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HC chides trial court for failing to secure presence of Punjab cop as witness

Chandigarh, November 23

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has virtually rapped a trial court for showing complete helplessness in securing the presence of an assistant sub-inspector to depose as a prosecution witness in a house trespass case. Justice Jasjit Singh Bedi added the complainant stood penalised for the state’s act and conduct, with the trial court closing the prosecution evidence and dismissing an application under Section 311 of the CrPC for summoning the witness.

“The trial court should have taken coercive steps to secure the presence of the unexamined witness,” Justice Bedi asserted, while directing Tarn Taran Senior Superintendent of Police to take the ASI Kewal Singh in custody before producing him in the court to depose as a prosecution witness, in case he played truant and chose not to appear as has been the case earlier.

The matter was brought to Justice Bedi’s notice after a petition was filed against the state of Punjab and other respondents by Faqir Chand for quashing order dated October 10, 2017, passed by the Patti Judicial Magistrate First Class, vide which the prosecution evidence was closed. Another order dismissing an application under Section 311 was also challenged in the case registered on July 26, 2014, under Sections 326, 452, 323, 427 and 34 of the IPC at Khem Karan police station in Tarn Taran district.

The Bench was told that bailable warrants against ASI Kewal Singh, investigating officer of the case, were issued during the course of trial as the official prosecution witnesses were not coming forward for getting their statements recorded. He, however, failed to appear.

Warrants of arrest were issued for September 28, 2017, after he still did not appear. The warrants were once again issued for October 10, 2017. But he again did not appear. Instead of adopting coercive steps to secure his presences, the trial court closed the prosecution evidence.

The trial court vide impugned order dated December 5, 2017, also dismissed the complainant-petitioner’s plea for summoning the witness on the ground that the prosecution had availed numerous opportunities to examine and the application had been filed to delay the case disposal.

Justice Bedi asserted a perusal of Section 311 and a high court judgement showed that the court had ample powers to summon a material witness or recall and re-examine any person already examined, if his evidence appears to be essential for the just decision of the case.

“The trial court is not powerless where it finds that there is laxity on the part of the prosecution to produce its witnesses. In fact, the court ought to adopt coercive steps to secure the presence of unexamined prosecution witnesses, more so, when they happened to be official witnesses,” Justice Bedi added.

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