Case Law Details

Case Name : Kushalbhai Ratanbhai Rohit Vs State of Gujarat (Supreme Court of India)
Appeal Number : Special Leave Petition (CRL.) No.453 of 2014
Date of Judgement/Order : 06/05/2014
Related Assessment Year :
Courts : Supreme Court of India (991)

SC held that We do not find any forcible submission advanced on behalf of the petitioners that once the order had been dictated in open court, the order to review or recall is not permissible in view of the provisions of Section 362 Cr.P.C. for the simple reason that Section 362 Cr.P.C. puts an embargo to call, recall or review any judgment or order passed in criminal case once it has been pronounced and signed. In the instant case, admittedly, the order was dictated in the court, but had not been signed.

In Mohan Singh v. King-Emperor 1943 ILR (Pat) 28, a similar issue was examined wherein the facts had been that the judgment was delivered by the High Court holding that the trial was without jurisdiction and a direction was issued to release the appellant therein. However, before the judgment could be typed and signed the court discovered that the copy of the notification which had been relied upon was an accurate copy and that the Special Judge had jurisdiction in respect of the offence under which the appellant therein had been convicted. Thereupon, the order directing the release of the accused was recalled and the appeal was directed to be heard de novo. When the matter came up for re-hearing, the objection that the court did not have a power to recall the order and hear the appeal de novo, was rejected.

In view of the provisions of Section 362 Cr.P.C. while deciding the case, the Patna High Court relied upon the judgment of Calcutta High Court in Amodini Dasee v. Darsan Ghose, 1911 ILR (Cal) 828 and the judgment of Allahabad High Court in Emperor v. Pragmadho Singh, 1932 ILR (All.) 132. A similar view has been reiterated by the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in State of Bombay v. Geoffrey Manners & Co., AIR 1951 Bom. 49. The Bombay High Court had taken the view that unless the judgment is signed and sealed, it is not a judgment in strict legal sense and therefore, in exceptional circumstances, the order can be recalled and altered to a certain extent.

 In Sangam Lal v. Rent Control and Eviction Officer, Allahabad & Ors., AIR 1966 All. 221, while dealing with the rent control matter, the court came to the conclusion that until a judgment is signed and sealed after delivering in court, it is not a judgment and it can be changed or altered at any time before it is signed and sealed.

This Court has also dealt with the issue in Surendra Singh & Ors. v. State of U.P., AIR 1954 SC 194 observing as under: “Now up to the moment the judgment is delivered Judges have the right to change their mind. There is a sort of ‘locus paenitentiae’ and indeed last minute alterations often do occur. Therefore, however much a draft judgment may have been signed beforehand, it is nothing but a draft till formally delivered as the judgment of the Court. Only then does it crystallise into a full fledged judgment and become operative.

It follows that the Judge who “delivers” the judgment, or causes it to be delivered by a brother Judge, must be in existence as a member of the Court at the moment of delivery so that he can, if necessary, stop delivery and say that he has changed his mind. There is no need for him to be physically present in court but he must be in existence as a member of the Court and be in a position to stop delivery and effect an alteration should there be any last minute change of mind on his part. If he hands in a draft and signs it and indicates that he intends that to be the final expository of his views it can be assumed that those are still his views at the moment of delivery if he is alive and in a position to change his mind but takes no steps to arrest delivery.

But one cannot assume that he would not have changed his mind if he is no longer in a position to do so. A Judge’s responsibility is heavy and when a man’s life and liberty hang upon his decision nothing can be left to chance or doubt or conjecture; also, a question of public policy is involved. As we have indicated, it is frequently the practice to send a draft, sometimes a signed draft, to a brother Judge who also heard the case. This may be merely for his information, or for consideration and criticism. The mere signing of the draft does not necessarily indicate a closed mind. We feel it would be against public policy to leave the door open for an investigation whether a draft sent by a Judge was intended to embody his final and unalterable opinion or was only intended to be a tentative draft sent with an unwritten understanding that he is free to change his mind should fresh light drawn upon him before the delivery of judgment.”

Thus, from the above, it is evident that a Judge’s responsibility is very heavy, particularly, in a case where a man’s life and liberty hang upon his decision nothing can be left to chance or doubt or conjecture. Therefore, one cannot assume that the Judge would not have changed his mind before the judgment become final.

In Iqbal Ismail Sodawala v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors., AIR 1974 SC 1880, the judgment in Surendra Singh (supra) referred to hereinabove was considered in this case. In that case, criminal appeal was heard by the Division Bench of the High Court, the judgment was signed by both of them but it was delivered in court by one of them after the death of the other. It was held that there was no valid judgment and the case should be re-heard. This Court took the view that the judgment is the final decision of the court intimated to the parties and the world at large.

 In view of the above, we are of the considered opinion that no exception can be taken to the procedure adopted by the High Court in the instant case.

Posted by CA Sandeep Kanoi

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