ATTEMPT ON FORMER CJI in 1975: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 174 OF 2012

ATTEMPT ON FORMER CJI

  IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.  174    OF 2012

[ARISING OUT OF SLP (CRIMINAL) NO.6489 OF 2006]

SUDEVANAND                                          … APPELLANT

VERSUS

STATE THROUGH CBI                             … RESPONDENT

WITH

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.  175    OF 2012

[ARISING OUT OF SLP (CRIMINAL) NO.6625 OF 2006]

SANTOSHANAND                                        … APPELLANT

VERSUS

STATE THROUGH CBI                                   … RESPONDENT

AND

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.  176   OF 2012

[ARISING OUT OF SLP (CRIMINAL) NO.6800 OF 2006]

RANJAN DWIVEDI                                      … APPELLANT

VERSUS

STATE THROUGH CBI                                   … RESPONDENT

                                     J UD G M E N T

Aftab Alam, J.

1.      Leave granted.

2.      On   March   20,   1975,   at   about   4.15   p.m.  when   the   car   in   which   Mr. Justice A.N. Ray,holding the office of the Chief Justice of India at that time, was   travelling,   along   with   his   son   Shri  Ajoy   Nath   Ray  and  a  Jamadar   Jai Nand and the driver Inder Singh, stopped at the intersection of Tilak Marg and Bhagwan Dass road, at a stone throw distance from the Supreme Court of India, two live hand grenades were lobbed inside the car.  Fortunately, the grenades did not explode and the occupants of the car, including the Chief Justice of India, escaped unharmed.

3.      A   case   was   registered   and   investigation   was   started   by   the   Crime Branch of the Delhi Police.    But, as the police investigation  did not make much headway, on June 30, 1975 the case was handed over to the CBI.  On the   same   day,   one   Santoshanand   Avadhoot   (appellant   in   Criminal   appeal arising out of SLP (Criminal) 6625 of 2006) was arrested  followed by the arrest of an advocate, namely, Ranjan Dwivedi (appellant in criminal appeal arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.6800/2006) on July 6, 1975.

4.      Here,   it   may   be   noted   that   about   two   and   a   half   months   before   the attempt   on   the  life   of   the   Chief   Justice   of   India, Shri  L.N.  Mishra,   the Minister of Railways in the Union Cabinet was killed in a bomb blast taking place during a function on the platform of Samastipur Railway Station.   In connection   with   that   case,   Sudevanand   Avadhoot   (appellant   in   criminal appeal   arising   out   of  SLP   (Crl.)   No.6489/2006)   and   one   Vikram   alias Jaladhar Das were arrested at Bhagalpur. On July 27, 1975 they were also arrested  in the present case relating  to the attempt on the life  of the Chief Justice  and were brought  to Delhi where they were sent on police remand from July 31, 1975 to August 14, 1975. While on remand, Vikram made a confessional statement and requested to be allowed to become an Approver. He was produced before a Magistrate on August 14, 1975, before whom he made a statement under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (in short “Cr.P.C.”) giving the details of the conspiracy to kill the Chief Justice of   India.   He   was   again   produced   before   the   Chief   Judicial   Magistrate   on August   22,  1975   before   whom   he   made   a   similar   statement   for   grant   of pardon under Section 306 Cr.P.C.

5.      The   CBI   completed   investigation   of   the   case   and   submitted   charge-sheet   against  the three   accused,   namely,   Sudevanand,   Santoshanand   and Ranjan   Dwivedi   and   they   were   put   on  trial   in   Sessions   Case   No.9/1976. Sudevanand   and   Santoshanand   were   charged   under   Section  307   read   with Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4(b) of the Explosive Substances  Act,   1908.     So   far   as   Ranjan   Dwivedi   is   concerned,   he   was charged jointly with the other two accused under Section 120 B of the Penal Code   only.     At   the   conclusion   of  the   trial,   the  Additional   Sessions   Judge, Delhi  vide  his   judgment   and   order   dated   October   28,   1976  convicted Sudevanand and Santoshanand under Sections 115, 307/120B of the Penal Code   and  sentenced   them   to   undergo   rigorous   imprisonment   for   7   years under Section 115 read with 120-B(1), 10 years for attempting to kill Chief Justice   A.   N.  Ray   and   three   other   occupants   of  the  car  and   7  years   under Section 4(b) of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.   Ranjan Dwivedi was convicted under Section 115/120 B(1) of the Penal Code and was sentenced to 4 years rigorous imprisonment.

