Trail court\"s inadvertent error leaves Madras high court shocked

Justice P.N. Prakash however accepted the explanation tendered by the trial judge that it was the second accused Saravanan.

Chennai: The Madras high court came across a shocking order of a trial court, wherein an accused, who had already been discharged from a criminal case, was convicted and sentenced to undergo one year imprisonment in the same case.

Justice P.N. Prakash however accepted the explanation tendered by the trial judge that it was the second accused Saravanan, who was convicted and sentenced but inadvertently he had referred to his name as the first accused Nanjappan.

Setting aside the judgment convicting and sentencing Nanjappan, who had already been discharged from the case, the judge remanded the matter back to the principal sessions judge, Dharmapuri, for passing of judgment alone on the evidence available on record after giving an opportunity to the special public prosecutor and counsel for Saravanan to make their submission. Saravanan, present before this curt, is bound over to appear before the PSJ on March 4, 2019. On his appearance, the trial court shall pass orders within one month, the judge added.

On a complaint from Sivashankar, a dalit, alleging that on May 2, 2000, he was abused by reference to his caste name and physically attacked by Nanjappan and Saravanan, a case was registered against the duo. Since Saravanan was absconding the case was split up. Subsequently, in the case against Nanjappan, the trial court had on June 24, 2004, passed an order discharging him from the case. Thereafter on August 19, 2008, Saravanan was arrested by the police and the trial court after trial by judgment dated August 26, 2011, convicted and sentenced Nanjappan, the discharged accused, instead of convicting Saravanan, who was physically present in flesh and blood before the court. However, the present appeal has been filed in the name of Nanjappan.

When the appeal came up for hearing, after going through the records, the judge directed the trial court to produce the entire case records and also directed the police to produce the two accused. Accordingly, the police produced Nanjappan and Saravanan on January 21 before the court. Nanjappan stated that he did not file the present appeal. Saravanan stated that he had been regularly attending the trial court and even paid the fine amount. Thereafter, the judge called for a report from the trial court. The trial judge in his report stated that it was Saravanan, who was appearing before him, but inadvertently he has referred to his name as Nanjappan and therefore prayed for mercy.

The judge said this court was not able to fathom as to how the trial judge could say that he had done this inadvertently because even in the evidence of the prosecution witness-1, Nanjappan has been referred to as the 'discharged accused'. Even if this court were to give the benefit of doubt to the trial judge, what bothers this court was that, neither the special public prosecutor for the state nor the advocate for Saravanan, made any attempt to set right this anomaly and "still we refer to them as officers of the court", the judge added.

The judge said the police also did not take any steps at least through the state public prosecutor to bring to the attention of this court this grave anomaly since 2011. "The tragedy is that, for the occurrence that took place in the year 2000, the system has not been able to properly acquit or punish the offender till 2019 for which all the stakeholders should hang their head in shame instead of passing the buck and washing off the responsibility we owe to the citizens of this country. Had the parties involved in this case been affluent and capable of engaging high profile lawyers, would this state of affairs have occurred is a million dollar question", the judge added.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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