NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said public prosecutors must act independent of the government while seeking withdrawal of case against an accused in public interest and issued a self-caution that it should not generally interfere with concurrent decisions of trial court and the high court rejecting such withdrawal plea.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah examined a host of judgments, including the one that questioned the withdrawal of prosecution in an Emergency era case against opposition leader George Fernandes, and culled out the essence of the rulings spread over the decades to ink a comprehensive checklist for both the public prosecutor and the judiciary in dealing with withdrawal of prosecution.
The bench formulated the principles and said: PP's decision to withdraw a case required consent of the court; PP cannot withdraw a case merely on the ground of paucity of evidence, he must keep in mind the broad ends of public justice; PP must formulate an independent opinion before seeking the consent of the court to withdraw from the prosecution; initiation of withdrawal at the behest of the government would not vitiate the decision if the court is satisfied that the PP has independently applied mind on necessity of making the application; it is for the trial court to act in a supervisory scrutinising role before allowing or rejecting plea for withdrawal.
The bench also delineated the exercise to be undertaken by the trial court to scrutinise the genuineness, relevance, necessity and public interest involved in the PP's plea seeking withdrawal of a case. It said, the trial court must examine, whether: the withdrawal is an attempt to interfere with the normal course of justice for illegitimate reasons or purposes; the plea is made in good faith, in the interest of public policy and justice, and not to thwart or stifle the process of law; the application suffers from such improprieties or illegalities as would cause manifest injustice if consent were to be given; the grant of consent sub-serves the administration of justice; and, the permission has not been sought with an ulterior purpose unconnected with the vindication of the law which the public prosecutor is duty bound to maintain.
It said while determining whether the withdrawal of the prosecution subserves the administration of justice, the trial court would be justified in scrutinising the nature and gravity of the offence and its impact upon public life especially where matters involving public funds and the discharge of a public trust are implicated.
"In a situation where both the trial judge and the revisional court have concurred in granting or refusing consent, the Supreme Court while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution would exercise caution before disturbing concurrent findings.
The court may in exercise of the well-settled principles attached to the exercise of this jurisdiction, interfere in a case where there has been a failure of the trial judge or of the High Court to apply the correct principles in deciding whether to grant or withhold consent," it said while rejecting Kerala government PP's plea for withdrawal of cases against few left party MLAs, who were booked for vandalism inside the House in 2015.