The Supreme Court in Dr. Nallappareddy Sridhar Reddy vs. The state of Andhra Pradesh and others upheld the order passed by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh which held that additional charges can be filed even after reserving for judgment. The Supreme Court ruled that the courts have wide ranging powers under section 216 of criminal Procedure code to add or alter charges at any time before the pronouncement of judgment.
On 10th March, 2011, a complaint was filed against the appellant in the present case by his father-in-law, alleging harassment of his daughter by the appellant and his family members on demand of dowry. The marriage between the appellant and the daughter of the complainant was conducted in the year 2005 in the presence of their family members. Due to non-fulfillment of their dowry demands, the daughter of the complainant was not allowed to reside with the appellant who was then residing in U.K.
FIR was registered under section 498A of IPC and Section 3 & Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the charge sheet against the appellant was also duly filed on 30th June, 2012. Upon receiving additional information, the investigation officer obtained permission of the trial court for further investigation. The investigation and the statement of witnesses revealed that the appellant had further demanded an amount of Rs. 5 lakhs to secure job for the complainant’s daughter in U.K. in addition to the demand of transferring the lands belonging to the father-in-law in his name.
Hence, additional charge sheet was filed on 12th April, 2013 under section 406 and Section 420 of IPC. The trial court has also taken cognizance of the same which is evident from the docket order passed by the Additional junior civil judge. However the court framed charges only under Section 498A of IPC and Section 3 & Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act leaving the charges under Section 406 and 420 of IPC. The trial commenced and after recording evidence and hearing arguments of both sides the trial court reserved the case for pronouncement of judgment on 13th February, 2017.
On 13th February, 2017, the Public Prosecutor filed an application under section 216 of Crpc stating that the charges under section 406 and 420 of IPC were not framed though additional charge sheet was filed with respect to the same. On 21st February, 2017, the trial court allowed the application stating that the additional charge sheet was kept in separate docket and it was not brought to the notice of the court.
Against the said order of the trial court, the appellant herein filed a revision petition before the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. The High Court, on 1st June, 2017, set aside the order passed by the trial court on the ground of procedural irregularities. However the option was given to the trial court to frame additional charges if necessary after hearing both sides.
On 11th October, 2017, the trial court after hearing both sides dismissed the application filed under section 216 of crpc filed by the public prosecutor stating that the ingredients for the offences under section 406 and 420 of IPC were not made out. Against this order the Complainant/respondent filed revision petition before the High Court. The high court reversed the order of the trial court dated 11th October, 2017 holding that the trial court did not record its reasons for stating that the offences under section 406 and 420 of IPC were not made out. Further, the High Court evaluated the evidence of the witnesses recorded during investigation and held that the statements of witnesses PW1, PW5 and PW6 and their cross-examination reflects the possibility of appellant having received Rs.5 lakhs as dowry.
Against the said order of the High Court, the appellant has filed the present appeal stating that the application was filed only with the intention to delay the proceeding as no case was made out under section 406 and 420 of the IPC. The appellant further contends that the original charge sheet did not reflect the demand of 5lakhs rupees and the same was recorded only in the additional charge sheet and hence is liable to be disregarded. However the defence kept forward the argument that the court has power to alter the charges at any time before the pronouncement of judgment based on the materials on record.
1. While dealing with the present appeal the court observed that additional charge sheet was filed for the offences under section 406 & 420 of IPC and the same was taken cognizance by the court in the year 2013. However at the time of framing charges, the charges under section 406 and 420 of IPC were left out due to the reasons recorded.
2. The court remarked that, the courts have wide power under Section 216 of Crpc, to add or alter charges any time before the pronouncement of judgment which includes after completion of trial and reservation of judgment.
3. The court stated that, the test whether there is a direct nexus between the materials on record and the charges framed, should be adopted by the courts while altering or adding charges as was duly evaluated by the high court of Andhra Pradesh.
4. The court further stated that while framing charges, it is sufficient for the court to examine if there are enough materials on record for the commencement of trial. It further observed that appreciation of evidence on merit shall be done only after framing of charges.
On 21st January,2020, the supreme court dismissed the appeal filed by the appellant and held that the court has power to alter the charges even after reserving for judgment based on the materials on record. It further held that this power should be exercised cautiously that the framing of additional charges is not prejudice to the accused and the court must ensure that the accused is allowed to have fair trial.
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
1. Nallappareddy Sridhar Reddy vs. The state of Andhra Pradesh and others, Supreme Court of India, Criminal Appeal No. 1934 of 2019.
2. Bar and Bench, Can additional charges be framed by Trial Court after a judgment is reserved? Supreme court answers, http://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/can-additional-charges-be-framed-by-trial-court-after-a-judgment-is-reserved-supreme-court-answers (last visited on 22nd January, 2020)