6.      It may be noted here that Vikram, the Approver was examined by the prosecution   as   PW.1   and  according   to   the   appellants   their   conviction   is mainly based on his evidence.

7.      Against   the   judgment   and   order   passed   by   the   trial   court,   Ranjan Dwivedi filed appeal before the High Court on December 6, 1976 which is registered as Criminal Appeal No.436/1976. Sudevanand and Santoshanand jointly filed a separate appeal which is registered as 443/1976.

8.      After   the   appellants’   trial   was   over,   and   they   were   convicted   and sentenced   by  the  trial  court,  as  noted  above,  and after  they  had  filed  their appeals before the High Court against the judgment and order passed by the trial court, certain developments took place in the L. N. Mishra murder case. That case was also investigated by the CBI and in that case too Sudevanand and   Santoshanand   (along   with  others)   were   accused   and   in   that   case   also Vikram   was   granted   pardon   on   becoming   an  Approver.   According   to   his statements made before the Magistrates both the killing of L. N. Mishra and the   attempt   on   the   life   of   Chief   Justice   of   India   were   parts   of   a   larger conspiracy, at the instance of the same organisation and a common group of persons.

9.      On   August   30,   1978,   the   Chief   Minister   of   Bihar   wrote   a   highly confidential   letter   to  the   Prime   Minister   of   India,   a   copy   of   which   was endorsed   to   the   DIG   (CID)   Bihar.     In  pursuance   of   the   Chief   Minister’s letter, the DIG (CID) is said to have made an inquiry into the circumstances in which Vikram @ Jaladhar Das had made the confessional statement and was   tendered  pardon   to   become   Approver.   Following   the   enquiry,   on September 30, 1978 the statement of Vikram was recorded at Danapur jail where he was lodged at that time. The statement was taken in the question and   answer   form   and   it   was   recorded   in   the   presence   of   Dr.   D.   Ram, Superintendent;   Danapur   Hospital,  (Ex-officio  Jail  Superintendent)   and Haider Ali, the Jailor. The statement was also recorded on a tape recorder. In this   statement   Vikram   retracted   from   his   earlier  statements   incriminating himself and the other accused in the case. He said that his earlier statements were obtained  by  the   CBI  by   subjecting   him to  great  mental  and  physical torture. He was beaten up and tortured to such an extent that he agreed to make whatever statement CBI wanted him to make. The retraction made by Vikram was placed before the Chief Minister who requested Mr. Tarkunde, a  former  judge  of  the Bombay   High Court to  give a  report   in light   of  the statement made by Vikram in jail on September 30, 1978. Mr. Tarkunde is said to have given his opinion that the conviction of all the accused in the Chief Justice’s case was based on fabricated evidence of the Approver and, therefore, the High Court should be requested to consider the appeals of the three accused keeping aside the Approver’s evidence. We need not go any further in this matter, as all this was plainly outside the legal frame-work.

10.    It needs, however, to be noted that upset by these developments, the CBI moved this Court in Transfer Petition (Crl.) No. 69/1979 praying for the transfer   of   the   trial   of   the   L.N.   Mishra   murder   case  outside   Bihar.   In   the transfer petition though the State of Bihar was not formally made a party, a number  of   allegations   were   made   against   some   of   its   officers.   In   those circumstances,   the   concerned  officers   after   obtaining   permission   from   the State Government, filed affidavits/applications denying the allegations made against   them   in   the   transfer   petition   filed   by   the   CBI   and   supporting   the veracity of the retraction made by Vikram in Danapur jail on September 30, 1978 disowning the earlier statements made by him. In the overall facts and circumstances   of   the   case,   however,   this   Court  deemed   just   and   proper   to transfer the trial of the L.N. Mishra murder case from Bihar to Delhi where it  now   remains   pending   as   Sessions  Case  No. 1/2006 (after being renumbered) before the Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi.

11.     It is curious to note that in the L.N. Mishra murder case Vikram was examined by the prosecution as PW.2 and in course of his deposition before the   court   he   said   that  the   statement   made   by   him  at Danapur   jail   was  not voluntary   but   he   was   forced   to   make   the   statement   under   coercion   and threats   by   the   Chief   Secretary,   Law   Secretary   and   Home   Secretary, Government of Bihar and the SP and the DSP in the State Police. He said in his   deposition   before   the   court   that   his   statement   in  jail   was   made   on   the basis   of   a   statement   prepared   and   given   to   him   in   writing   by   the  State Government officers.

