New Delhi: High courts cannot reappraise
evidence to determine whether a criminal charge is made out or
not, as the power is vested only with the trial court, the
Supreme Court has ruled.
A bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Ranjana Prakash
Desai said it is for the trial court to decide whether prima
facie the case is made out for framing of the charges and the
high courts cannot interfere with such decisions.
"The high court has in its revisional jurisdiction
appraised the evidence which it could not have done. It is the
trial court which has to decide whether evidence on record is
sufficient to make out a prima facie case against the accused
so as to frame charge against him.
"Pertinently, even the trial court cannot conduct roving
and fishing inquiry into the evidence. It has only to consider
whether evidence collected by the prosecution discloses prima
facie case against the accused or not," the apex court said.
It passed the ruling while upholding the appeal filed by
one Ashish Chadha challenging a Himachal Pradesh High Court
judgement setting aside the criminal charges framed by the
special court, Chamba against former MLA Asha Kumari and her
husband Brijender Singh.
Though the special court had framed charges of criminal
conspiracy, cheating and grabbing of government land, against
the accused, the high court set aside the charges framed and
also transferred the trial to the special court, Kangra on an
application moved by the the ex-legislator.
The apex court said such a transfer has a demoralising
effect on the trial courts as it can be done only in cases
where there is concrete material that the trial cannot be held
in a fair and free manner.
The apex court regretted that the high court interfered
in the matter and formed a prima facie opinion by going
through the entries in the records and virtually acquitted the
"The high court unnecessarily observed that the charge is
vague. It overstepped its revisional jurisdiction. In our
opinion, whether revenue entries concerned are genuine or not
will also have to be decided by the trial court after perusing
the evidence led by the parties," the bench said.
According to the apex court, a prima facie opinion of the
high court in such a strongly worded language is likely to
influence the trial court.
"By expressing opinion on merits of the case, the high
court almost decided the matter in favour of respondent no. 1
thus frustrating the remand and virtually acquitting
respondent no. 1.
"The high court, therefore, should not have transferred
the case to the special judge, Kangra. Needless to say that
such transfers ordered merely on the say-so of a party have a
demoralising effect on the trial courts.
"Unless a very strong case based on concrete material is
made out, such transfers should not be ordered," the apex
court said, while restoring the trial judge`s order framing
However, the court said the trial shall not be influenced
by any of the observations made by it in the present case.