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Circumstances Under Which An Appeal Would Be Entertained Against An Order Of Acquittal: Supreme Court Explains

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
11 Jan 2022 6:22 AM GMT
Circumstances Under Which An Appeal Would Be Entertained Against An Order Of Acquittal: Supreme Court Explains
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In a judgment delivered last week, the Supreme Court summarized the circumstances under which an appeal would be entertained by it from an order of acquittal.Ordinarily, this Court is cautious in interfering with an order of acquittal, especially when the order of acquittal has been confirmed upto the High Court. It is only in rarest of rare cases, where the High ...

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In a judgment delivered last week, the Supreme Court summarized the circumstances under which an appeal would be entertained by it from an order of acquittal.

  1. Ordinarily, this Court is cautious in interfering with an order of acquittal, especially when the order of acquittal has been confirmed upto the High Court. It is only in rarest of rare cases, where the High Court, on an absolutely wrong process of reasoning and a legally erroneous and perverse approach to the facts of the case, ignoring some of the most vital facts, has acquitted the accused, that the same may be reversed by this Court, exercising jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution. [State of U.P. v. Sahai, AIR 1981 SC 1442]
  2. Such fetters on the right to entertain an appeal are prompted by the reluctance to expose a person, who has been acquitted by a competent court of a criminal charge, to the anxiety and tension of a further examination of the case, even though it is held by a superior court. [Arunachalam v. Sadhananthan, AIR 1979 (SC) 1284]
  3. An appeal cannot be entertained against an order of acquittal which has, after recording valid and weighty reasons, has arrived at an unassailable, logical conclusion which justifies acquittal. [State of Haryana v. Lakhbir Singh, (1990) CrLJ 2274 (SC)]

The bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna also summarized circumstances under which the Supreme Court may entertain an appeal against an order of acquittal and pass an order of conviction

  1. Where the approach or reasoning of the High Court is perverse: a) Where incontrovertible evidence has been rejected by the High Court based on suspicion and surmises, which are rather unrealistic [State of Rajasthan v. Sukhpal Singh, AIR 1984 SC 207] For example, where direct, unanimous accounts of the eye­witnesses, were discounted without cogent reasoning; [State of UP v. Shanker, AIR 1981 SC 879] b) Where the intrinsic merits of the testimony of relatives, living in the same house as the victim, were discounted on the ground that they were 'interested' witnesses; [State of UP v. Hakim Singh, AIR 1980 SC 184] 
  2. Where testimony of witnesses had been disbelieved by the High Court, on an unrealistic conjecture of personal motive on the part of witnesses to implicate the accused, when in fact, the witnesses had no axe to grind in the said matter. [State of Rajasthan v. Sukhpal Singh, AIR 1984 SC 207]
  3. Where dying declaration of the deceased victim was rejected by the High Court on an irrelevant ground that they did not explain the injury found on one of the persons present at the site of occurrence of the crime. [Arunachalam v. Sadhanantham, AIR 1979 SC 1284]
  4. Where the High Court applied an unrealistic standard of 'implicit proof' rather than that of 'proof beyond reasonable doubt' and therefore evaluated the evidence in a flawed manner. [State of UP v. Ranjha Ram, AIR 1986 SC 1959]
  5. Where the High Court rejected circumstantial evidence, based on an exaggerated and capricious theory, which were beyond the plea of the accused; [State of Maharashtra v. ChampalalPunjaji Shah, AIR 1981 SC 1675] or where acquittal rests merely in exaggerated devotion to the rule of benefit of doubt in favour of the accused. [Gurbachan v. Satpal Singh, AIR 1990 SC 209].
  6. Where the High Court acquitted the accused on the ground that he had no adequate motive to commit the offence, although, in the said case, there was strong direct evidence establishing the guilt of the accused, thereby making it unnecessary on the part of the prosecution to establish 'motive.' [State of AP v. Bogam Chandraiah, AIR 1986 SC 1899]
  7. Where acquittal would result is gross miscarriage of justice: 
  8. Where the findings of the High Court, disconnecting the accused persons with the crime, were based on a perfunctory consideration of evidence, [State of UP v. Pheru Singh, AIR 1989 SC 1205] or based on extenuating circumstances which were purely based in imagination and fantasy. [State of Uttar Pradesh v. Pussu 1983 AIR 867 (SC)]
  9. Where the accused had been acquitted on ground of delay in conducting trial, which delay was attributable not to the tardiness or indifference of the prosecuting agencies, but to the conduct of the accused himself; or where accused had been acquitted on ground of delay in conducting trial relating to an offence which is not of a trivial nature. [State of Maharashtra v. ChampalalPunjaji Shah, AIR 1981 SC 1675]


In a murder case, the the Fast Track Court sentenced the accused viz., Munna Ram and Mahendra Ram to death under sections 302/34 read with section 120B of IPC and sections 3/4 of Explosive Substances Act, 1908, subject to confirmation by the High Court. Another accused Upendra Ram was sentenced to life imprisonment. In appeal, the High Court acquitted all the accused. Informant in this case therefore approached the Apex Court.

Examining the evidence on record in detail, the bench observed that the High Court was justified in reversing the judgment and order of conviction passed by the Fast­Track Court. The Fast Track Court has failed to appreciate the evidence of prosecution witnesses in their proper perspective and has further failed to recognise the fact that PW­7/the appellant herein did not at all support the case of the prosecution although he was the informant and hence, erroneously convicted the accused and sentenced two of them with death penalty and the third accused with imprisonment for life, the bench added.



Case name: Rajesh Prasad vs State of Bihar

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 33

Case no. and Date: CrA 111­-113 OF 2015 | 7 Jan 2022

Coram: Justice L. Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna

Counsel: Adv Prerna Singh for the appellant; Adv Saket Singh for the State and Adv Ranjan Mukherjee, for the respondent


Click here to Read/Download Judgment






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