12.     Coming back to the appellant’s appeal pending before the Delhi High Court,   both   Sudevanand  and   Santoshanand   were   released   on   bail   in   1986 after remaining in jail for almost 11 years. In 1997-1998, that is to say 11 years   after   coming   out   of   jail,   the   appellants   filed   three   criminal miscellaneous  applications in the pending appeals.  Criminal miscellaneous application No. 5786/97 was filed on September 24, 1997 praying to call for and   taking   on   the   appeal   record   the   statement   made  by   Vikram,   the Approver,   in   Danapur   jail   on   September   30,   1978,   the   affidavits   of   the officials   of  the   Bihar   Government   filed   in   the   transfer   petition   before   this Court   and   the  enquiry   report   of   Justice   Tarkunde.   The   second   application (criminal   miscellaneous)   No.5700/98  was   filed   on   September   16,   1998   to summon   Vikram,   the   Approver (PW.1   in the case), for further cross-examination   in   terms   of   Section   145   of   the   Evidence   Act.   The   third application  (criminal   miscellaneous)   No.6300/98   was  filed   on   October   15, 1998 praying to call the evidence of Vikram, the Approver (PW.2), recorded in the trial of L.N. Mishra murder case.

13.     The   Delhi   High   Court   took   up   all   the   three   criminal   miscellaneous applications and disposed them of by order dated November 22, 2006. The High Court noted that it was within the knowledge of the appellants that the Approver   had   made   the   retraction   in   the   year   1978   disowning  his   earlier statements   but   the   three   applications   in   question   were   filed   after   a   lag   of more than 20 years and primarily for that reason did not allow all the prayers made in the three applications but granted the appellants only a limited and partial relief. In the operative portion of the order the High Court observed and directed as follows:

“The  last application moved by the appellant  for considering the  record, certified copies etc. u/s 80 and other provisions under the  Evidence   Act,   report   of   justice   V.M.   Tarkunde   and   other documents which may be admissible under the Evidence Act has  to   be   permitted.   This   prayer   is  being   kept   open   and   would   be  considered as per law. Succinctly   stated, the   applications   for  leading   further   evidence  which would have entailed further time are hereby dismissed, but  the third application for considering those documents which have        already been placed on the record as per law, is hereby permitted.  This   case   is   fixed   for   final   arguments   on   6th  December,   2006   at  12.15 P.M. The case would be taken up on day to day basis.”  Against the order passed by the High Court, the appellants have come to this Court in these appeals.

14.     Mr.   Lahoty   and   Mr.   Arvind   Kumar,   counsel   appearing   for   the appellants   in   the   three  appeals   placed   before   the   Court   passages   from   the statement   of   Vikram   recorded   in  Danapur   jail   on   September   30,   1978 describing the manner in which his earlier statements, incriminating himself and   the   other   accused,   were   obtained   by   the   CBI.   Referring   to   the   latter statement of Vikram, counsel submitted that denial to further cross-examine him   in   light   of   his   statement   of  September   30,   1978   would   cause   grave prejudice to the appellants and would lead to a miscarriage of justice. Mr.

Lahoty stated  that the accused in the L.N. Mishra  murder case  had earlier come   to   this   court   for  quashing   the   trial   proceedings   and   their   appeal (Criminal Appeal No. 126 of 1987) was heard along with the case of Abdul Rehman Antulay and was disposed of by a common  judgment reported  in (1992)  1   SCC   225.   In   paragraph   98   of  the   judgment,  the   Court   noted   the submission made on behalf of the appellants that a very unusual feature of  the case was the exchange of charges and counter charges between the CBI and the  Bihar (CID)  of false  implication  and frame  up against  each other. According to the Bihar (CID), the CBI was guilty of frame up against the members of Anand Marg, while according to CBI, the Bihar (CID) had been deliberately   proceeding   against   innocent   persons   while   letting   of   the   real culprits.  Mr. Lahoty submitted that as a result of the Central  Investigating Agency and the State Investigating Agency acting at cross purpose, the case had become highly murky to the great detriment of the appellants. He further submitted  that   in  that   situation   if   the   appellants   are   not   allowed   the opportunity to further cross-examine Vikram, the Approver (PW.1), it would be highly unfair and unjust to them. He also submitted that the Delhi High Court was wrong in rejecting the applications made by the appellants on the ground of delay.

