Valson & ANR. Vs.
State of Kerala  INSC 1290 (1 August 2008)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 572 OF 2001 Valson
and Anr. ...Appellants State of Kerala ...Respondent
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT,
persons faced trial for alleged commission of offences punishable under
Sections 143, 147, 148, 341, 323, 324 and 302 read with Section 149 of the
Indian Penal Code, 1860 (in short the `IPC'). All accused persons except A-8
faced trial before the Sessions Judge, Thrissur. By judgment dated 16.2.1998
all of them were found to be not guilty of the charges and were acquitted. The
State of Kerala filed an appeal questioning the acquittal. By the impugned
judgment,the High Court found that accused 1 and 2 were guilty and directed
their conviction for offences punishable under Section 302 and Section 324 read
with Section 34 IPC and were sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life and pay
a fine of Rs.10,000/- each with default stipulation.
appellants had questioned the correctness of the High Court's judgment.
According to them, the High Court had not kept in view the parameters of appeal
against acquittal. It is submitted that even if two views are possible, the
view supporting the accused had to be accepted and since the trial Court had
precisely done it, there was no reason to interfere with the judgment of the
view of rival submissions of the parties, we think it proper to consider and
clarify the legal position first. Chapter XXIX (Sections 372-394) of the Code
of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as "the present
Code") deals with appeals. Section 372 expressly declares that no appeal
shall lie from any judgment or order of a criminal court except as provided by
the Code or by any other law for the time being in force. Section 373 provides
for filing of appeals in certain cases. Section 374 allows appeals from
convictions. Section 375 bars appeals in cases where the accused pleads guilty.
Likewise, no appeal
is maintainable in petty cases (Section 376). Section 377 permits appeals by
the State for enhancement of sentence. Section 378 confers power on the State
to present an appeal to the High Court from an order of acquittal. The said
section is material and may be quoted in extenso:
"378. Appeal in
case of acquittal.--(1) Save as otherwise provided in sub-section (2) and
subject to the provisions of sub-sections (3) and (5), the State Government
may, in any case, direct the Public Prosecutor to present an appeal to the High
Court from an original or appellate order of acquittal passed by any court
other than a High Court, or an order of acquittal passed by the Court of
Session in revision.
(2) If such an order
of acquittal is passed in any case in which the offence has been investigated
by the Delhi Special Police Establishment constituted under the Delhi Special
Police Establishment Act, 1946 (25 of 1946), or by any other agency empowered
to make investigation 3 into an offence under any Central Act other than this
Code, the Central Government may also direct the Public Prosecutor to present
an appeal, subject to the provisions of sub-section (3), to the High Court from
the order of acquittal.
(3) No appeal under
sub-section (1) or sub- section (2) shall be entertained except with the leave
of the High Court.
(4) If such an order
of acquittal is passed in any case instituted upon complaint and the High
Court, on an application made to it by the complainant in this behalf, grants
special leave to appeal from the order of acquittal, the complainant may
present such an appeal to the High Court.
(5) No application
under sub-section (4) for the grant of special leave to appeal from an order of
acquittal shall be entertained by the High Court after the expiry of six months,
where the complainant is a public servant, and sixty days in every other case,
computed from the date of that order of acquittal.
(6) If, in any case,
the application under sub- section (4) for the grant of special leave to appeal
from an order of acquittal is refused, no appeal from that order of acquittal
shall lie under sub- section (1) or under sub-section (2).
Sections 379-380 cover special cases of appeals, other sections lay down
procedure to be followed by appellate courts.
may be stated that more or less similar provisions were found in the Code of
Criminal Procedure, 1898 (hereinafter referred to as "the old Code")
which came up for consideration before various High Courts, Judicial Committee
of the Privy Council as also before this Court. Since in the present appeal, we
have been called upon to decide the ambit and scope of the power of an
appellate court in an appeal against an order of acquittal, we have confined
ourselves to one aspect only i.e. an appeal against an order of acquittal.
reading of Section 378 of the present Code (appeal in case of acquittal) quoted
above, makes it clear that no restrictions have been imposed by the legislature
on the powers of the appellate court in dealing with appeals against acquittal.
When such an appeal is filed, the High Court has full power to re-appreciate,
review and reconsider the evidence at large, the material on which the order of
acquittal is founded and to reach its own conclusions on such evidence.
