Don’t commit cases to sessions court based on story of witnesses, HC tells magistrates

Judicial magistrates should not commit a criminal case to a court of sessions just because some witnesses weave a story during the course of trial. Instead, they must analyse the totality of the facts and circumstances from the standpoint of a prudent man before acting upon the deposition of a witness to commit a case, the Madras High Court has ruled.

Justice P.N. Prakash held so while quashing a committal order passed by a judicial magistrate at Kangeyam in Tiruppur district on May 6, 2014. The magistrate had committed the trial of a motor accident case to a sessions court because the children of the victim had accused their father of having caused the accident to kill their mother.

The judge said the deceased was the daughter of a doctor in Kangeyam. She had married a person residing in Sathyamangalam and had two children. On the day of the accident, the family was travelling from Kangeyam to Sathyamangalam. The victim’s husband was driving the car and she was sitting next to him. The two children, aged 11 and 8, were in the back seat. When the car passed through a narrow bridge near Sivagiripudur, a mini lorry was parked on the bridge. The vehicle swerved to the right. The left side of the car hit the lorry resulting in the woman’s death though her husband and children escaped with injuries.

The victim’s husband informed his father-in-law and the latter, in turn, rushed to the spot and admitted all the three in a nearby hospital and lodged a police complaint. The police booked a case of causing death by negligence against the victim’s husband. Since then, the children were brought up by their grandfather.

The trial got protracted due to repeated petitions filed by the grandfather, suspecting foul play. By the time the children could adduce evidence before the trial court in 2013, the daughter was aged 18 and her brother was 16. Both of them accused their father of having rammed the car deliberately due to domestic strife.

Refusing to believe their version, Justice Prakash pointed out that they had given a different versions in their statements to the police during investigation. During the examination, the daughter stated that her father broke the windscreen of the car after the accident, jumped out and absconded after finding that his wife was dead. “In the opinion of this court, this is a rank lie in as much as it was her father who informed her grandfather about the incident on coming to know of which, her grandfather rushed to the place and admitted all three of them in the Kangeyam Government Hospital,” the judge said and added that it only appeared to be a genuine case of road accident.

“It must be borne in mind that the family was travelling not in a high-end SUV car but in an ordinary Maruti 800 car. If the accused had wanted to get rid of his wife, he would not have dared to risk his life as well and also put his children in peril. He would have had differences of opinion with his wife but there is no iota of material to show animosity towards children too,” he added.

The judge directed the magistrate to proceed with the trial of the case without being influenced by any of the observations made by him for the purpose of quashing the committal order.

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