15.      Mr.   Arvind   Kumar   in   support   of   the   plea   raised   by   the   appellants placed reliance on the decision of this Court in Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh  v. State of Gujarat, (2004) 4 SCC 158, commonly known as the Best Bakery  Case. He also pressed into service a decision of this Court in  Pandit Ukha Kolhe v. State of Maharashtra, 1964 (1) SCR 926 (939-940).

16.     So   far   as   the  Best   Bakery   Case  is   concerned,   we   see   absolutely   no application of that decision to the facts of the present case. Suffice to note here that in Satyajit Banerjee v. State of W.B., (2005) 1 SCC 115, the Court explained the very exceptional nature of the Best Bakery Case and observed that   the  decision   cannot   be   applied   to   all   cases  against   the   established principles  of criminal jurisprudence (See paragraph 25 & 26 in  Satyajit  Banerjee).

17.    We also fail to see how the decision in Pandit Ukha Kolhe might help the appellants in the present appeals.

18.    We   agree   with   Mr.   Lahoty’s  submission   that   the   delay   in   filing   the applications   should  not   have   been   the   sole   ground   for   rejecting the appellants’ applications before the High Court. The High Court does not say that   the  appellants   were   in   anyway   responsible   for  the   inordinate   delay  in their appeals, that remains pending since 1976, being taken up for hearing. That being the position, as long as the appeals were pending, the High Court should   have   considered   the   appellants’   request   for  summoning   PW.1   for further   cross-examination   on   merits,   and   in   light   of   the   relevant   legal provisions.   Mr.   Lahoty   is   also   right   in   submitting   that   any   further   cross-examination of PW.1 would not have taken more than two or three days and would not have contributed to any further delay in the disposal of the appeal in any material way.

19.     But the question remains to be examined whether the law permits the summoning of PW.1 for the reason as stated on behalf of the appellants.

20.    Mr. P.K. Dey, the counsel appearing for the CBI, strongly opposed the appellants’ prayer for summoning Vikram, the Approver (PW.1), for further cross-examination   in   light   of   his   statement  recorded   in   Danapur   jail   on September 30, 1978. Learned counsel submitted that Vikram had made his confessional   statements   completely   voluntarily   and   on   three   different occasions. He was produced before the Magistrate on August 14, 1975 for recording   his   statement   under   Section   164   Cr.P.C.  He   was   then   produced before  the Chief Judicial  Magistrate on August  22, 1975 for recording his statement   for   grant   of   pardon   under   Section   306   Cr.P.C.   Finally,   he   was produced before the trial court as PW.1 where he was examined first by the prosecution and was then subjected to a lengthy cross-examination on behalf of   the   accused.   On   none   of   the   three   occasions   he   made   the  slightest complaint   that   his   statements   were   obtained   under   coercion   or   threats.   He was   also  produced   before   the   Magistrate   many   times   for   the   purpose of remand and for other purposes, such as taking cognizance, commitment of the case to the court of Sessions and also before the trial court where the trial proceeded and got concluded and at no point of time he gave any indication that   his  statements/evidence   were   given   under   any   coercion,   threats   or inducement.

21.     Mr.   Dey   also   submitted   that   the   statement   of   Vikram   that   was recorded in Danapur jail on September 30, 1978 had no legal sanctity, as it was recorded in a manner and by means completely unknown to law. It also did not qualify as the previous statement within the meaning of Section 145 of   the   Evidence  Act   as   in   fact,   it   was   later   in   time   than   the   deposition   of PW.1 in this case before the trial court. He also referred to passages from the deposition   of  Vikram,   the   Approver,   made   in   the   trial  of   the   L.N.   Mishra murder   case   in   which   he   was   examined   as   PW.2   where   he   stated   that  his statement of September 30, 1978 recorded in Danapur jail was not voluntary but it was made under threats from the top officials of the State Government.

