Trial courts should follow mandatory procedures in conducting trials’

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In sessions courts day-to-day trials should be conducted and adjournments should not be granted casually, observed the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court while directing all trial courts to follow this mandatory procedure.

Hearing the criminal appeal preferred by one Kumar against the judgment of Theni Mahila Court that sentenced him to life imprisonment for murdering his wife in 2017, a Division Bench of Justices R. Subramanian and N. Sathish Kumar said as per Cr.P.C Section 309, trial should be continued on a day-to-day basis till all the witnesses were examined, unless the court found adjournment beyond the following day necessary for reasons to be recorded.

Despite repeated directions by the Supreme Court and the High Court to conduct day-to-day trials, the mandatory procedure was not followed. Cr.P.C. Section 309 made it clear that if adjournment was sought on reasonable grounds, it could be granted on a cost payable either by the prosecution or the accused.

If cost was imposed for adjournment, the whims and fancies of the counsel and the accused would be curtailed to a maximum level, but the trial courts had failed to follow the procedure, the judges said.

The case of the prosecution against Kumar was that there were frequent quarrels between him and his wife. He was demanding money for setting up a shop. It was said that on the day of the occurrence he doused his wife with kerosene and set her ablaze. He also sustained injuries and was admitted to hospital.

The court said except for the relative witnesses, the prosecution had not produced any evidence to prove how injuries were sustained by Kumar. The prosecution proceeded as if he had not sustained any injury.

The statement by the mother of the deceased indicated that the accused ran away from the place of occurrence, but in cross-examination it came to light that he sustained burn injuries and was treated at the same hospital.

When the foundation facts had not been established and had been suppressed, and merely the accused had not explained certain circumstances, the court could not come to the conclusion that the prosecution theory was established beyond all reasonable doubts, the judges said.

The court expressed displeasure over the manner in which the Sessions Judge conducted the trial. The prosecution witnesses were examined on June 28, 2018, but the cross-examination was conducted on August 6, 2019, and the judgment was pronounced on February 12, 2020. Hence, the court acquitted him of all charges.

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