Both questions of
fact and of law are open to determination by the High Court in an appeal
against an order of acquittal.
cannot, however, be forgotten that in case of acquittal, there is a double
presumption in favour of the accused. Firstly, the presumption of innocence is
available to him under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that
every person should be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved to be guilty
by a competent court of law. Secondly, the accused having secured an acquittal,
the presumption of his innocence is certainly not weakened but reinforced,
reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court.
the above principles are well established, a different note was struck in
several decisions by various High Courts and even by this Court. It is,
therefore, appropriate if we consider some of the leading decisions on the
first important decision was rendered by the Judicial Committee of the Privy
Council in Sheo Swarup v. R. Emperor (1934) 61 IA 398). In Sheo Swarup the
accused were acquitted by the trial court and the local Government directed the
Public Prosecutor to present an appeal to the High Court from an order of
acquittal under Section 417 of the old Code (similar to Section 378 of the
present Code). At the time of hearing of appeal before the High Court, it was
contended on behalf of the accused that in an appeal from an order of
acquittal, it was not open to the appellate court to interfere with the
findings of fact recorded by the trial Judge unless such findings could not have
been reached by him had there not been some perversity or incompetence on his
part. The High Court, however, declined to accept the said view. It held that
no condition was imposed on the High Court in such appeal.
reviewed all the evidence in the case and having formed an opinion of its
weight and reliability different from that of the trial Judge, recorded an
order of conviction. A petition was presented to His Majesty in Council for
leave to appeal on the ground that conflicting views had been expressed by the
High Courts in different parts of India upon the question whether in an appeal
from an order of acquittal, an appellate court had the power to interfere with
the findings of fact recorded by the trial Judge. Their Lordships thought it
fit to clarify the legal position and accordingly upon the "humble advice
of their Lordships", leave was granted by His Majesty. The case was,
thereafter, argued. The Committee considered the scheme and interpreting
Section 417 of the Code (old Code) observed that there was no indication in the
Code of any limitation or restriction on the High Court in exercise of powers
as an Appellate Tribunal. The Code also made no distinction as regards powers
of the High Court in dealing with an appeal against acquittal and an appeal
against conviction. Though several authorities were cited revealing different
views by the High Courts dealing with an appeal from an order of acquittal, the
Committee did not think it proper to discuss all the cases.
Russel summed up the legal position thus:
"There is, in
their opinion, no foundation for the view, apparently supported by the
judgments of some courts in India, that the High Court has no 8 power or
jurisdiction to reverse an order of acquittal on a matter of fact, except in
cases in which the lower court has `obstinately blundered', or has `through
incompetence, stupidity or perversity' reached such `distorted conclusions as
to produce a positive miscarriage of justice', or has in some other way so
conducted or misconducted itself as to produce a glaring miscarriage of
justice, or has been tricked by the defence so as to produce a similar
Lordship, then proceeded to observe: (IA p.404) "Sections 417, 418 and 423
of the Code give to the High Court full power to review at large the evidence
upon which the order of acquittal was founded, and to reach the conclusion that
upon that evidence the order of acquittal should be reversed. No limitation
should be placed upon that power, unless it be found expressly stated in the
Committee, however, cautioned appellate courts and stated: (IA p.404) "But
in exercising the power conferred by the Code and before reaching its
conclusions upon fact, the High Court should and will always give proper weight
and consideration to such matters as (1) the views of the trial Judge as to
thecredibility of the witnesses; (2) the presumption of innocence in favour of
the accused, a presumption certainly not weakened by the fact that he has been
acquitted at his trial; (3) the right of the accused to the benefit of any
and (4) the slowness
of an appellate court in disturbing a finding of fact arrived at by a judge who
had the advantage of seeing the witnesses.
To state this,
however, is only to say that the High Court in its conduct of the appeal should
and will act in accordance with rules and principles well known and recognised
in the administration of justice."
