Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that when a trial is going on and the court comes to know from the evidence which has been put forth before the court that some other person who is not appearing before the court as an accused person might have committed the offence, the court can summon such person before itself.
This means that there are times when the court which is hearing a case against particular accused persons and the court comes to know from the evidence which has been led before it that other than accused persons who are already appearing before the court, there might be some other persons who are concerned in that very offence or in an offence which is connected with that matter. In such circumstances it is the duty of the court to summon such other persons which are not already appearing before it. Section 319 provides for such situations. Once person appears before the court, such person can be detained and trial is initiated against such person.
Section 319 resumes that the court having some under person under section 319 has power to take cognizance of the offence. This section does not provide the manner in which cognizance is to be taken. This is so because the mode in which the court can take cognizance of an offence is prescribed in section 190. Section 190 is completely exhaustive in that regard. The question in the circumstances arises that when the new accused persons have been added, should take cognizance is supposed to have been taken on the courts on information or should it be assumed that cognizance was first taken of the offence against the newly accused persons. The answer is that this provision has been incorporated so that the whole case is decided once and for all against all the accused persons. And that in such circumstances, cognizance against the newly added persons ought to be taken in a similar fashion as against those persons who are already appearing before the court. However, it is the basic rule of criminal law that a person cannot be tried and punished unless he has been heard. And therefore under section 319, the evidence against the newly added persons must be reheard in their presence.
Powers under section 319 also include powers to summon those persons who have not been chargesheeted by the police. For example out of five persons who are accused of committing an offence in a First Information Report FIR, only three are chargesheeted by the police and two of them are placed in column number two. Number two is a column in the chargesheet in which names of those persons are added who, according to the police, are innocent. Under section 319, those to persons who have not been chargesheeted by the police can also be summoned by the court if there is evidence against them.
Further, since it is the duty of the court to bring the perpetrators of an offence to Justice, this section can be invoked by the court itself also. Further if a person/complainant has already made an application under section 319 and later he withdraws it, the court can still summon persons who it thinks might have committed the offence or any related offence.
The court has powers to proceed against any persons who are not already appearing before it only if it has sufficient evidence to conclude that the person who is to be summoned now has committed some offence. If there is no such evidence, the court cannot exercise the powers under section 319 of criminal procedure code. In such circumstances wrongful exercise of this power can be challenged by a quashing petition under section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh.
Section 319 gives powers to the court to summon certain persons. This provision does not give any right to the accused persons to insist that some other persons are also involved in the same offence and those persons must also be summoned before trial is continued against these persons.
Further, although the court has powers under section 319 to detain a person, the court instead can direct the police to investigate the matter and then place on record the result of their investigation. Therefore court has powers to clarify whether section 319 has to be used or not. Also it may be clarified that the word detention does not mean to bring the newly added persons before the court. Instead it means that a person is jailed.