court

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committed any error in rejecting the claim of the

appellant.

9) Before considering the merits of the claim of both the

parties, it is useful to refer Section 227 of the Code of

Criminal Procedure, 1973, which reads as under:-

“227. Discharge.–If, upon consideration of the record of the
case and the documents submitted therewith, and after
hearing the submissions of the accused and the prosecution
in this behalf, the Judge considers that there is not sufficient
ground for proceeding against the accused, he shall
discharge the accused and record his reasons for so doing.”

10) If two views are possible and one of them gives rise to

suspicion only, as distinguished from grave suspicion, the

Trial Judge will be empowered to discharge the accused

and at this stage he is not to see whether the trial will end

in conviction or acquittal. Further, the words “not

sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused”

clearly show that the Judge is not a mere Post Office to

frame the charge at the behest of the prosecution, but has

to exercise his judicial mind to the facts of the case in

order to determine whether a case for trial has been made

out by the prosecution. In assessing this fact, it is not

7
necessary for the Court to enter into the pros and cons of

the matter or into a weighing and balancing of evidence

and probabilities which is really the function of the Court,

after the trial starts. At the stage of Section 227, the

Judge has merely to sift the evidence in order to find out

whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding

against the accused. In other words, the sufficiency of

ground would take within its fold the nature of the

evidence recorded by the police or the documents

produced before the Court which ex facie disclose that

there are suspicious circumstances against the accused so

as to frame a charge against him.

11) The scope of Section 227 of the Code was considered

by this Court in the case of State of Bihar vs. Ramesh

Singh (1977) 4 SCC 39, wherein this Court observed as

follows:-

“… … Strong suspicion against the accused, if the matter
remains in the region of suspicion, cannot take the place of
proof of his guilt at the conclusion of the trial. But at the
initial stage if there is a strong suspicion which leads the
Court to think that there is ground for presuming that the
accused has committed an offence then it is not open to the
Court to say that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding

8
against the accused. The presumption of the guilt of the
accused which is to be drawn at the initial stage is not in the
sense of the law governing the trial of criminal cases in
France where the accused is presumed to be guilty unless
the contrary is proved. But it is only for the purpose of
deciding prima facie whether the Court should proceed with
the trial or not. If the evidence which the Prosecutor
proposes to adduce to prove the guilt of the accused even if
fully accepted before it is challenged in cross-examination or
rebutted by the defence evidence, if any, cannot show that
the accused committed the offence, then there will be no
sufficient ground for proceeding with the trial. …. “

This Court has thus held that whereas strong suspicion

may not take the place of the proof at the trial stage, yet it

may be sufficient for the satisfaction of the Trial Judge in

order to frame a charge against the accused.

12) In a subsequent decision i.e. in Union of India vs.

Prafulla Kumar Samal, (1979) 3 SCC 4, this Court after

adverting to the conditions enumerated in Section 227 of

the Code and other decisions of this Court, enunciated the

following principles:-

“(1) That the Judge while considering the question of
framing the charges under Section 227 of the Code has the
undoubted power to sift and weigh the evidence for the
limited purpose of finding out whether or not a prima facie
case against the accused has been made out.
(2) Where the materials placed before the Court disclose
grave suspicion against the accused which has not been
properly explained the Court will be fully justified in framing
a charge and proceeding with the trial.
(3) The test to determine a prima facie case would naturally
depend upon the facts of each case and it is difficult to lay

9
down a rule of universal application. By and large however if
two views are equally possible and the Judge is satisfied that
the evidence produced before him while giving rise to some
suspicion but not grave suspicion against the accused, he
will be fully within his right to discharge the accused.
(4) That in exercising his jurisdiction under Section 227 of
the Code the Judge which under the present Code is a senior
and experienced court cannot act merely as a Post Office or a
mouthpiece of the prosecution, but has to consider the
broad probabilities of the case, the total effect of the evidence
and the documents produced before the Court, any basic
infirmities appearing in the case and so on. This however
does not mean that the Judge should make a roving enquiry
into the pros and cons of the matter and weigh the evidence
as if he was conducting a trial.”

13) The scope and ambit of Section 227 was again

considered in Niranjan Singh K.S. Punjabi vs. Jitendra

Bhimraj Bijjaya, (1990) 4 SCC 76, in para 6, this Court

held that:

“Can he marshal the evidence found on the record of the
case and in the documents placed before him as he would do
on the conclusion of the evidence adduced by the
prosecution after the charge is framed? It is obvious that
since he is at the stage of deciding whether or not there
exists sufficient grounds for framing the charge, his enquiry
must necessarily be limited to deciding if the facts emerging
from the record and documents constitute the offence with
which the accused is charged. At that stage he may sift the
evidence for that limited purpose but he is not required to
marshal the evidence with a view to separating the grain
from the chaff. All that he is called upon to consider is
whether there is sufficient ground to frame the charge and
for this limited purpose he must weigh the material on
record as well as the documents relied on by the
prosecution. In the State of Bihar v. Ramesh Singh this Court
observed that at the initial stage of the framing of a charge if
there is a strong suspicion-evidence which leads the court to
think that there is ground for presuming that the accused
has committed an offence then it is not open to the court to

