High Courts have duty to prevent unwanted prosecutions, long trials: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court recently emphasised that High Courts should not let criminal trials drag on due to vexatious prosecutions [Vishnu Kumar Shukla and anr vs State of Uttar Pradesh].

A bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah underscored that it is unjustified to make an accused person go through full-fledged trials in the absence of suspicion.

“The protection against vexatious and unwanted prosecution and from being unnecessarily dragged through a trial by melting a criminal proceeding into oblivion, either through quashing a FIR/Complaint or by allowing an appeal against an order rejecting discharge or by any other legally permissible route … is a duty cast on the High Courts,” the Court said.

The bench pointed out that this duty has already been highlighted by the Supreme Court in the recent case of Priyanka Mishra v State of Uttar Pradesh.

The bench made the observations while criticising the Allahabad High Court for not discharging the accused in a theft case, despite there being doubts regarding the genuineness of the criminal complaint against them.

The High Court should have intervened and discharged the appellants (accused). But this Court will intervene, being the sentinel on the qui vive,” the top court said.

In this case, the appellants were accused of breaking into and stealing from a shop. Only the offence of house trespass was eventually pressed during the trial against them.

The trial court and the High Court refused to discharge the accused.

The Supreme Court, however, noted that the complainant’s claim to have rights over the shop was, prima facie, based on a forged document.

The bench concluded that there was not enough evidence to suspect the appellants of the crime and discharged them from the case.

The top court also opined that the earlier orders of the trial court and the High Court were not reasoned.

“We are satisfied that there is no suspicion, much less strong or grave suspicion that the appellants are guilty of the offence alleged. It would be unjustified to make the appellants face a full-fledged criminal trial in this backdrop,” the Supreme Court said while allowing the appeal.

However, the Court clarified that the discharge of the accused would not affect the civil litigation, if any, between the parties.

Advocate Vinod Kumar Tewari appeared for the appellants.

Advocates Shaurya Sahay, Shobhit Dwivedi, Adarsh Upadhyay, Aman Pathak, and Pallavi Kumari appeared for the Uttar Pradesh government.

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