Nur Mohd. v. Emperor (AIR 1945 PC 151), the Committee reiterated the above view
in Sheo Swarup (Supra) and held that in an appeal against acquittal, the High
Court has full powers to review and to reverse acquittal.
far as this Court is concerned, probably the first decision on the point was
Prandas v. State (AIR 1954 SC 36) (though the case was decided on 14-3-1950, it
was reported only in 1954). In that case, the accused was acquitted by the
trial court. The Provincial Government preferred an appeal which was allowed
and the accused was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 302 and
323 IPC. The High Court, for convicting the accused, placed reliance on certain
the decision of the High Court and following the proposition of law in Sheo
Swarup (supra), a six-Judge Bench held as follows:
"6. It must be
observed at the very outset that we cannot support the view which has been
expressed in several cases that the High Court has no power under Section 417,
Criminal Procedure Code, to reverse a judgment of acquittal, unless the
judgment is perverse or the subordinate court has in some way or other
misdirected itself so as to produce a miscarriage of justice."
Surajpal Singh v. State (1952 SCR 193), a two-Judge Bench observed that it was
well established that in an appeal under Section 417 of the (old) Code, the
High Court had full power to review the evidence upon which the order of
acquittal was founded. But it was equally well settled that the presumption of
innocence of the accused was further reinforced by his acquittal by the trial
court, and the findings of the trial court which had the advantage of seeing
the witnesses and hearing their evidence could be reversed only for very
substantial and compelling reasons.
Ajmer Singh v. State of Punjab (1953 SCR 418) the accused was acquitted by the
trial court but was convicted by the High Court in an appeal against acquittal
filed by the State. The aggrieved accused approached this Court. It was
contended by him that there were "no compelling reasons" for setting
aside the order of acquittal and due and proper weight had not been given by
the High Court to the opinion of the trial court as regards the credibility of
witnesses seen and examined. It was also commented that the High Court
committed an error of law in observing that "when a strong `prima facie'
case is made out against an accused person it is his duty to explain the
circumstances appearing in evidence against him and he cannot take shelter
behind the presumption of innocence and cannot state that the law entitles him
to keep his lips sealed".
the contention, this Court said:
"We think this
criticism is well founded. After an order of acquittal has been made the
presumption of innocence is further reinforced by that order, and that being
so, the trial court's decision can be reversed not on the ground that the
accused had failed to explain the circumstances appearing against him but only
for very substantial and compelling reasons."
Atley v. State of U.P. (AIR 1955 SC 807) this Court said:
"In our opinion,
it is not correct to say that unless the appellate court in an appeal under
Section 417, Criminal Procedure Code came to the conclusion that the judgment
of acquittal under appeal was perverse it could not set aside that order.
It has been laid down
by this Court that it is open to the High Court on an appeal against an order
of acquittal to review the entire evidence 13 and to come to its own
conclusion, of course, keeping in view the well-established rule that the
presumption of innocence of the accused is not weakened but strengthened by the
judgment of acquittal passed by the trial court which had the advantage of observing
the demeanour of witnesses whose evidence have been recorded in its presence.
It is also well
settled that the court of appeal has as wide powers of appreciation of evidence
in an appeal against an order of acquittal as in the case of an appeal against
an order of conviction, subject to the riders that the presumption of innocence
with which the accused person starts in the trial court continues even up to
the appellate stage and that the appellate court should attach due weight to
the opinion of the trial court which recorded the order of acquittal.
If the appellate
court reviews the evidence, keeping those principles in mind, and comes to a
contrary conclusion, the judgment cannot be said to have been vitiated."
Aher Raja Khima v. State of Saurashtra (1955) 2 SCR 1285) the accused was
prosecuted under Sections 302 and 447 IPC. He was acquitted by the trial court
but convicted by the High Court. Dealing with the power of the High Court
against an order of acquittal, Bose, J. speaking for the majority (2:1) stated:
(AIR p. 220, para 1) "It is, in our opinion, well settled that it is not
enough for the High Court to take a different view of the evidence; there must
also be substantial and compelling reasons for holding that the trial court was
wrong." (emphasis supplied)
Sanwat Singh v. State of Rajasthan (1961) 3 SCR 120, a three-Judge Bench
considered almost all leading decisions on the point and observed that there
was no difficulty in applying the principles laid down by the Privy Council and
accepted by the Supreme Court. The Court, however, noted that appellate courts
found considerable difficulty in understanding the scope of the words
"substantial and compelling reasons" used in certain decisions. It
was observed inter-alia as follows:
obviously did not and could not add a condition to Section 417 of the Criminal
Procedure Code. The words were intended to convey the idea that an appellate
court not only shall bear in mind the principles laid down by the Privy Council
but also must give its clear reasons for coming to the conclusion that the
order of acquittal was wrong."