22.    Mr.   Dey   submitted   that   the   statement   made   by   Vikram   in   jail   on September 30, 1978 could never be the basis for summoning him for further cross-examination   at   the   stage   of   the   appeal  and   in   support   of   this submission relied upon a decision of this Court in Mishrilal v State of M.P.,      (2005) 10 SCC 701. In that case, one of the prosecution witnesses (PW.2)had   supported   the  prosecution   case   before   the   trial   court   but   before   the Juvenile Court that was trying some of the juvenile accused in the same case he did not support the prosecution case and as a result, the juvenile accused were   acquitted   of   the   charge   under   Section   307   IPC   for   having   made   an attempt   on   the  life   of   this   witness.   After   his   evidence   before   the   Juvenile Court,   he   was   again   summoned  before   the   trial   court   where   the   other accused were facing trial and was confronted with the evidence he had given before   the   Juvenile   Court.   This   Court   found   and   held   that   the   procedure adopted   by   the   Sessions   Judge   was   not   in   accordance   with   law   and   in paragraphs 5 and 6 of the judgment observed and held as follows:

“5. The learned Counsel for the appellants seriously attacked the evidence of PW.2 Mokam Singh. This witness was examined by the Sessions Judge on 6-2-1991 and cross-examined on the same day by the defence counsel. Thereafter, it seems, that on behalf of the   accused   persons   an   application   was   filed  and   PW.2   Mokam Singh   was   recalled.   PW.2   was   again   examined   and   cross-examined on 31-7-1991. It may be noted that some of the persons who were allegedly involved in this incident were minors and their case was tried by the Juvenile Court. PW.2 Mokam Singh was also examined as a witness in the case before the Juvenile Court. In the Juvenile   Court,   he   gave   evidence   to   the   effect   that   he   was   not aware   of   the   persons   who   had   attacked   him   and   on   hearing   the voice of the assailants, he assumed that they were some Banjaras. Upon   recalling,   PW.2   Mokam   Singh   was   confronted   with  the evidence he had given later before the Juvenile Court on the basis of which the accused persons were acquitted of the charge under Section 307 IPC   for   having   made   an   attempt   on   the   life   of   this witness.

6.   In   our   opinion,   the   procedure   adopted   by   the   Sessions   Judge was   not   strictly   in  accordance   with   law.   Once   the   witness   was examined-in-chief and cross-examined fully, such witness should not have been recalled  and re-examined  to deny the evidence he had already given before the court, even though that witness had given   an   inconsistent   statement   before   any   other   court   or   forum subsequently. A witness could be confronted only with a previous statement   made   by   him.   At   the  time   of   examination   of   PW.2 Mokam Singh on 6.2.1991, there was no such previous statement and the defence counsel did not confront him with any statement alleged   to   have   been   made   previously.   This  witness   must   have given some other version before the Juvenile Court for extraneous reasons and he should not have been given a further opportunity at a   later   stage   to   completely   efface   the   evidence  already   given   by him under oath. The courts have to follow the procedures strictly and  cannot   allow   a witness   to  escape   the   legal  action   for   giving false   evidence   before   the   court   on   mere  explanation   that   he   had given it under the pressure of the police or for some other reason. Whenever  the   witness   speaks   falsehood   in   the   court,   and   it   is proved satisfactorily, the court should take a serious action against such witnesses.”

23.     The decision in  Mishrilal  was followed in  Hanuman Ram  v.  State of  Rajasthan and others, (2008) 15 SCC 652.   The case of Mishrilal had come to   this   Court   after   the   appeal   court   had   maintained  the   conviction   and sentence   passed   against   the   accused.   But  Hanuman   Ram  came   at   the intermediate   stage   when   the  trial   court   was   directed   by   the   High   Court  to recall   two  prosecution   witnesses   under   Section   311   of   the   Cr.P.C.   under similar circumstances. In  Hanuman Ram  too, two of the witnesses (PWs 3 and 5) who had supported the prosecution case before the trial court did not support the case of the prosecution before the Children’s Court where one of the accused  in the case who was a minor was being tried.  Before  the trial court   an   application   was   made   under   Section  311   Cr.P.C.   for   summoning those two witnesses for cross-examination with reference to their statements before   the   Children’s   Court.   The   trial   court   did   not   accept   the   prayer   and rejected   the  petition.   On   an   application   in   revision,   the   High   Court intervened in favour of the accused and directed the trial court to recall and re-examine the two witnesses. In appeal against the High Court order, this Court following the earlier decision in Mishrilal, held that there was no legal foundation   for   recalling   the  witnesses   under   Section   311   Cr.P.C.   and   set aside the High Court judgment.

