POWER TO EXAMINE THE ACCUSED (SECTION 313)
Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) is a significant provision in the Indian legal system. It empowers the court to examine the accused in a criminal trial regarding the evidence presented against them. This section is founded on the principles of natural justice, particularly the “Audi Alteram Partem” doctrine, and aims to ensure a fair trial for the accused. In this analysis, we will explore the various aspects of Section 313, its objectives, scope, and its impact on the accused’s rights, with a particular focus on the right to remain silent.
OBJECTIVE OF SECTION 313
The primary purpose of Section 313 is to establish a direct communication channel between the court and the accused. It allows the court to present every significant incriminating piece of evidence to the accused and grant them an opportunity to explain or clarify these circumstances. This serves to test the veracity of the prosecution’s case, making the examination of the accused more than a mere formality. It provides a legal framework to ensure that the accused is not condemned unheard, aligning with the principle of natural justice, “Audi Alteram Partem.”
Section 313(1) provides two stages for examining the accused:-
- Questions at any stage – The court may, at any point during the trial, ask questions to the accused without prior warning. This flexibility ensures that the accused cannot anticipate when they will be questioned, preventing any undue preparation.
- Mandatory questioning – After the prosecution witnesses have been examined and before the accused is called for their defense, the court must question the accused generally on the case. The term “shall” in this context makes such questioning obligatory, safeguarding the rights of the accused.
EVIDENTIARY VALUE OF ACCUSED’S STATEMENTS
It’s crucial to note that the answers provided by the accused during this examination do not possess direct evidentiary value. The accused cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions or providing false answers. However, these answers can be considered in the ongoing trial and may be used for or against the accused in other inquiries or trials, provided they have relevance.
RIGHT TO SILENCE AND PROTECTION
The right to remain silent under Section 313 is in line with the constitutional right against self-incrimination, as outlined in Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution. While an accused cannot be punished for silence or providing false answers, the court may draw inferences based on their responses.
However, courts should exercise caution to avoid allowing the silence of the accused to replace evidence presented by the prosecution. The accused’s silence may be an additional link in the chain of circumstances against them, but it should not become an alternative to concrete evidence.
THE SCOPE AND PURPOSE OF SECTION 313
The scope of Section 313 is broad, and it is not a mere procedural formality. The primary objective is to enable the accused to provide explanations for incriminating circumstances that appear against them in the prosecution’s evidence. The court’s obligation is to ensure that every piece of evidence that may potentially be used against the accused is presented, allowing them a fair chance to respond.
EXAMINATION UNDER SECTION 313 MORE THAN ONCE
Section 313 does not prohibit multiple examinations of the accused. The court can call upon the accused to answer questions more than once if deemed necessary. However, this power should not be used routinely or mechanically.
STAGES IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL
Section 313 comes into play at Stage IV of a criminal trial. It follows –
- The examination of the accused, discharge, and framing of charges (Stage I),
- Followed by conviction on a guilty plea (Stage II),
- Evidence for the prosecution (Stage III),
- Examination of accused (Stage IV),
- Evidence for the defense (Stage V),
- Arguments (Stage VI), and
- Judgment (Stage VII).
RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED
While examining the accused, certain rights and principles must be upheld :-
- The statements given do not have evidentiary value:-The accused is not subject to punishment for providing false answers or choosing to remain silent.
- Right to remain silent:– The accused is not compelled to speak and is free to answer or refuse questions.
- Clear and comprehensible language:- The language of Section 313 should be easily understood to prevent misapprehension.
- Limited scope of questions :- The court should limit questions to enable the accused to explain the circumstances used against them, without any obligation on the accused to answer them.
- Inclusive questioning :- The court should ensure that no significant or incriminating point is left out during the examination.
- Examination of deaf and dumb accused :– Special care must be taken, with interpreters if necessary, to ensure that the accused understands the proceedings.
Section 313 of the CrPC is a crucial component of the Indian legal system that ensures the accused’s right to a fair trial. It provides a platform for the accused to explain incriminating circumstances while respecting their right to remain silent. If applied correctly, this section can lead to efficient case resolution, maintain the integrity of the legal process, and instill a sense of responsibility in witnesses to speak the truth. The accused’s right to silence is protected, but the court may draw reasonable inferences based on their responses. Ultimately, the correct application of this section helps strike a balance between the rights of the accused and the prerogatives of the prosecution, ensuring a fair and just trial.