It is true that the words “not sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused” appearing in the Section 227 postulate exercise of judicial mind on the part of the judge to the facts of the case in order to determine whether a case for trial has been made out by the prosecution. However, in assessing this fact, the Judge has the power to shift and weigh the material for the limited purpose of finding out whether or not a prima facie case against the accused has been made out.
The test to determine a prima facie case depends upon the facts of each case and in this regard it is neither feasible nor desirable to lay down a rule of universal application. By and large, however, if two views are equally possible and the Judge is satisfied that the evidence produced before him gives rise to suspicion only as distinguished from grave suspicion, he will be fully within his right to discharge the accused.
At this stage, he is not to see as to whether the trial will end in conviction or not. The broad test to be applied is whether the materials on record, if unrebutted, make a conviction reasonably possible.
The word ‘ground’ in the context is not a ground for conviction, but a ground for putting the accused on trial. The ground may be that the evidence produced is not sufficient for the judge to proceed against the accused or it may be that the Sessions Judge finds that the accused cannot be proceeded with as no sanction has been obtained or that the prosecution is barred by limitation or that he is precluded from holding the trial because of a prior judgment of the High Court.
Here the word ‘sufficient’ has the meaning as ‘conclusive’. At this stage, all that the Court is to consider is whether the evidentiary material on record, if generally accepted, would reasonably connect the accused with the crime.
“There is no sufficient ground for proceeding” means that no reasonable person can come to the conclusion that there is any ground whatsoever to sustain the charge against the accused. If the Sessions Judge is almost certain that the trial would only be an exercise in futility or sheer waste of time, he has to discharge the accused.
The Sessions Judge is bound to discharge the accused in the following cases:
(a) Where the evidence produced is not sufficient;
(b) Where there is no legal ground for proceeding against the accused;
(c) Where no sanction has been obtained;
(d) Where the prosecution is clearly barred by limitation; or
(e) Where he is precluded from proceeding because of a prior judgment of High Court.