Circumstances in which a trial can be transferred to dispense fair and impartial justice

Indian Law Encyclopedia

Supreme Court, on various occasions, had opportunity to discuss the importance of fair trial in Criminal Justice System and various circumstances in which a trial can be transferred to dispense fair and impartial justice. It would be advantageous to notice a few decisions of this Court with regard to the scope of Section 406 of Code of Criminal Procedure. In Gurcharan Dass Chadha v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1966 SC 1418, this Court held as under:

A case is transferred if there is a reasonable apprehension on the part of a party to a case that justice will not be done. A Petitioner is not required to demonstrate that justice will inevitably fail. He is entitled to a transfer if he shows circumstances from which it can be inferred that he entertains an apprehension and that it is reasonable in the circumstances alleged. It is one of the principles of the administration of justice that justice should not only be done but it should be seen to be done. However, a mere allegation that there is apprehension that justice will not be done in a given case does not suffice. The Court has further to see whether apprehension is reasonable or not. To judge the reasonableness of the apprehension the state of the mind of the person who entertains the apprehension is no doubt relevant but that is not all. The apprehension must not only be entertained, but must appear to the court to be a reasonable apprehension.”In Maneka Sanjay Gandhi v. Rani Jethmalani, (1979) 4 SCC 167, this Court has observed as under: “Assurance of a fair trial is the first imperative of the dispensation of justice and the central criterion for the court to consider when a motion for transfer is made is not the hypersensitivity or relative convenience of a party or easy availability of legal services or like mini-grievances. Something more substantial, more compelling, more imperilling, from the point of view of public justice and its attendant environment, is necessitous if the Court is to exercise its power of transfer. This is the cardinal principle although the circumstances may be myriad and vary from case to case. We have to test the Petitioner’s grounds on this touchstone bearing in mind the rule that normally the complainant has the right to choose any court having jurisdiction and the accused cannot dictate where the case against him should be tried. Even so, the process of justice should not harass the parties and from that angle the court may weigh the circumstances.

In K. Anbazhagan v. Superintendent of Police, (2004) 3 SCC 767, this Court held as under:

Free and fair trial is sine qua non of Article 21 of the Constitution. It is trite law that justice should not only be done but it should be seen to have been done. If the criminal trial is not free and fair and not free from bias, judicial fairness and the criminal justice system would be at stake shaking the confidence of the public in the system and woe would be the rule of law. It is important to note that in such a case the question is not whether the Petitioner is actually biased but the question is whether the circumstances are such that there is a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the Petitioner.

In Abdul Nazar Madani v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2000) 6 SCC 204, this Court observed as under:

The purpose of criminal trial is to dispense fair and impartial justice uninfluenced by extraneous considerations. When it is shown that public confidence in the fairness of a trial would be seriously undermined, any party can seek the transfer of a case within the State under Section 407 and anywhere in the country under Section 406 Code of Criminal Procedure The apprehension of not getting a fair and impartial inquiry or trial is required to be reasonable and not imaginary, based upon conjectures and surmises. If it appears that the dispensation of criminal justice is not possible impartially and objectively and without any bias before any court or even at any place, the appropriate court may transfer the case to another court where it feels that holding of fair and proper trial is conducive. No universal or hard-and-fast rules can be prescribed for deciding a transfer petition which has always to be decided on the basis of the facts of each case. Convenience of the parties including the witness to be produced at the trial is also a relevant consideration for deciding the transfer petition. The convenience of the parties does not necessarily mean the convenience of the Petitioners alone who approached the court on misconceived notions of apprehension. Convenience for the purposes of transfer means the convenience of the prosecution, other accused, the witnesses and the larger interest of the society.