10
say that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against
the accused. If the evidence which the prosecutor proposes
to adduce to prove the guilt of the accused, even if fully
accepted before it is challenged by cross-examination or
rebutted by the defence evidence, if any, cannot show that
the accused committed the offence, then there will be no
sufficient ground for proceeding with the trial. In Union of
India v. Prafulla Kumar Samal this Court after considering
the scope of Section 227 observed that the words `no
sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused’ clearly
show that the Judge is not merely a post office to frame
charge at the behest of the prosecution but he has to
exercise his judicial mind to the facts of the case in order to
determine that a case for trial has been made out by the
prosecution. In assessing this fact it is not necessary for the
court to enter into the pros and cons of the matter or into
weighing and balancing of evidence and probabilities but he
may evaluate the material to find out if the facts emerging
therefrom taken at their face value establish the ingredients
constituting the said offence.”

14) In a recent decision, in the case of Soma

Chakravarty vs. State through CBI, (2007) 5 SCC 403,

this Court has held that the settled legal position is that if

on the basis of material on record the Court could form an

opinion that the accused might have committed offence it

can frame the charge, though for conviction the

conclusion is required to be proved beyond reasonable

doubt that the accused has committed the offence. At the

time of framing of the charges the probative value of the

material on record cannot be gone into, and the material

11
brought on record by the prosecution has to be accepted

as true. Before framing a charge the court must apply its

judicial mind on the material placed on record and must

be satisfied that the commission of offence by the accused

was possible. Whether, in fact, the accused committed

the offence, can only be decided in the trial. Charge may

although be directed to be framed when there exists a

strong suspicion but it is also trite that the Court must

come to a prima facie finding that there exist some

materials therefor. Suspicion alone, without anything

more, cannot form the basis therefor or held to be

sufficient for framing charge.

15) We shall now apply the principles enunciated above to

the present case in order to find out whether or not the

Courts below were justified in dismissing the discharge

petition filed under Section 227 of the Code.

16) In the earlier part of our judgment, we have adverted

to the assertion of the appellant that from 1970 till 1998,

there was no allegation that the encounter was a fake

12
encounter. In the year 1998, reports appeared in various

newspapers in Kerala that the killing of Varghese in the

year 1970 was in a fake encounter and that senior police

officers are involved in the said fake encounter. Pursuant

to the said news reports, several writ petitions were filed

by various individuals and organizations before the High

Court of Kerala with a prayer that the investigation may

be transferred to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). In

the said writ petition, Constable Ramachandran Nair filed

a counter affidavit dated 11.01.1999 in which he made a

confession that he had shot Naxalite Varghese on the

instruction of the then Deputy Superintendent of Police

(DSP), Lakshmana. In the same counter affidavit, he also

stated that the appellant was present when the incident

occurred. Based on the assertion in the counter affidavit

of Ramachandran Nair dated 11.01.1999 by order dated

27.01.1999 learned single Judge of the High Court of

Kerala passed an order entrusting an investigation to the

CBI. As said earlier, accordingly, CBI registered an FIR on

13
03.03.1999 implicating Constable Ramachandran Nair,

Lakshmana and the appellant-Vijayan as accused Nos. 1,

2 and 3 respectively for an offence under Section 302 read

with Section 34 IPC.

17) The materials relied on by the CBI against the

appellant are as follows:-

a) Confessional note dictated by Constable Ramachandran

Nair to Shri M.K. Jayadevan which was handed over to

one Mr. Vasu.

b) The 161 statement of CW 6, Mr. Vasu, an erstwhile

Naxalite in which he stated that in the year 1977,

Constable Ramachandran Nair confessed to him that he

had shot dead Naxalite Varghese.

c) The 161 statement of CW 21 Constable Mohd. Hanifa in

which he has stated that he was present along with

Constable Ramachandran Nair while he shot dead

Naxalite Varghese.

d) The 161 statement of CW 31, Mr. K. Velayudhan in

which he stated that Constable Ramachandran Nair

14
contacted him and stated that he had shot dead Naxalite

Varghese.

e) The 161 statement of CW 32, Mr. M.K. Jayadevan who

stated that Constable Ramachandran Nair had dictated

his confessional statement to him and he delivered the

same to Mr. Vasu.

f) The counter affidavit dated 11.01.1999 filed by

Constable Ramachandran Nair before the High Court of

Kerala in O.P. No. 21142/1998.

