& Ors. Vs. State by Public Prosecutor, Madras  INSC 1517 (1 September
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.987
OF 2002 Dhanapal .. Appellant Versus State by Public Prosecutor, Madras ..
This appeal has been filed under Section 2(a) of the Supreme Court
(Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970 against the judgment
and order dated 11.6.2002 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras in
Criminal Appeal No. 217 of 1993.
Brief facts which are necessary to dispose of this appeal are
recapitulated as under: The appellant herein along with the other accused were
acquitted by the Sessions Judge, Thanjavur in Sessions Case No. 36 of 1989 of
offences punishable under sections 307 and 302 read with section 34 of the
Indian Penal Code (for short `IPC').
The High Court in the impugned judgment set aside the acquittal
recorded by the Sessions Judge and allowed the appeal filed by the State. The
High Court held accused nos.1, 2 and 4 guilty for an offence punishable under
section 302 read with section 34 IPC and imposed sentence of life imprisonment
and held accused no.3 guilty for the offence punishable under section 307 IPC
and imposed sentence of five years. It may be pertinent to mention that accused
respondent Nos.2 to 4 died during the pendency of appeal before the High Court.
The only surviving appellant herein (who was accused no.1 before the High
Court) has filed the present appeal against the impugned judgment and order of
the High Court.
The motive for the occurrence as per the prosecution is that
P.W.1's sister was living with the appellant and subsequently died six months
prior to the occurrence. The other women folk of the house abused the appellant
and his relatives. The appellant told the same to Sebastiraj P.W.1.
consoled him stating that they were abusing him only because of frustration and
everything would be alright after a lapse of time.
The appellant and other accused and the deceased belonged to the
Burma colony, Thanjavur. Sebastiraj P.W.1 and Karunanidhi P.W.2 were friends of
deceased Jambu. On 8.5.1988 at about 12.00 noon when P.W.2 was talking to Jambu
near the railway gate, Sebastiraj P.W.1 invited Jambu to go to Sebastiar
temple. Jambu requested Karunanidhi P.W.2 to accompany him. All of them went to
the temple and came out at 2.00 p.m. after worshipping and taking food from the
temple. Outside the gate, they saw the appellant Dhanapal and other accused.
Dhanapal shouted, Sebastiraj has come, cut (kill) him. The crowd before the
temple dispersed and people started running. Accused no.3 Loganathan threw an 4
aruval on Sebastiraj P.W.1 After receiving the injury, Sebastiraj P.W.1 managed
to run. Then accused no.2 Sekar gave cut injury to Jambu on his head and back.
Dhanapal stabbed Jambu on his chest. Accused no.4 Somu stabbed Jambu on his
back. Thereafter, all the accused ran away with their weapons. The deceased was
attacked near the house of one Subramania Thevar by the side of a light post in
19th Street, Burma Colony. Selvaraj P.W.3 at about 2.00 pm on 8.5.1988 saw the
deceased lying dead at the scene of crime.
Sebastiraj P.W.1 who ran away after receiving injury at the hands
of accused no.3 went to Thanjavur South Police Station and gave Ex.P2 report at
about 4.00 p.m. on 8.5.1988 and the same was received by P.W.4 the then Sub
Inspector of Police who registered a case in Cr. No.311/88 for the offences
punishable under sections 302 and 307 IPC and prepared Ex.P3 printed First
Information Report and sent the same to the Court.
Inspector of Police P.W.10 took up investigation, went to the
scene of crime at about 6.30 p.m. and on account of lack of sufficient light,
he did not hold the inquest, but went and 5 searched for the accused after
posting two constables to protect the body of the deceased. He also stayed
there and on 9.5.1988 at about 6.00 a.m., in the presence of panchayatdars, he
started inquest and completed by 8.00 a.m. and prepared Ex.P.16 inquest report.
He examined P.Ws. 1 to 3 and others.
prepared Ex.P4 Observation Mahazar and drew a rough sketch Ex.P17. He seized
material objects (for short `M.O.') including M.O.1 blood stained earth; M.O.2
sample earth and M.O.3 shirt of the deceased under Ex.P5 Mahazar.
