Cloned Copy of Electronic Record

It is a well established position, when statutes are unambiguous, Courts must adopt plain and natural meaning irrespective of consequences [Nelson Motis v. Union of India, (1992) 4 SCC 711].

On a bare reading of Section 207 of The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 no other interpretation is possible. We hold, ‘contents of the memory card/pen drive’ being an ‘electronic record’ must be regarded as a ‘document’. We are conscious, Section 207 permits withholding of document(s) by a Magistrate only if it is voluminous and for no other reason. If it is an electronic record, certainly the ground predicated in the second proviso in Section 207, of being voluminous, ordinarily, cannot be invoked and will be unavailable. It is crystal clear, all electronic records produced for the inspection of Court must be furnished to the accused as per the mandate of Section 207.

It is apposite to recall State of Maharashtra v. Dr. Praful B. Desai, (2003) 4 SCC 601 wherein Court observed, The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 is an ongoing statute. In case of an ongoing statute, it is presumed, Parliament intended Court to apply a construction that continuously updates its wordings to allow for changes and is compatible with contemporary situations.

In cases involving issues such as of privacy of the complainant/witness or his/her identity, Court may be justified in providing only inspection thereof to the accused and his/her Lawyer or expert for presenting effective defence during trial. Courts may issue suitable directions to balance interests of both sides.”

Hon’ble Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Dileep v. State of Kerala, [Criminal Appeal No. 1794 of 2019].Pen Drive.png