The Supreme Court recently took exception to a Madhya Pradesh High Court judgment which had discharged a rape accused on the ground of delay in registration of first information report (FIR)..A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala said that the judgment of the High Court was "disturbing" and "utterly incomprehensible"."The facts of this litigation are quite heart-breaking and at the same time, more disturbing is the utterly incomprehensible impugned judgment of the High Court discharging the accused of the offence of rape essentially on the ground of delay in the registration of the First Information Report (FIR)," the apex court said. The Court also criticised the State government for not filing an appeal against the High Court verdict which eventually prompted the father of the deceased rape victim to move the apex court."One another disturbing feature of this litigation is that it is the unfortunate father of the deceased who had to come before this Court seeking justice. It was expected of the State to challenge the illegal order passed by the High Court. Barring a few exceptions, in criminal matters the party who is treated as the aggrieved party is the State which is the custodian of the social interests of the community at large and so it is for the State to take all the steps necessary for bringing the person who has acted against the social interests of the community to book," the bench said.The Court, therefore, set aside the High Court verdict and allowed the trial court to proceed with the trial of the case against the accused..The deceased, who was the eldest child of the appellant, had conceived at a hospital and died by suicide by hanging herself after she disclosed that one Amit Tiwari was the father of the child. Based on the complaint of the appellant, a case was registered against the accused for offences under Sections 376 (rape) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 5 (aggravated penetrative sexual assault) and 6 (punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.Upon the completion of the investigation, the investigating agency filed charge sheet against the accused and the case came to be committed to the court of the Special Judge, POCSO, District Rewa.The Special Judge proceeded to frame the charge against the accused by an order dated December 18, 2020.The accused filed a Criminal Revision Application before the High Court under Section 397 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) questioning the legality of the order passed by the Special Judge framing charges.The High Court allowed the same by an order dated December 2, 2021 holding that the deceased was 8 months pregnant at the time of death and complaint to the police was not made on time. The High Court also noted that the statement of mother revealed that there was love-affair between the accused and the deceased and the deceased told her mother that she wanted to marry the accused.The High Court, therefore, discharged the accused. The State did not file any appeal before the Supreme Court and the father of the deceased then approached the top court..The Supreme Court noted that it was mainly argued before the High Court that on the date of the commission of the offence, the deceased was major and was in a relationship with the accused on her own free will and volition.The accused could not be said to have committed any offence as alleged. Surprisingly, even the State to a certain extent, supported the submission canvassed on behalf of the accused before the High Court, the top court noted.However, although the High Court devoted two full paragraphs for the purpose of recording the submissions as regards the age of the deceased, yet ultimately no specific finding has been recorded in that regard by the High Court, the apex court observed.The High Court proceeded altogether on a different footing and thought it fit to discharge the accused of all the charges on the ground that there was delay in lodging the FIR and the entire case put up by the parents of the deceased was doubtful, the Supreme Court said."At the cost of repetition, we state that the impugned order of the High Court is utterly incomprehensible. We have yet to come across a case where the High Court has thought fit to discharge an accused charged with the offence of rape on the ground of delay in the registration of the FIR," the Court stated..The top court reaffirmed that while the it is open to a High Court entertaining a petition under Section 482 of the CrPC or a revision application under Section 397 of the CrPC to quash the charges framed by the trial court, yet the same cannot be done by weighing the correctness or sufficiency of the evidence."In a case praying for quashing of the charge, the principle to be adopted by the High Court should be that if the entire evidence produced by the prosecution is to be believed, would it constitute an offence or not. The truthfulness, the sufficiency and acceptability of the material produced at the time of framing of a charge can be done only at the stage of trial," the Court underscored..Once the trial court has framed a charge against an accused the trial must proceed without unnecessary interference by a superior court and the entire evidence from the prosecution side should be placed on record, the Court further said. Any attempt by an accused for quashing of a charge before the entire prosecution evidence has come on record should not be entertained sans exceptional cases, the Court made it clear. .The Court also proceeded to explain the scope of Section 397 CrPC."Section 397 CrPC vests the court with the power to call for and examine the records of an inferior court for the purposes of satisfying itself as to the legality and regularity of any proceedings or order made in a case. The object of this provision is to set right a patent defect or an error of jurisdiction or law or the perversity which has crept in the proceeding," the judgment said.Thus, to hold that at the stage of framing the charge, the Court should form an opinion that the accused is certainly guilty of committing an offence, is to hold something which is neither permissible nor is in consonance with the scheme of CrPC, the bench held..In view of the above, the Supreme Court set aside the High Court judgment while making it clear that it is not expressing an opinion on the merits with regard to the exact and correct age of the deceased at the time of commission of the offence as alleged as it may cause prejudice to the parties in some manner or the other."It is for the trial court to determine the correct age on the basis of the evidence that may be led by the prosecution as well as by the defence," the Court ruled.