3.00 p.m. on that day he went to the house of the deceased and when he was
searching for the accused, he noticed M.Os. 4, 5, 6 and 7 weapons in the
backyard of the third accused and seized them under Ex.P6 Mahazar. After
inquest, he forwarded the body for autopsy.
Dr. Vijayalakshmi P.W.8 Tutor in Forensic Medicines, Government
Medical College, Thanjavur received the body of the deceased at about 10 a.m.
on 9.5.1988 and commenced the postmortem. She found 21 injuries and according
to her the cause of death was due to hemorrhage and shock due to injuries
The appellant herein surrendered before the Judicial Magistrate,
Thiruvaiyaru on 17.5.1988. The Investigating Officer P.W.10 after investigation
gave the final report implicating the appellant.
After the evidence of prosecution was over, the Trial Judge
questioned the accused under section 313 Cr.P.C. with reference to the
incriminating circumstances appearing in evidence against them and they denied
the offence. The learned Sessions Judge, considering the evidence recorded both
oral and documentary, chose to acquit the accused.
The High Court on re-appreciation of the evidence convicted the
appellant and other accused. According to the High Court, the learned Sessions
Judge has not properly marshaled and evaluated the evidence on record.
The relevant findings of the High Court would be discussed in the
later part of the judgment to avoid repetition, therefore, we do not deem it
appropriate to reproduce the same at this juncture.
Brief analysis of the important evidence is as under:
P.W.1, who is considered to be an eye witness and also lodged the first
information report, has turned hostile.
P.W.2 has deposed that accused no.2 Sekar instigated the other accused to cut
(kill) Jambu with an aruval on his head and back.
no.1 Dhanpal (appellant) repeatedly stabbed Jambu on his chest. Accused no. 4
Somu also stabbed Jambu on his back with `sulukki'.
The finding of the learned Sessions Judge is that the evidence of
P.W.2 has not been corroborated by any other acceptable evidence. The trial
court also rejected the evidence of P.W.3, another eye witness. According to
the trial court, even the medical evidence does not help the prosecution case.
According to P.W.2, the occurrence took place after deceased and
the witnesses came to the temple and after worshipping and taking food they
came out at 2.00 p.m. The stomach of the deceased must, therefore, contain food
8 particles. Whereas, according to the doctor, who conducted the autopsy over
the dead body of the deceased, found that the stomach was empty. This casts
serious doubt on the veracity of the testimony of P.W.2. The trial court also
rejected the testimony of another eye witness P.W.3.
P.W.10, Inspector of Police, took up the investigation and went to
the scene of occurrence at 6.30 p.m. and on account of lack of sufficient
light, he did not hold the inquest, but went and searched for the accused after
posting two constables to guard the body of the deceased.
The trial court was of the opinion that the medical evidence also
does not support the prosecution case. The trial court was of the view that on
such quality of evidence it would not be safe to record the conviction and
acquitted the accused.
The High Court, in the impugned judgment, has given an entirely
new dimension to the testimony of P.W.2 and discarded the version of the trial
court by observing that, "according to P.W.2, about 12.00 noon, they
(deceased and his friends) went to the temple and then came out at about 2.00
p.m. in the meantime, there is no evidence pertaining to the 9 time when they
had eaten the food. Though according to him, they came out at 2.00 p.m., he
only says that after some time when they were standing outside there was a
noise and accused no. 1 instigated other accused to cut (kill) Sebastiraj
P.W.1. The sense of time may vary from person to person unless one was able to
look at the wrist watch at a given time."
The important findings of the High Court are set out as under:- I,
Merely because P.W.1 turned hostile, it cannot be said that the accused who
attempted to commit the murder of P.W.1 should be acquitted.
is no specific evidence that the deceased took any food. When the friends have
gone to the temple and at temple, some Prasatham or food is provided, unless
there is a specific evidence that the deceased took a particular type of food
or a particular quantity, it cannot be said that the deceased ought to have
This is not a case where death occurred during night time or the dead body was
found long after the commission of the crime so that the courts have to depend
upon the medical evidence to fix the time of death.
