Thiruvananthapuram, Jun 9 (ILNS) The Kerala High Court has issued a set of guidelines to be followed by the courts in cases of an accused pleading guilty for the offences charged against him.
The Single-Judge Bench of Justice VG Arun mandated the compliance of the following requirements before acting upon the pleading of guilt by an accused;
(i) The Magistrate should frame the charge, specifying the offences alleged against the accused;
(ii) The charge should be read over and explained to the accused;
(iii) The accused should be asked whether he pleads guilty of the offence/s with which he is charged;
(IV) The accused should plead guilty after understanding the seriousness of the allegations and the implications of pleading guilty. The plea should be voluntary and expressed in clear and unambiguous terms.
(v) The Magistrate should record the accused plea of guilty in the words of the accused, to the extent possible.
(vi) The Magistrate, after considering all relevant factors, should exercise his discretion and decide whether to accept the plea of guilty or not
(vii) If the plea is accepted, the accused can be convicted and suitable punishment imposed.
This criminal revision petition was filed by Raseen Babu KM, represented by Advocate D Anil Kumar against the order of the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court -1, convicting him under Section 35 of Kerala Prevention of Disturbances of Public Meetings Act for obstructing the procession for a school admission festival and assaulting certain volunteers involved.
The verdicts of the Trial Court are challenged mainly on the ground that the procedure adopted by the Trial Court in finding the accused to have pleaded guilty was patently illegal.
D Anil Kumar, Counsel for the petitioner, contended that the conviction of an accused based on his plea of guilty results in that person being convicted and punished without trial and hence the Magistrates are bound to ensure that the plea is voluntary, clear and unambiguous and is put forth after understanding the implications of such admission.
“A monosyllabic ‘yes’ elicited as an answer to the pointed question as to whether the petitioner had committed the offences mentioned in the charge, will not satisfy the aforementioned requirements.”
The court also answered the question whether an accused, who had pleaded not guilty at the stage of framing charge, could be permitted to plead guilty at a later stage which was raised by relying upon Santosh v State of Kerala (2003(2) Crimes 141) in which a learned Single Judge has opined that the plea of guilt can be advanced by an accused at any stage of the trial after framing charge.
The court allows the criminal revision petitions by setting aside the conviction and sentence imposed on the petitioner by concluding:
“As far as the instant case is concerned, the petitioner having pleaded not guilty at the first instance, recording of the monosyllabic answer ‘yes’ in the questionnaire prepared at the stage of framing charge, cannot, under any circumstance, be termed as pleading of guilt by the petitioner, based on which the court could have convicted him. As such, the judgements convicting the petitioner are liable to be set aside,” added the Court. ILNS/HS/RJ