Examination of the accused under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973:-
Section 313, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 empowers the Court to put to the accused at any stage of inquiry or trial such questions as it considers necessary without previous warning.
The power thus conferred, exercisable at its discretion at any stage of the inquiry or trial, has to be necessarily exercised under the terms of the section after the witnesses for the prosecution have been examined and before the accused is called upon to enter on his defence.
The questions to be put, have a limited purpose. The object mainly and solely is to enable the accused to explain any circumstances appearing in the evidence against him. Whereas there is a statutory obligation on the Court to put such questions, no such obligation is cast on the accused to answer them.
The accused is at liberty to answer them or refuse to do so. No punishment can flow from his refusal to answer or giving false answers. All that is permissible in such cases for the Court or to the Jury is to draw such inference from refusal to answer as it thinks just.
The answers he gives may be taken into consideration in the inquiry or trial or put in evidence in any other inquiry or trial for any other offence which such answers may tend to show that he had committed. No oath shall be administered to him at the time of examination. This in short is the limited province of examination under Section 313 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
It may be seen that the language in which Section 313 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 is couched is plain and simple and leaves no room for any misapprehension as to the scope and purpose of the section.
The scope and purpose is obvious. The questions may be put at any stage at the discretion of the Court; but they have to be necessarily put at the crucial stage referred to in the section.
The need or occasion for such questions arises only if there are any incriminating or adverse circumstances against the accused appearing in the prosecution evidence; but not otherwise.
The only purpose of putting questions besides, is to give him a fair and full opportunity to explain before the said circumstances may be used against him. So then naturally the appropriate stage where such questions should necessarily be put is the stage when the prosecution evidence has been closed and the accused has not yet entered on his defence, for it is at that point of time that the Court will be in a position to know all the circumstances which have been brought in evidence against the accused, and the questions put by it can cover the whole gamut of circumstances against him.
The Statute, therefore, has cast a duty upon the Court to put questions at that stage. Examination at that stage will besides put the accused on notice as to the adverse circumstances he has to meet and he will be able to adduce evidence effectively with full knowledge of the facts he has to rebut. All the questions which are necessary for the purpose of explaining each hostile circumstance have to be necessarily put. That can be satisfactorily done if the Presiding Officer and he alone analyses the entire evidence brought on record by that time and arrange all the adverse circumstances requiring explanation in logical order and frames questions in an understandable form leaving no room for doubt or confusion.
Having regard to the object to be achieved, the questions which may be put must in reason be simple in form and in no manner complex. They should be in a form that even an illiterate person may be able to appreciate and understand. In no circumstances, they should be of an inquisitorial or cross- examination character. They should be free from all tendencies to entrap the accused or pin him down to incriminating statements. Nor can the questions be designed or have tendency to fill up the gap of the prosecution evidence.
Scrupulous care, therefore, should be taken with regard to the form and nature of the questions. It is not proper to read out a long string of questions and ask what the accused has to say about them. The proper way is to put to him one by one all the vital and salient points in the evidence against him, each in a short sentence of simple form.
Each question should be put separately in logical sequence leaving no room for misapprehension, and he should be asked if he has to say anything about it. Each answer should be recorded separately. The examination should be thorough and only with a view to enable the accused to explain the circumstances against him to the best of his ability.
No vital or salient or incriminating point should be left out which might result in prejudice. If any vital point is left out it cannot be used against the accused. Any such lapse on the part of the Court may prove fatal.
The Supreme Court has time and again stressed on the importance of proper examination and regretted that the importance of the rule of proper examination so vital has so often been ignored.
A careful reading of the various decisions of the Supreme Court will enable the Presiding Officers to understand fully the significance of drawing attention of the accused to each matter separately by putting him separate questions on each of such points in a form easy to understand and appreciate and giving him a fair and full opportunity to explain the circumstances against him. (See Tarasingh vs. The State) (1951 S.C.441).
All the questions must necessarily be put eventhough the accused may refuse , to answer. The examination must be thorough and not perfunctory or erroneous.’ It is not possible to exhaustively lay down the various points which the Court has to put to the accused. All that can be said is that all the vital, salient and incriminating points must need be put to the accused. It all depends upon the circumstances of each case.
The points on which the questions are ordinarily put are as follows:
(1) The presence of the accused at the scene of occurrence.
(2) The part alleged to be played by him at the scene of occurrence in the commission of the offence.
(3) The motive for crime.
(4) Anything revealed by the medical evidence as against him.
(5) Any objects recovered from him tending to incriminate him.
(7) Extra-judicial confession.
(8) Disinterested character of the witnesses or motive of the witnesses to depose against him.
(9) Dying declaration.
These are merely illustrative. They are mentioned here to suggest the nature of the points to be dealt with at the time of the examination. It should after all depend upon the facts of each case.
The rule is but salutary that it is necessary that all the incriminating points should be put to him in the manner stated above. In order to ensure thoroughness of the examination as a rule he must be necessarily asked at the end, the following questions:
(1) Can you mention any reason why you have been falsely implicated?
(2) What else you have to say?
These questions in addition to the other questions are warranted by the facts of the case will enable the accused to explain fully the circumstances against him. It must be borne in mind that the statement of the accused eventhough not on oath has the same value as evidence. It is just like any other piece of evidence which may be taken into consideration in the case.
As the presumption of innocence is in his favour, even when he is not in a position to prove the truth of the story, his version should be accepted if it is reasonable and accords with probabilities unless the prosecution can prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is false. This fundamental approach cannot be ignored in any case.
When the accused has put forth a reasonable explanation which might have been true and if the Court finds that there is no reason to reject it as false, the Court must accept the explanation and give the accused the benefit of doubt and acquit him.
It is unnecessary here to cover the other aspects of Section 313, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. It is hoped the above instructions, though not quite exhaustive, will furnish sufficient guidelines for correct examination of the accused under Section 313, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.