The Supreme Court on 20/11/2019 answered a pertinent question of the extent to which a victim’s counsel could be a participant in the prosecution of a said case. Justice Deepak Gupta and justice MM Shantanagoudar held that under normal circumstances, the counsel for the victim should not be allowed “to make oral arguments or examine and crossexamine witnesses.”
The Court believed that “to ensure that the right of appeal accorded to a victim under the proviso to Section 372 of the Cr.P.C. is not rendered meaningless due to the errors of the Public Prosecutor at the trial stage itself, we find that some significant role should be given to the victim’s counsel while assisting the prosecution.” The Supreme Court of India however did not fail to mention that the inherent nature of the CrPC should not be tampered with. It must also be remembered that the prima role of the office of the Public Prosecutor should not be diluted. The Sections 24(8) and 301(2) should be treated harmoniously. The latter section, i.e. Section 301(2) marks the subject of the pleader guided by a private person subject to the directions of the Public Prosecutor or the Assistant Public Prosecutor.
The SC reminded that Section 24(8) CrPC acts as a safety value in the ambit that the counsel can make up for any oversights made in the prosecution of the case. “If the victim’s counsel feels that a certain aspect has gone unaddressed in the examination of the witnesses or the arguments advanced by the Public Prosecutor, he may route any questions or points through the Public Prosecutor himself.”
The Court, however, added, “even if there is a situation where the Public Prosecutor fails to highlight some issue of importance despite it having been suggested by the victim’s counsel, the victim’s counsel may still not be given the unbridled mantle of making oral arguments or examining witnesses. This is because in such cases, he still has a recourse by channelling his questions or arguments through the Judge first.”