HC Opines: Trials must start “de novo” when a magistrate commits a case to Court of Session

According to the Delhi High Court, a trial must start “de novo” in cases that are moved from the Magistrate to the Court of Session. The Magistrate becomes “functus officio” in these circumstances, the Court emphasized, making any recorded evidence inadmissible for the purposes of a de novo trial before the committal Court. This is why the decision was made. It was brought up that the trial would have to be reopened, with the Court of Session filing charges first and then moving forward with the witness questioning.

Brief Facts of the Case:

The Delhi High Court was considering a case involving a 2003 First Information Report (FIR) in which the accused was charged under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). A metropolitan magistrate filed charges in 2005, and during the trial, a request to commit the case to the Court of Session was turned down. A sessions court then committed the case to the Court of Session after considering a revision petition. Significantly, during the trial, an Additional Sessions Judge decided against holding a new de novo trial, stating that the Metropolitan Magistrate had already questioned every witness.

Contentions of the Parties:

The petitioner argued in their court presentation that perusing the evidence entered by the Magistrate in this particular case would lead to procedural ambiguity and bias. They opposed the decision to forgo a de novo trial, highlighting the significance of conducting an impartial and thorough investigation of the case.

However, the petitioner’s position was refuted by the respondents, who were represented by Additional Public Prosecutor Shoaib Haider. They argued that since the incident happened in 2003, the complainant would be unfairly harmed and an unnecessary delay would result from a de novo trial. The responders argued that the circumstances justified a departure from the standard procedural requirements, citing Section 326 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) as support for their position.

Observations by the Court:

A de novo trial is required when a case is transferred from the Magistrate to the Court of Session, as the High Court unequivocally upheld the mandate of Section 323 of the CrPC. The Court disregarded the argument that the Sessions Court was the Magistrate’s successor, making Section 326 of the CrPC irrelevant in this particular case.

“The trial would have to begin de novo when a case is committed by the Magistrate to the Court of Session,” the court noted. The Court of Session would proceed with the witness examination after first formulating charges.”

Decision of the Court:

The Court ordered that the trial continue before the Court of Session from the point at which it was at prior to the order’s passing, thereby overturning the challenged order. Given that the FIR was filed in 2003, Justice Bansal asked the Additional Sessions Judge to move the trial along quickly, ideally finishing it in six months instead of the allotted time.

Case Name: Shankar @ Gori Shankar vs State of NCT Of Delhi and Anr. 

Case No.: CRL.M.C. 42/2023 & CRL.M.A. 142/2023(stay) 

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