24.     At first sight, the decisions in  Mishrilal  and  Hanuman Ram  seem to clinch the issue arising in the case. But, on a deeper examination, it would appear  that the  decision  in  Mishrilal  did  not interpret  Section  311  Cr.P.C. defining the import, scope and ambit of the provision contained therein. It rather said that on the facts of the case, the provision had no application and the procedure adopted by the trial court was not strictly in accordance with law. Now, the interpretation of a legal provision and its application to a set of   facts   are   two   different   exercises   requiring   different   approaches. “Interpretation”  means  the action of explaining the meaning of something. For interpreting a statutory provision, the court is required to have an insight into the provision and unfold its meaning by means of the well-established canons of interpretation, having regard to the object, purpose, historicism of the law and several other well-known factors. But, what is important to bear in mind is that the interpretation of a legal provision is always independent of   the   facts   of   any   given   case.   “Application”   means   the   practical   use   or relevance   (of   something   to   something);   the   application   of   a   statutory provision,   therefore,   is  by   definition   case   related   and   as   opposed   to interpretation,   the   application   or   non-application  of   a   statutory   provision would always depend on the exact facts of a given case. Anyone associated with   the   process   of   adjudication   fully   knows   that   even  the  slightest difference in the facts of two cases can make a world of difference on the question whether  or not a statutory provision can be fairly and reasonably applied   to   it.   Keeping   in   mind   what   is   said   here   if   we   read  Mishrilal,  it would  be   evident   that   in   the   over   all   facts   of   that   case,   the   Court   was satisfied that the statement of the witness (PW.2, Mokam Singh) before the Juvenile   Court   was  for   some   extraneous   reasons  and,  therefore,   he  should not   have   been   allowed   an   opportunity   to   completely   efface   the   evidence already given by him under oath. The Court with its vast experience of the way   criminal   justice   system  works   in   our   country   was   in   a   manner commenting upon the serious and widespread malady of prosecution witness being   won   over   by   the   accused.   Once   the   Court   came   to   realise   that   the witness was gained over before he was examined in the Juvenile Court, it naturally felt that at least he should not have been allowed to spoil the other case   too   and   it   would,   therefore,   logically   follow   that  his   recall   and   re-examination in the trial of the other accused before the Sessions Court was an abuse of Section 311 of the Cr.P.C. To us, it appears that it was mainly due to that reason that the Court frowned upon the latter evidence of PW.2 taken   by   the   Sessions  Court  on  his  recall  after   his  examination before   the Juvenile Court.

25.    Moreover,   in  Mishrilal  the   question   that   came   up   for   consideration before the Court was whether the deposition of Mokam Singh (PW.2) before the Juvenile Court would come within the meaning of “previous statement” under Section 145 of the Evidence Act so as to justify his recall for further cross-examination   confronting  him  with  his  deposition   before  the  Juvenile Court. The Court answered the question in the negative pointing out that at the time of his examination earlier before the Sessions Court there was no such statement with which he could be confronted by the defence.

26.    In  Hanuman   Ram,   on   identical   facts   and   for   the   same   reasons   the Court simply followed the decision in Mishrilal.

27.    The   facts   of   the   case   before   us   are   quite   different.   It   is   not   only Vikram   who   is  making   diametrically   opposite   statements   but   the  CBI   and the State (CID) seem to be at loggerheads with the one accusing the other of manipulating and using Vikram for its own designs. It is an unusual case by any reckoning.

28.    It  is  obvious  that  one of the  two statements  of Vikram  is  false.  But unlike  Mishrilal  or Hanuman   Ram  where   the   Court   was   able   to   sense without difficulty that the witnesses’ depositions before the Juvenile Court and the Children’s Court respectively were false, it is very difficult to say at this  stage   which   of  the   statements   is   true   and   which   of  the  statement   was made   under   the  influence,   threat   or   coercion   by the   State officials or the CBI.   The   position   may   be   clear   in  case   he   is   subjected   to   further examination   with   reference   to   his   statement   made   in   Danapur  jail   on September 30, 1978.

29.     The matter may be looked at from another angle. Section 391 of the Cr.P.C. provides as follows:

“391. Appellate Court may take further evidence or direct it  to be taken.- (1) In dealing with any appeal under this Chapter,  the   Appellate   Court,  if   it   thinks   additional   evidence   to   be  necessary,   shall  record   its   reasons   and   may   either   take   such  evidence itself, or direct it to be taken by a Magistrate, or, when  the Appellate Court is a High Court, by a Court of Session or a  Magistrate.