The Court concluded
foregoing discussion yields the following results: (1) an appellate court has
full power to review the evidence upon which the order of acquittal is founded;
(2) the principles laid down in Sheo Swarup case afford a correct guide for the
appellate court's approach to a case in disposing of such an appeal; and (3)
the different phraseology used in the judgments of this Court, such as, (i)
`substantial and compelling reasons', (ii) `good and sufficiently cogent
reasons', and (iii) `strong reasons' are not intended to curtail the undoubted
power of an appellate court in an appeal against acquittal to review the entire
evidence and to come to its own conclusion; but in doing so it should not only
consider every matter on record having a bearing on the questions of fact and
the reasons given by the court below in support of its order of acquittal in
its arriving at a conclusion on those facts, but should also express those
reasons in its judgment, which lead it to hold that the acquittal was not
in M.G. Agarwal v. State of Maharashtra (1963) 2 SCR 405, the point was raised
before a Constitution Bench of this Court. Taking note of earlier decisions, it
was observed as follows:
"17. In some of
the earlier decisions of this Court, however, in emphasising the importance of
adopting a cautious approach in dealing with appeals against acquittals, it was
observed that the presumption of innocence is reinforced by the order of
acquittal and so, `the findings of the trial court which had the advantage of
seeing the witnesses and hearing their evidence can be reversed only for very
substantial and compelling reasons': vide Surajpal Singh v. State (1952 SCR
193). Similarly in Ajmer Singh v. State of Punjab (1953 SCR 418), it was
observed that the interference of the High Court in an appeal against the order
of acquittal would be justified only if there are `very substantial and
compelling reasons to do so'. In some other decisions, it has been stated that
an order of acquittal can be reversed only for `good and sufficiently cogent
reasons' or for `strong reasons'. In appreciating the effect of these
observations, it must be remembered that these observations were not intended
to lay down a rigid or inflexible rule which should govern the decision of the
High Court in appeals against acquittals. They were not intended, and should
not be read to have intended to introduce an additional condition in clause (a)
of Section 423(1) of the Code. All that the said observations are intended to
emphasize is that the approach of the High Court in dealing with an appeal
against acquittal ought to be cautious because as Lord Russell observed in Sheo
Swarup the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused `is not certainly
weakened by the fact that he has been acquitted at his trial'. Therefore, the
test suggested by the expression `substantial and compelling reasons' should
not be construed as a formula which has to be rigidly applied in every case.
That is the effect of the recent decisions of this Court, for instance, in
Sanwat Singh v. State of Rajasthan and Harbans Singh v. State of Punjab (1962
Supp 1 SCR 104) and so, it is not necessary that before 17 reversing a
judgment of acquittal, the High Court must necessarily characterise the
findings recorded therein as perverse."
in another leading decision in Shivaji Sahabrao Bobade v. State of Maharashtra
(1973 (2) SCC 793) this Court held that in India, there is no jurisdictional
limitation on the powers of appellate court. "In law there are no fetters
on the plenary power of the appellate court to review the whole evidence on
which the order of acquittal is founded and, indeed, it has a duty to
scrutinise the probative material de novo, informed, however, by the weighty
thought that the rebuttable innocence attributed to the accused having been
converted into an acquittal the homage our jurisprudence owes to individual
liberty constrains the higher court not to upset the holding without very
convincing reasons and comprehensive consideration."
emphasis on balance between importance of individual liberty and evil of
acquitting guilty persons, this Court observed as follows:
"6. Even at this
stage we may remind ourselves of a necessary social perspective in criminal
cases which suffers from insufficient forensic appreciation. The dangers of
exaggerated devotion to the rule of benefit of doubt at the expense of social
defence and to the soothing sentiment that all acquittals are always good
regardless of justice to the victim and the community, demand especial emphasis
in the contemporary context of escalating crime and escape. The judicial
instrument has a public accountability. The cherished principles or golden
thread of proof beyond reasonable doubt which runs thro' the web of our law
should not be stretched morbidly to embrace every hunch, hesitancy and degree
of doubt. The excessive solicitude reflected in the attitude that a thousand
guilty men may go but one innocent martyr shall not suffer is a false dilemma.
