“Recording of evidence by one magistrate and passing order or deliver the judgment by the other (in summary trial) is not curable irregularity, but an illegality,” observed the Bombay High Court, while acquitting three policemen charged with wrongful restraint and assault.
In 1999, after Ratnagiri resident Nazim Ahmed filed a private complaint the magistrate sentenced officers Pratibha Salvi, Mahadev Kambale and Suresh Shrigaonkar to one-month rigorous imprisonment.
Ahmed, a landlord, claimed he was detained and threatened by the officers after his wife and other tenants lodged a complaint alleging he refused permission for power connections. The Ratnagiri sessions court too upheld the verdict of the magistrate’s court.
But the three officers challenged the conviction on the ground that one magistrate had recorded evidence while another had delivered the judgment.
They contended that their case was treated as a summary case, which comprises less serious matters where the offences are not punishable with death or life imprisonment or a term exceeding two years.
Observing that transfers are regular and necessary, Justice Mridula Bhatkar said: “The judge is supposed to clear the part-heard matters pending on his file before handing over the charge.” On November 13, the HC acquitted the three officers after observing that “the magistrate who tries the case summarily should conclude the trial or the judge who delivers the judgment should have recorded the evidence”.