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Section 216 of CrPC can be entertained ‘at any time’ before pronouncing the judgment: SC

Dr. Nallappareddy Sridhar Reddy vs State of Andhra Pradesh and Ors., Criminal Appeal No. 1934 of 2019 arising out of SLP (crl) No. 3884 of 2019 – January 21, 2020

The appeal was filed before the bench comprising of the Justice Dr. Dhananjaya J Chandrachud and the Justice Hrishikesh Roy against the order passed by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh for directing the additional charges to be framed against the appellant.

The First Information Report was lodged by the father in law who is the fourth respondent of the case against the appellant, alleging that the appellant and the members of his family had harassed his daughter with demands for money and transfer of land in their names.

A charge sheet was filed under section 498A of IPC along with sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Once the trial was commenced, the Investigation officer with the permission of the court for further investigation, filed the additional charge sheet under the sections 406 and 420 of IPC against the appellant. The offence is that the appellant raised a demand of Rs. 5,00,000 for securing a job for the complainant’s daughter as a doctor in the United Kingdom but failed to do so. But the Trial court rejected the application for framing the additional charges. The fourth respondent filed the revision petition before the High Court. The High Court allowed the revision petition by setting aside the order of the trail court.

The main issue framed here is, Whether the additional charge sheet can be filed against the appellant under section 216 of CRPC ?

The arguments put forth by the counsel on behalf of the appellant is that there is no mention of any demand or payment of Rs. 5,00,000 to the appellant in the FIR lodged by the fourth respondent. So by referring the case, Onkar Nath Mishra vs The State, the court has to consider whether the offence has been committed.

The counsel on the side of the respondent submitted that, the charge can be altered by the court at any time before the pronouncement of the judgment based on the materials available or subsequently brought on record during the trial, Anant Prakash Sinha vs State of Haryana. However the statements of witness under section 161 of CRPC, proved that the appellant has raised a demand of Rs. 5,00,000.

On hearing both sides of the argument, the Court by stressing the use of words, mentioned in the section 216 CRPC under sub-section (1), ‘at any time before the judgment’ held that, The test adopted by the High Court is correct based on the fact that the court has evaluated the material and evidence which is brought on record after investigation. By referring the Judgment pronounced in the case, CBI vs Karimullah Osan Khan, The trial court has the power to alter or add charges at any time even after the completion of evidence, the arguments heard and the judgment reserved, without affecting the interest of justice and not causing any prejudice to the accused.

The bench dismissed the appeal and directed the Additional Junior Civil Judge to continue the trail proceedings pending before the trial court and ordered that the additional charges can be filed against the appellant.

–  Prithisha S

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