On Monday, the Delhi High Court made the observation that only the evidence in front of the court can serve as the basis for charges and not conjecture.

A trial court ruling that had been invalidated by Justice Asha  Menon had been used to draught accusations against a chartered accountant in a case involving disproportionate assets.

The High Court criticized the trial court’s odd line of reasoning for stating that it could not be completely ruled out that one of the accused may become an approver and reveal the entire scheme to the court while the charge was being framed.

There is no denying the complexity of such a line of thinking. Only the evidence that is currently before the court may be used to form a charge; conjecture is not permitted. According to the court’s judgement, “the court had to determine whether the retracted confessional confessions recorded under Section 164 CrPC and the charge sheet and documents relied upon by the CBI provided sufficient reasons to bring charges against the petitioner.

The chartered accountant asked the court to dismiss a 2016 judgement accusing him of aiding and abetting, as well as other offences related to criminal misconduct by a public official under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

An executive engineer for the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation was named as the case’s principal defendant. It was claimed that he had accumulated money that was out of proportion to his recognised sources of income.

The investigative agency claimed that by putting together businesses and people whose bank accounts were utilised to channel contaminated money, the chartered accountant played a “pivotal role” in channelling the illegal money to the main accused.

Out of a total of 120 witnesses, 44 had been questioned thus far, and according to the petitioner’s attorney, none of them had anything incriminating to say against the petitioner. Additionally, it was stated that the petitioner had never retained any funds on behalf of the public employee.

It was contended that the money in question belonged to the main accused’s wife and that the petitioner was simply the chartered accountant of her company and had no connection to the public servant.

The CBI attorney argued that because the petition’s scope was so constrained and specific, the court was unable to reexamine the evidence already in the record.

In support of his position, he cited a Supreme Court decision from Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency (P) Ltd. v. CBI, which held that the court should only use its inherent or revisional powers to fix jurisdictional mistakes and even then, only in the most exceptional of circumstances.

According to the argument, the trial court properly charged the petitioner despite not being compelled to thoroughly evaluate the evidence the prosecution had given.

When the petitioner was charged, the trial court noted that it was impossible to determine the petitioner’s intent when performing the conduct and that it was impossible to infer that he did it accidentally while carrying out his duties as a chartered accountant.

The trial court further held that it was impossible to completely rule out the possibility of one of the accused testifying under Sections 315 CrPC and 21 IPC and that in such a case, the court would be justified in taking the aforementioned confession(s) of that/those accused into account when making a decision following the trial. Grave doubt was found to be sufficient to support the accusation, the High Court stated.

In addition, Justice  Menon thought it odd that the trial court chose to cite Section 315 of the CrPC (accused to be a competent witness) rather than Section 319 of the CrPC, which gave the court the authority to pursue criminal charges against anyone who appeared to be guilty of an offence during the course of the trial after the filing of the charge sheet.

The trial court record, according to the court, did not reveal any independent evidence against the petitioner.

Even the learned trial court fails to mention this information in the disputed order. The learned trial court’s decision cannot be upheld since it was made with the intention of waiting and watching for a possibility that was not yet a reality. Retracted statements from a co-accused will be completely insufficient to prove that the petitioner joined the co-accused in a plot to aid the conduct of the offences for which the petitioner has been charged.

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