(2) When the additional evidence is taken by the Court of Session   or   the   Magistrate,   it   or   he  shall   certify   such   evidence   to   the  Appellate   Court,   and   such   Court   shall   thereupon   proceed  to  dispose of the appeal.

(3) The accused or his pleader shall have the right to be present   when the additional evidence is taken.

(4) The taking of evidence under this section shall be subject to  the provisions of Chapter XXIII, as if it were an inquiry. ”

30.     It   is,  thus,   to  be  seen   that   the   provision   is  not  limited   to  recall  of  a witness   for   further  cross-examination   with   reference   to   his   previous statement.   The  Appellate   Court   may   feel   the  necessity   to   take additional evidence for any number of reasons to arrive at the just decision in the case. The law casts a duty upon the court to arrive at the truth by all lawful means. This is another reason why we feel any reliance on Mishrilal that considered the recall of a witness in the context of Section 145 of the Evidence Act is quite misplaced in the facts of this case.

31.     Mr. Dey contended that Vikram’s statement that he is alleged to have made in jail has no legal sanctity and it came to be made and recorded in a manner   completely   unknown   to   law.   Mr   Dey   may   be  right   but   on   that ground alone it would not be correct and proper to deny the application of Section  391   of   the   Cr.P.C.   Take   the   case   where,  on   the   testimony of  the Approver,   a   person   is  convicted   by   the   trial   court   under   Section   302 and 120-B   etc.   of   the   Penal   Code   and   is  sentenced   to   a   life   term.     After   the judgment and order passed by the trial court and while the convict’s appeal is  pending  before  the High  Court, the  `Approver’  is  found  blabbering  and boasting among his friends that he was able to take the Court for a ride and settled  his personal  score with the convict by sending  him to jail to rot  at least  for 14 years.  Such  a statement  would also  be completely beyond the legal framework but can it be said that in light of such a development the convicted accused may not ask the High Court for recalling the Approver for further examination.

32.     As a matter of fact, if some later statement, has come to be made in some   legal   ways,   it   may   be  admissible   on   its   own   without   any   help   from Section   311   or   Section   391 of  the   Cr.P.C.  It is only such statement  or development which is otherwise not within the legal framework that would need the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction to bring it before it as part of the legal record.

33.     In   light   of   the   discussions   made   above,   we   have   no   hesitation   in holding that the High Court was in error in refusing to summon Vikram, the Approver (PW.1) for his further examination as prayed for on behalf of the appellants.  We, accordingly, set aside that part of the High Court order and direct the High Court to summon Vikram (PW.1) for his further examination by the appellants and if so desired by the CBI.  For the sake of convenience, the   High   Court   may   direct   a   member   of   the   Registry   of  the   rank   of   a Sessions Judge/Additional Sessions Judge to record the additional evidence of Vikram (PW.1).  The examination of the witness by the appellants and the CBI must not go beyond two working days each so that the recording of his evidence   should   be   complete   in   not   more   than  four   days.   The   Registrar recording the evidence would certify it and place before the Court and the Court shall then proceed to dispose of the appeals.

34.     The appeals are thus allowed.

35.     Before parting with the record of the case we are constrained to say that   we   are   distressed  beyond   words   to   find   that   the   case   relating   to   the attempt on the life of the CJI remains stuck up at the stage of the appeal even after about 37 years of the occurrence. We are informed that the other case of the killing of Shri L.N. Mishra is still mired before the trial court. We do not wish to make any comment on that case as that is the subject matter of Writ  Petition  (Criminal)   Nos.   200   and   203   of   2011   that  remains   pending before   this   Court.   But   so   far   as   the   present   case   is   concerned,   we   would request the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court with all the strength at our command   to   take   notice   of  the   inordinately   long   time   for   which   these appeals (Criminal Appeal Nos.436 & 443 of 1996) are pending before the High   Court   and   to   put   a   tab   on   them  so   as   to   ensure   that   the   appeals  are disposed   of   without   any   further   delay   and   in   any   case   not   later   than   six months from the date of the receipt/production of a copy of this order.

                                                            ……………………………..J.

                                                                           (Aftab Alam)

                                                            ……………………………..J.

New Delhi,                                       (Ranjana Prakash Desai)

January 19, 2012.

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