Only reasonable doubts belong to the accused.
practical system of justice will then breakdown and lose credibility with the
community. The evil of acquitting a guilty person light-heartedly, as a learned
author (Glanville Williams in Proof of Guilt) has saliently observed, goes much
beyond the simple fact that just one guilty person has gone unpunished. If
unmerited acquittals become general, they tend to lead to a cynical disregard
of the law, and this in turn leads to a public demand for harsher legal
presumptions against indicted `persons' and 19 more severe punishment of those
who are found guilty. Thus, too frequent acquittals of the guilty may lead to a
ferocious penal law, eventually eroding the judicial protection of the
For all these reasons
it is true to say, with Viscount Simon, that `a miscarriage of justice may
arise from the acquittal of the guilty no less than from the conviction of the
innocent....' In short, our jurisprudential enthusiasm for presumed innocence
must be moderated by the pragmatic need to make criminal justice potent and
realistic. A balance has to be struck between chasing chance possibilities as
good enough to set the delinquent free and chopping the logic of preponderant
probability to punish marginal innocents."
K. Gopal Reddy v. State of A.P (1979) 1 SCC 355, the Court was considering the
power of the High Court against an order of acquittal under Section 378 of the
present Code. After considering the relevant decisions on the point it was
stated as follows:
principles are now well settled. At one time it was thought that an order of
acquittal could be set aside for `substantial and compelling reasons' only and
courts used to launch on a search to discover those `substantial and compelling
reasons'. However, the `formulae' of `substantial and compelling reasons',
`good and sufficiently cogent reasons' and `strong reasons' and the search for
them were abandoned as a result of the pronouncement of this Court in Sanwat
Singh v. State of Rajasthan (1961) 3 SCR 120. In Sanwat Singh case this Court
harked back to the principles enunciated by the Privy Council in Sheo Swarup v.
R. Emperor and reaffirmed those principles. After Sanwat Singh v.
State of Rajasthan
this Court has consistently recognised the right of the appellate court to
review the entire evidence and to come to its own conclusion bearing in mind
the considerations mentioned by the Privy Council in Sheo Swarup case.
Occasionally phrases like `manifestly illegal', `grossly unjust', have been
used to describe the orders of acquittal which warrant interference. But, such
expressions have been used more as flourishes of language, to emphasise the
reluctance of the appellate court to interfere with an order of acquittal than
to curtail the power of the appellate court to review the entire evidence and
to come to its own conclusion. In some cases (Ramaphupala Reddy v. State of
A.P., (AIR 1971 SC 460) Bhim Singh Rup Singh v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1974
SC 286), it has been said that to the principles laid down in Sanwat Singh case
may be added the further principle that `if two reasonable conclusions can be
reached on the basis of the evidence on record, the appellate court should not
disturb the finding of the trial court'. This, of course, is not a new principle.
It stems out of the fundamental principle of our criminal jurisprudence that
the accused is entitled to the benefit of any reasonable doubt. If two
reasonably probable and evenly balanced views of the evidence are possible, one
must necessarily concede the existence of a reasonable 21 doubt. But, fanciful
and remote possibilities must be left out of account. To entitle an accused
person to the benefit of a doubt arising from the possibility of a duality of
views, the possible view in favour of the accused must be as nearly reasonably
probable as that against him. If the preponderance of probability is all one
way, a bare possibility of another view will not entitle the accused to claim
the benefit of any doubt. It is, therefore, essential that any view of the
evidence in favour of the accused must be reasonable even as any doubt, the
benefit of which an accused person may claim, must be reasonable."
Ramesh Babulal Doshi v. State of Gujarat (1996) 9 SCC 225, this Court said:
in judgment over an acquittal the appellate court is first required to seek an
answer to the question whether the findings of the trial court are palpably
wrong, manifestly erroneous or demonstrably unsustainable. If the appellate court
answers the above question in the negative the order of acquittal is not to be
disturbed. Conversely, if the appellate court holds, for reasons to be
recorded, that the order of acquittal cannot at all be sustained in view of any
of the above infirmities it can then-and then only-reappraise the evidence to
arrive at its own conclusions."
Allarakha K. Mansuri v. State of Gujarat (2002) 3 SCC 57, referring to earlier
decisions, the Court stated:
paramount consideration of the court should be to avoid miscarriage of justice.
