Summary procedure for trial for giving false evidence :
Section – 344 . (1) If, at the time of delivery of any judgment or final order disposing of any judicial proceeding, a Court of Session or Magistrate of the first class expresses an opinion to the effect that any witness appearing in such proceeding had knowingly or wilfully given false evidence or had fabricated false evidence with the intention that such evidence should be used in such proceeding, it or he may, if satisfied that it is necessary and expedient in the interest of justice that the witness should be tried summarily for giving or fabricating, as the case may be, false evidence, take cognizance of the offence and may, after giving the offender a reasonable opportunity of showing cause why he should not be punished for such offence, try such offender summarily and sentence him to imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or to fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.
(2) In every such case the Court shall follow, as nearly as may be practicable, the procedure prescribed for summary trials.
(3) Nothing in this section shall affect the power of the Court to make a complaint under section 340 for the offence, where it does not choose to proceed under this section.
(4) Where, after any action is initiated under sub-section (1), it is made to appear to the Court of Session or Magistrate of the first class that an appeal or an application for revision has been preferred or filed against the judgment or order in which the opinion referred to in that sub-section has been expressed, it or he shall stay further proceedings of the trial until the disposal of the appeal or the application for revision, as the case may be, and thereupon the further proceedings of the trial shall abide by the results of the appeal or application for revision.
LAW COMMISSION REPORTS
Object of old section 479A inserted in 1955 – Section 344 replaces section 479A of the old Code. The latter section was inserted in the Code in 1955 with the object of “eradicating the evils of perjury”. It, however, did not have the desired effect. The Law Commission observed :
“Even since its introduction the section has been a source of trouble. First, there was a controversy as to whether it was exclusive of section 476 or merely provided an additional alternative. That the former is the correct view is now well-settled. But the main question which naturally arises is whether this section makes an improvement over section 476. If speedy punishment of perjury is the aim, then the section does not go far enough because though it bars an appeal against a complaint made by the court, it does not give power to the court itself to punish perjury.”
Defect in the old section 479A – “Moreover, action under the section cannot be taken after judgment is pronounced. Where a complaint ‘can be’ made under the section, action cannot be taken under section 476, so that if the court, by reason of forgetfulness or insufficient material, does not make a complaint on the termination of the proceedings, action cannot be subsequently taken under section 476 and the offender escapes unpunished – a result hardly intended by the Legislature. This is a positive harm done by this section.”
Summary punishment for perjury favoured – At the same time, the Law Commission observed:
“A mere repeal of the section, however, without some provision for punishing perjury will not be a satisfactory solution. Some provision whereby perjury of a flagrant and unchallengeable type could be effectively punished summarily without seriously prejudicing a fair trial of the person concerned, is desirable.”
Salient features of the new provision – The salient features of the new section are therefore as follows :
|1.||Â||A Court of Session or a Magistrate of the first class (as against Civil, Revenue or Criminal Court mentioned in the old section) has been empowered itself to try and punish summarily the offence of perjury if the court is satisfied that it is necessary and expedient so to do in the interests of justice instead of filing a complaint before a Magistrate as was the case under the old provision.|
|2.||Â||As in the old provision, the time for exercising the power under the section is at the time of the delivery of judgment or final order – The Joint Committee of Parliament observed :|
|Â||“The Committee is of the view that the court should not be enabled to exercise this power at any time during the proceedings, because this may put witnesses in terror and may not conduce to the smooth progress of the inquiry or the trial. The appropriate thing would be to have the matter considered by the court only at the time of the delivery of judgment or final order for it is only then that he will be in a position to assess the significance of the statements in the proper light.”|
|3.||Â||Before the punishment is imposed, the offender has to be given a reasonable opportunity of showing cause why he should not be punished for such offence.|
|4.||Â||The maximum punishment laid down is three months’ imprisonment or fine up to Rs. 500, or both.|
|5.||Â||The court’s order has been made appealable [see section 351] “as a check against arbitrary action” under the section. Under the old provision, the finding of the court was non-appealable.|
|6.||Â||The new procedure will be without prejudice to action under section 340.|
|7.||Â||The sentence imposed under the section should not be executed until the disposal of an appeal or revision against the judgment or order in the main proceedings in which the witness gave perjured evidence and was sentenced. The Joint Committee of Parliament observed : “If this is not done the witness should have suffered the punishment even though ultimately, as a result of the appeal or revision the statements made by him would be found to have been justified”.|
On this new procedure, the Law Commission observed :
“We are not aware of the risk involved in giving power to punish perjury to the very court before which it is committed . . . . The provision which we recommend is of a very limited character, being confined to obvious cases of perjury and authorising a small punishment. Even this procedure will be discretionary, so that where the court is of opinion that perjury, even though committed by contradictory statements on oath, is likely to raise complicated question, or deserves more serious punishment than that permissible under the proposed section or is otherwise of such a nature that the ordinary procedure [section 340] is more appropriate, the court will not proceed under the proposed section.”