In the case of Raseen Babu KM v. State of Kerala decided on 08.06.2021 the Kerala High Court held that a monosyllabic “yes” cannot qualify as a plea of guilt by an accused.
The Petitioner herein had been convicted by the Judicial Magistrate First Class after replying “yes” to the question of whether he had committed certain listed offenses. This reply was treated as a plea of guilt and he was convicted by the Trial Court. Thereafter the Trial Court Judgment was challenged at the Kerala High Court on the ground of ‘patent illegality’ in the procedure adopted by the Judicial Magistrate First Class for holding the Petitioner guilty.
The Court vide its Order laid down the following guidelines concerning pleas of guilt made before Magistrates: –
- The term ‘pleading guilty’ would require a positive and informed act of admitting all the elements of the offence/s;
- The Magistrate should frame the charge, specifying the offences alleged against the accused;
- The charge should be read over and explained to the accused;
- The accused should be asked whether he pleads guilty of the offence/s with which he is charged;
- The accused should plead guilty after understanding the seriousness of the allegations and the implications of pleading guilty. The plea should be voluntary and expressed in clear and unambiguous terms;
- The Magistrate should record the accused’s plea of guilty in the words of the accused, to the extent possible;
- The Magistrate, after considering all relevant factors should exercise his discretion and decide whether to accept the plea of guilty or not;
- If the plea is accepted, the accused can be convicted and suitable punishment imposed;
- Section 240 (Framing of charge) and section 241 (Conviction of plea of guilty) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 require strict compliance;
- An Order of a Magistrate convicting an accused on his own admission would not be a final order and would be open to revision till the satisfaction of the Superior Court; and,
- Mere lip service or a monosyllabic ‘yes’ in response to a question by the Court could not be treated/ equated with/ or accepted as a pleading of guilt by the accused;
In conclusion, the Kerala High Court held that the facts of the present case ranging from the petitioner having pled not-guilty at the first instance, to recording a monosyllabic “yes” at a later stage could not be termed as a pleading of guilt from which conviction could follow. Accordingly, the Trial Court judgment was set aside.
The Judgment can be found at https://cmshck.kerala.gov.in/digicourt/orders/2021/204400002272021_1.pdf.