Supreme Court makes it clear that it must be completed within 21 days

With a view to ensuring fair trial, the Supreme Court on Thursday permitted V.K. Sasikala, a close aide of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, to inspect certain unmarked and un-exhibited documents in the disproportionate assets case pending against her in a Bangalore court. Ms. Jayalalithaa is also an accused in this case.

Giving this direction, a Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi said “the liberty of an accused cannot be interfered with except under due process of law. The expression “due process of law” shall deem to include fairness in trial. The Cr.P.C. gives a right to the accused to receive all documents and statements as well as to move an application for production of any record or witness in support of his case.”

Writing the judgment Justice Gogoi said, “What has arisen before us is a situation where evidently the unmarked and un-exhibited documents of the case that are being demanded by the accused had been forwarded to the Court under Section 173 (5) but are not being relied upon by the prosecution.

The Bench said, “It will be difficult for the Court to say that the accused has no right to claim copies of the documents or request the Court for production of a document which is part of the general diary subject to satisfying the basic ingredients of law stated therein.”

The Bench said, “It is not for the prosecution or for the Court to comprehend the prejudice that is likely to be caused to the accused. The perception of prejudice is for the accused to develop and if the same is founded on a reasonable basis it is the duty of the Court as well as the prosecution to ensure that the accused should not be made to labour under any such perception and the same must be put to rest at the earliest.”

On the contention that the accused was seeking these documents at a belated stage, the bench said, “It is not the stage of making of the request; the efflux of time that has occurred or the prior conduct of the accused that is material.

The Bench noted that any failure on the part of the accused to put forward his/her version of the case in his examination under Section 313 Cr.P.C. might have the effect of curtailing his/her rights in the event the accused chooses to take up a specific defence and examine defence witnesses.