A miscarriage of justice which may arise from the acquittal of guilty is no
less than from the conviction of an innocent. In a case where the trial court
has taken a view based upon conjectures and hypothesis and not on the legal evidence,
a duty is cast upon the High Court to reappreciate the evidence in acquittal
appeal for the purposes of ascertaining as to whether the accused has committed
any offence or not.
Probable view taken
by the trial court which may not be disturbed in the appeal is such a view
which is based upon legal and admissible evidence. Only because the accused has
been acquitted by the trial court, cannot be made a basis to urge that the High
Court under all circumstances should not disturb such a finding."
Bhagwan Singh v. State of M.P. (2002) 4 SCC 85, the trial court acquitted the
accused but the High Court convicted them. Negativing the contention of the
appellants that the High Court could not have disturbed the findings of fact of
the trial court even if that view was not correct, this Court observed:
"7. We do not
agree with the submissions of the learned counsel for the appellants that under
Section 378 of the Code of Criminal Procedure the High Court could not disturb
the finding of facts of the trial court even if it found that the view taken by
the trial court was not proper. On the basis of the pronouncements of this
Court, the settled position of law regarding the powers of the High Court in an
appeal against an order of acquittal is that the Court has full powers to
review the evidence upon which an order of acquittal is based and generally it
will not interfere with the order of acquittal because by passing an order of
acquittal the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused is reinforced.
The golden thread
which runs through the web of administration of justice in criminal case is
that if two views are possible on the evidence adduced in the case, one
pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the view
which is favourable to the accused should be adopted. Such is not a
jurisdiction limitation on the appellate court but judge-made guidelines for
circumspection. The paramount consideration of the court is to ensure that
miscarriage of justice is avoided. A miscarriage of justice which may arise
from the acquittal of the guilty is no less than from the conviction of an
innocent. In a case where the trial court has taken a view ignoring the
admissible evidence, a duty is cast upon the High Court to reappreciate the evidence
in acquittal appeal for the purposes of ascertaining as to whether all or any
of the accused has committed any offence or not".
Harijana Thirupala v. Public Prosecutor, High Court of A.P. (2002) 6 SCC 470,
this Court said:
the High Court in appeal either against an order of acquittal or conviction as
a court of first appeal has full power to review the evidence to reach its own
independent conclusion. However, it will not interfere with an order of
acquittal lightly or merely because one other view is possible, because with
the passing of an order of acquittal presumption of innocence in favour of the
accused gets reinforced and strengthened. The High Court would not be justified
to interfere with order of acquittal merely because it feels that sitting as a
trial court it would have proceeded to record a conviction; a duty is cast on
the High Court while reversing an order of acquittal to examine and discuss the
reasons given by the trial court to acquit the accused and then to dispel those
reasons. If the High Court fails to make such an exercise the judgment will
suffer from serious infirmity."
Ramanand Yadav v. Prabhu Nath Jha (2003) 12 SCC 606, this Court observed:
"21. There is no
embargo on the appellate court reviewing the evidence upon which an order of
acquittal is based. Generally, the order of acquittal shall not be interfered
with because the 25 presumption of innocence of the accused is further
strengthened by acquittal. The golden thread which runs through the web of
administration of justice in criminal cases is that if two views are possible
on the evidence adduced in the case, one pointing to the guilt of the accused
and the other to his innocence, the view which is favourable to the accused
should be adopted. The paramount consideration of the court is to ensure that
miscarriage of justice is prevented. A miscarriage of justice which may arise
from acquittal of the guilty is no less than from the conviction of an
innocent. In a case where admissible evidence is ignored, a duty is cast upon
the appellate court to reappreciate the evidence in a case where the accused
has been acquitted, for the purpose of ascertaining as to whether any of the
accused committed any offence or not".
in Kallu v. State of M.P. (2006) 10 SCC 313, this Court stated:
deciding an appeal against acquittal, the power of the appellate court is no
less than the power exercised while hearing appeals against conviction. In both
types of appeals, the power exists to review the entire evidence.
one significant difference is that an order of acquittal will not be interfered
with, by an appellate court, where the judgment of the trial court is based on
evidence and the view taken is reasonable and plausible. It will not reverse
the decision of the trial court merely because a different view is possible.