18) Learned counsel for the appellant at the foremost

submitted that even if the alleged confession of Constable

Ramachandran Nair is found to be correct, in view of the

fact that the said Ramchandran Nair is no more and died

long ago, in the light of Section 30 of the Indian Evidence

Act, 1872 and in the absence of joint trial, the same

cannot be used against the appellant. It is not in dispute

that Constable Ramachandran Nair is not alive and there

is no question of joint trial by the prosecution against the

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other two accused along with the said Ramchandran Nair.

Section 30 of the Evidence Act, 1872 reads as:

“30. Consideration of proved confession affecting person
making it and other jointly under trial for same offence.
–When more persons than one are being tried jointly for the
same offence, and a confession made by one of such persons
affecting himself and some other of such persons is proved,
the Court may take into consideration such confession as
against such other person as well as against the person who
makes such confession.
[Explanation.--"Offence", as used in this section, includes
the abetment of, or attempt to commit the offence]“

It was pointed out that the confession of Constable

Ramachandran Nair is inadmissible since this confession

is made by an accused which cannot be used against a co-

accused except for corroboration that too in a case where

both accused are being tried jointly for the same offence.

In the present case, the accused-Constable

Ramachandran Nair is dead and, therefore, the trial

against him has abated, hence there is no question of joint

trial of Constable Ramachandran Nair and the appellant.

He further pointed out that in view of the same the said

extra judicial confession is inadmissible by virtue of

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Section 30. He relied on a three-Judge Bench decision of

this Court in Mohd. Khalid vs. State of West Bengal,

(2002) 7 SCC 334.

19) In Hardeep Singh Sohal & others vs. State of

Punjab, (2004) 11 SCC 612, this Court again held that

confession cannot be admitted in evidence against the co-

accused under Section 30 of the Indian Evidence Act,

1872, since, the accused who made the confession was

not tried along with the other accused.

20) Insofar as the admissibility or acceptability of the

extra judicial confession in the form of counter affidavit

made by the first accused before the High Court in the

earlier proceedings are all matters to be considered at the

time of trial. Their probative value, admissibility,

reliability etc are matters for evaluation after trial. As

rightly pointed out by Mr. H.P. Raval, learned Additional

Solicitor General, apart from the confession, the statement

of Vasu-CW-6, Md. Hanifa-CW-21, Mr. K. Velayudhan-

CW-31 and Mr. M.K. Jayadevan-CW-32 are very well

17
available and cannot be ignored lightly. We are satisfied

that all the above materials require sufficient scrutiny at

the hands of the Trial Judge.

21) As discussed earlier, Section 227 in the new Code

confers special power on the Judge to discharge an

accused at the threshold if upon consideration of the

records and documents, he find that “there is not

sufficient ground” for proceeding against the accused. In

other words, his consideration of the record and document

at that stage is for the limited purpose of ascertaining

whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding

against the accused. If the Judge comes to a conclusion

that there is sufficient ground to proceed, he will frame a

charge under Section 228, if not, he will discharge the

accused. This provision was introduced in the Code to

avoid wastage of public time which did not disclose a

prima facie case and to save the accused from avoidable

harassment and expenditure.

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22) In the case on hand, though, the learned Trial Judge

has not assigned detailed reasons for dismissing the

discharge petition filed under Section 227, it is clear from

his order that after consideration of the relevant materials

charge had been framed for offence under Section 302

read with Section 34 IPC and because of the same, he

dismissed the discharge petition. After evaluating the

materials produced by the prosecution and after

considering the probability of the case, the Judge being

satisfied by the existence of sufficient grounds against the

appellant and another accused framed a charge. Whether

the materials at the hands of the prosecution are

sufficient or not are matters for trial. At this stage, it

cannot be claimed that there is no sufficient ground for

proceeding against the appellant and discharge is the only

remedy. Further, whether the trial will end in conviction

or acquittal is also immaterial. All these relevant aspects

have been carefully considered by the High Court and it

rightly affirmed the order passed by the Trial Judge

19
dismissing the discharge petition filed by A3-appellant

herein. We fully agree with the said conclusion.

23) It is made clear that we have not expressed anything

on the merits of the claim made by both the parties and

the conclusion of the High Court as well as this Court are

confined only for disposal of the discharge petition filed by

the appellant under Section 227 of the Code. It is for the

prosecution to establish its charge and the Trial Judge is

at liberty to analyze and to arrive at an appropriate

conclusion, one way or the other, in accordance with law.

24) We direct the Trial Judge to dispose of the case of the

CBI expeditiously, uninfluenced by any of the

observations made above. Considering the age of the

appellant, he is permitted to file appropriate petition for

dispensing his personal appearance and it is for the Trial

Court to pass an order taking into consideration of all

relevant aspects. With the above direction, the criminal

appeal is dismissed.

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……………………………………J.
(P. SATHASIVAM)

……………………………………J.
(H.L. DATTU)
NEW DELHI;
JANUARY 27, 2010.

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