HCs can’t hold mini trial at stage of framing of charge: SC


The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the High Courts should refrain from holding a “mini trial” at the stage of discharge application or framing of charges.

A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said: “At the stage of framing of the charge and/or considering the discharge application, the mini trial is not permissible. At this stage, it is to be noted that even as per Section 7 of the PC (Prevention of Corruption) Act, even an attempt constitutes an offence. Therefore, the High Court has erred and/or exceeded in virtually holding a mini trial at the stage of discharge application.”

It emphasised that a High Court is required to consider whether a prima facie case has been made out or not and whether the accused is required to be further tried or not.

The observations were made by the top court on an appeal filed by the Rajasthan government challenging a High Court order discharging a patwari, accused for demanding a bribe of Rs 2,800 for issuing Domicile Certificate and OBC Certificate, under Section 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act.

Special judge, Bharatpur, after considering the material on record including the transcript of the conversation between the complainant and the accused, concluded there is a prima facie case of the alleged offence under Section 7, and framed the charge against the accused. However, the High Court, after examining the transcript, said there was no specific demand of a bribe and discharged the accused.

The top court said: “The High Court materially erred in negating the exercise of considering the transcript in detail and in considering whether on the basis of the material on record the accused is likely to be convicted for the offence under Section 7 of the PC Act or not.”

The bench said it is not going to enter into the merits of the case and/or merits of the transcript as the same is required to be considered at the time of trial. “Defence on merits is not to be considered at the stage of framing of the charge and/or at the stage of discharge application,” it observed.

It also said that the High Court has exceeded in its jurisdiction in exercise of the revisional jurisdiction and has acted beyond the scope of Section 227/239 Cr.P.C.

“The impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court discharging the accused under Section 7 of the PC Act is unsustainable in law and the same deserves to be quashed and set aside and is accordingly hereby quashed,” it said.