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” Fairness in investigation as also trial is a human right of an accused. The State cannot  suppress any vital document from the court only because the same would support the case of the accused.”

The above is part of the judgment of the Supreme Court in SD Kohli v. State of Maharashtra. In the case two dying declarations were recorded but however, the one recorded infront of the magistrate was not produced before the Court and withheld by the prosecution. Holding that this defies the very idea of a fair trial in criminal law, the Court acquitted the accused who was sentenced to life imprisonment by the lower court.

In criminal law, the prosecution has the burden of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Along with this the Court has now stated explicitly that the prosecution must disclose all the material in its possession to the accused so as to give him a fair trial. Idon’t think that this is the first time this principle has been enunciated by the Court and surely it should have existed as a principle in criminal procedure. But at the same time, this judgment is a first in that it has granted an acquittal from a life sentence on the application of this principle.

Another principle coming out of the judgment is that if there is evidence that convicts the accused and another evidence that supports him, the one that supports him shall be taken into consideration. In this case, it was the dying declaration that was earlier not presented before the Court. Both these points are valid and emphasise on the importance of a fair trial in criminal law.

Note : Judgement dtd . 18/12/2008 . CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 637 OF 2006 . available on Judis.