Supreme Court of India
Sukh Ram v. State of Himachal Pradesh
Judicial/Executive Magistrate empowered to issue directions to any person including accused to give specimen signatures and handwriting during the investigation of case.
A government scheme was launched for providing loans at the cheaper interest rates to poor persons living below the poverty line to enable them to purchase sheeps, buffalos, horses and for running small businesses and for development of land etc. Upon recommendation of the Block Development Officer (BDO), the bank disbursed these loans to the beneficiaries. Case of the prosecution is that neither the loan amount nor the subsidy was actually disbursed to the beneficiaries but was misappropriated by the Appellant (Gram Sewak) and others. A case was registered against Appellant under Sections 409, 467, 468, 471, 120-B and 420 Indian Penal Code and under Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Trial court discarded the testimony and opinion of handwriting expert (Ex. PW20/C-1 to Ex. PW20/C-5) on the ground that the handwritten specimen given by PW-5 and PW-7 were taken before the executive magistrate who did not have the authority to enquire into or try the offence. Trial court held that in the absence of legal evidence that Appellant and others have forged the loan documents, it cannot be concluded that the accused had entered into conspiracy of committing forgery and cheating etc. and on those findings, the trial court acquitted Appellant and others.
High Court reversed the judgment of acquittal and found the Appellant guilty of forging loan applications of PW-5 and PW-7 and other documents and convicted him for the offences punishable under Sections 468 Indian Penal Code and also for the offence of using said forged applications as genuine punishable under Section 471 Indian Penal Code.
Section 311A of Code of Criminal Procedure has been introduced by Act No. 25 of 2005 with effect from 23.06.2006 with respect to the powers of the Magistrate to order the person to give specimen signatures or handwriting; but no such powers were there prior to the year 2006. Section 311A Code of Criminal Procedure has been inserted on the suggestions of the Supreme Court in State of Uttar Pradesh v. Ram Banu Misra,MANU/SC/0246/1980
: (1980) 2 SCC 343 : AIR 1980 SC 791, that a suitable legislation be brought along the lines of Section 5 of Identification of Prisoners Act, 1980, to provide for the investiture of Magistrates with powers to issue directions to any person including an accused person to give specimen signatures and handwriting but no such powers existed prior to such amendment. The said amendment is prospective in nature and not retrospective.
In present case, the occurrence was of the year 1983-1986 and, therefore, the authority of Executive Magistrate to take specimen signatures of PW-5 and PW-7 during the course of investigation cannot be disputed. Supreme Court opined that, even dehors opinion evidence of handwriting expert, there is clear oral evidence of PW-5 and PW-7 denying their signatures in the loan application and other documents. Affirming the evidence of PWs 5 and 7 and analysis of evidence, the High Court has rightly reversed the judgment of acquittal and found the Appellant guilty of the offences Under Sections 468 and 471 Indian Penal Code. Supreme Court while dismissing appeals denied reduction of sentence considering the fact that, innocence of the villagers has been misused by Appellant to siphon the public money
State of Uttar Pradesh v. Ram Banu Misra, MANU/SC/0246/1980
: (1980) 2 SCC 343 : AIR 1980 SC 791 – Section 311A of Code of Criminal Procedure