The appellate court will also bear in mind that there 26 is a presumption of
innocence in favour of the accused and the accused is entitled to get the
benefit of any doubt. Further if it decides to interfere, it should assign
reasons for differing with the decision of the trial court." (emphasis
supplied) 32. From the above decisions, in Chandrappa and Ors. v. State of
Karnataka (2007 (4) SCC 415), the following general principles regarding powers
of the appellate court while dealing with an appeal against an order of
acquittal were culled out:
(1) An appellate
court has full power to review, reappreciate and reconsider the evidence upon
which the order of acquittal is founded.
(2) The Code of
Criminal Procedure, 1973 puts no limitation, restriction or condition on
exercise of such power and an appellate court on the evidence before it may
reach its own conclusion, both on questions of fact and of law.
expressions, such as, "substantial and compelling reasons",
"good and sufficient grounds", "very strong circumstances",
"distorted conclusions", "glaring mistakes", etc. are not
intended to curtail extensive powers of an appellate court in an appeal against
acquittal. Such phraseologies are more in the nature of "flourishes of
language" to emphasise the reluctance of an appellate court to interfere
with acquittal than to curtail the power of the court to review the evidence
and to come to its own conclusion.
(4) An appellate
court, however, must bear in mind that in case of acquittal, there is double
presumption in favour of the accused. Firstly, the presumption of innocence is
available to him under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that
every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved guilty by a
competent court of law. Secondly, the accused having secured his acquittal, the
presumption of his innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened
by the trial court.
(5) If two reasonable
conclusions are possible on the basis of the evidence on record, the appellate
court should 28 not disturb the finding of acquittal recorded by the trial
person has, no doubt, a profound right not to be convicted of an offence which
is not established by the evidential standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
Though this standard is a higher standard, there is, however, no absolute
standard. What degree of probability amounts to "proof" is an
exercise particular to each case. Referring to the interdependence of evidence
and the confirmation of one piece of evidence by another, a learned author says
[see "The Mathematics of Proof II": Glanville Williams, Criminal Law
Review, 1979, by Sweet and Maxwell, p.340 (342)]:
multiplication rule does not apply if the separate pieces of evidence are
Two events are
dependent when they tend to occur together, and the evidence of such events may
also be said to be dependent. In a criminal case, different pieces of evidence
directed to establishing that the defendant did the prohibited act with the
specified state of mind are generally dependent. A junior may feel doubt
whether to credit an alleged confession, and doubt whether to infer guilt from
the fact that the 29 defendant fled from justice. But since it is generally
guilty rather than innocent people who make confessions, and guilty rather than
innocent people who run away, the two doubts are not to be multiplied together.
The one piece of evidence may confirm the other."
would be called reasonable if they are free from a zest for abstract
speculation. Law cannot afford any favourite other than truth. To constitute
reasonable doubt, it must be free from an overemotional response. Doubts must
be actual and substantial doubts as to the guilt of the accused persons arising
from the evidence, or from the lack of it, as opposed to mere vague
apprehensions. A reasonable doubt is not an imaginary, trivial or a merely
possible doubt, but a fair doubt based upon reason and common sense. It must
grow out of the evidence in the case.
concepts of probability, and the degrees of it, cannot obviously be expressed
in terms of units to be mathematically enumerated as to how many of such units
constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt. There is an unmistakable subjective
element in the evaluation of the degrees of probability and the quantum of
proof. Forensic probability must, in the last analysis, rest on a robust common
sense and, ultimately, on the trained intuitions of the Judge. While the
protection given by the criminal process to the accused persons is not to be
eroded, at the same time, uninformed legitimization of trivialities would make
a mockery of administration of criminal justice. This position was
illuminatingly stated by Venkatachaliah, J. (as His Lordship then was) in State
of U.P. v. Krishna Gopal (1988 (4) SCC 302).
above position was highlighted in Krishnan and Anr. v. State represented by
Inspector of Police (2003 (7) SCC 56).
counsel for the respondent-State on the other hand supported the judgment of
the High Court. In the instant case, the primary ground which appears to have
weighed with the High Court is the endorsement on the injury certificate to the
effect that injury was caused by unknown persons.
was made by the trial Court in this context to Ext.P-12 to Ext.P-14. The trial
Court's judgment appears to be bundle of confusions.
is to be noted that the trial Court did not attach any importance to Ext.P-12
to Ext.P-14 and did not rely on the same but attached undue importance to the
portion therein states "unknown persons". It is of significance that
the trial Court found that "the version does not appear to have been given
and recorded very carefully and cautiously". The trial Court noted that
the injuries definitely show that they could not have been as a result of
beating. PW-1 had incised injuries though only skin deep. It further observed
that the Court should not be "pedomtic" (did the trial Court mean
"pedantic'?) in matters like this. It was always possible according to the
trial Court that PWs 1, 2 and 4 may have loosely referred to and PW-16 may have
recorded an attack by "unknown persons" as "beaten by unknown
Thereafter, the trial
Court held that the crucial emphasis was on `unknown persons'. It is of
significance to note that PWs 1, 2 and 4 stated that there was a wrong
recording by PW-16 of what they said while recording version in English. PW 1's
statement was given to the police at 5.00 a.m. i.e. immediately after the
incident and the names of A-1 and A-2 had been specifically mentioned along
with overt act attributed to them.
At 8.00 a.m. PW-14
registered crime 34/1994 as per Ext.P-9, FIR wherein the names of A-1 and A-2
were mentioned. Ext. P-1 and Ext.P-9 reached the Magistrate immediately.
regards statements in injury certificate in P. Babu v. State of Andhra Pradesh
(1994 (1) SCC 388), it was observed as follows:
"Ex.P6 is the
injury certificate. It appears that it was noted in Ex.P6 against an entry that
the injured was said to have been stabbed by somebody. Placing much reliance on
this entry PW-10 was asked in the cross examination as to how it was made.
PW-10 stated that the deceased stated so in the first instance. The learned
counsel relying on this admission sought to contend that the deceased was not
aware as to who stabbed him. We see no force in this submission. It is 33 a
mater of common knowledge that such entry in the injury certificate does not
necessarily amount to a statement. At that stage the doctor was required to
fill up that column in a normal manner and it was not the duty of the doctor to
enquire from the injured patient about the actual assailants and that the
inquiry would be confined as to how he received the injuries namely the weapons
trial Court has referred to the evidence of PWs 1, 2 and 4 to 7. After
referring to the evidence it formulated the following points for consideration:
"1. Cause of
death of Sudheerkumar
2. Whether PW-1,
PW-2, PW-4 and PW-6 had suffered injuries as alleged by the prosecution.
3. Whether the
deceased as well as PWs 1, 2, 4 and 6 had suffered the injuries at the hands of
the accused in the manner alleged by the prosecution.
4. Whether such
injuries were inflicted by the assailants in prosecution of the common object
of the unlawful assembly of which the accused or any one of them were members.
5. What, if any, are
the offences proved against the accused (or any of them).
trial Court came to the conclusion that PWs 1, 2 and 4 to 7 were present at the
scene of occurrence and PWs 1, 2, 4 and 6 have suffered injuries. It also
observed that the victims must have suffered injuries as a result of
pre-meditated attack on PW-1. It has been further observed that the evidence
clearly show that the prime attack was on PW-1 and others including the
deceased sustained injuries only because they interfered to save PW-1 and it
was beyond doubt that attack on PW-1 was pre-meditated. After that the trial
Court recorded the following findings:
"1. That there
was an incident in the morning in which PW-1 and others had taken objection to
the conduct of A-1 and A-2 and others in the kavadi procession at Gandhigram
and that A-1 and A-2 were enraged and had left administering a warning that
they will avenge the conduct against them.
2. The PWs 1, 2, 4
and 6 and the deceased had suffered injuries involuntarily at the time and
place as alleged by the prosecution.
3. Such injuries must
have been inflicted on them by a group of persons with weapons like M.Os 1 to
4. Such infliction
must have been done by members of an unlawful assembly who entertained the
common object to attack and do away with deceased and remove obstruction if any
caused by anyone.
having so concluded the trial Court went to a dream world imaginations and
imagined certain irrelevant aspects to discard the otherwise cogent and
credible evidence of eye-witnesses. One of the most untenable conclusions
recorded by the trial Court is as to why only witnesses from a particular
locality were chosen, as in a procession "there must have been persons
other than the inhabitants of Gandhigram". Same cannot certainly be a
ground to discard the otherwise cogent and credible evidence. The reasons 36
indicated by the trial Court to direct acquittal have been rightly found to be
vulnerable by the High Court. The judgment of the High Court does not suffer
from any infirmity to warrant interference.
appeal is dismissed.
(Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)
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