There are conflicting judgments of the trial court and the High
Court, therefore, we have carefully gone through the entire evidence de novo.
The High Court, in our considered view, could not have shifted the burden of
proof on the accused. According to the fundamental principles of the Evidence
Act, it is for the prosecution to have proved its own case.
The High Court was not justified in weaving out a different and
new prosecution version. The Court is under the bounden duty and obligation to
deal with the evidence as it is.
improvement or rewriting of evidence is permissible. In the instant case, P.W.1
had turned hostile and P.W.3 also did not support the prosecution case. The
testimony of P.W.2 is also not wholly reliable.
On proper evaluation of the trial court judgment, we hold that the
view taken by the trial court was certainly a possible or a plausible view. It
is a well settled legal position that when the view which has been taken by the
trial court is a possible view, then the acquittal cannot be set aside by
merely substituting its reasons by the High Court. In our considered view, the
impugned judgment of the High Court is contrary to the settled legal position
and deserves to be set aside.
The earliest case which dealt with the controversy in issue at
length is of Sheo Swarup v. King Emperor AIR 1934 Privy Council 227. In this
case, the ambit, scope and the powers of the appellate court in dealing with an
appeal against acquittal have been comprehensively dealt with by the Privy
Council. Lord Russell writing the judgment has observed as under: (at p. 230):
High Court should and will always give proper weight and consideration to such
matters as (1) the views of the trial Judge as to the credibility 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 doubt, 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.."
law succinctly crystallized in this case has been consistently followed in
subsequent judgments by this Court.
This Court in the case of Surajpal Singh & Others v. State,
AIR 1952 SC 52, has spelt out the powers of the High Court. This Court has also
reminded the High Courts to follow well established norms while dealing with
appeals from acquittal by the trial court. The Court observed as under:
is well established that in an appeal under S. 417 Criminal P.C., the High
Court has full power to review the evidence upon which the order of acquittal
was founded, but it is 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 can be reversed only for very substantial and
This Court reiterated the principles and observed that presumption
of innocence of accused is reinforced by an order of the acquittal. The
appellate court could have interfered only for very substantial and compelling
In Tulsiram Kanu v. The State, AIR 1954 SC 1, this Court
explicated that the appellate court would be justified in 13 reversing the
acquittal only when very substantial question and compelling reasons are
present. In this case, the Court used a different phrase to describe the
approach of an appellate court against an order of acquittal. There, the
Sessions Court expressed that there was clearly reasonable doubt in respect of
the guilt of the accused on the evidence put before it. Kania, C.J., observed
that it required good and sufficiently cogent reasons to overcome such
reasonable doubt before the appellate court came to a different conclusion.
The same principle has been followed in Atley v. State of U.P. AIR
1955 SC 807 (at pp. 809-10 para 5), wherein the Court said:
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 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
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, 14 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."
In Balbir Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1957 SC 216, this Court
again had an occasion to examine the same proposition of law. The Court (at
page 222) observed as under:
is now well settled that though the High Court has full power to review the
evidence upon which an order of acquittal is founded, it is equally well
settled that the presumption of innocence of the accused person is further
reinforced by his acquittal by the trial Court and the views of the trial Judge
as to the credibility of the witnesses must be given proper weight and consideration;
slowness of an appellate Court in disturbing a finding of fact arrived at by a
Judge who had the advantage of seeing the witnesses must also be kept in mind,
and there must be substantial and compelling reasons for the appellate Court to
come to a conclusion different from that of the trial Judge."
A Constitution Bench of this Court in M.G. Agarwal v. State of
Maharashtra AIR 1963 SC 200, observed as under:
is no doubt that the power conferred by clause (a) which deals with an appeal
against an order of acquittal is as wide as the power conferred by clause (b)
which deals with an appeal against an order of conviction, and so, it is
obvious that the High Court's powers in dealing with criminal 15 appeals are
equally wide whether the appeal in question is one against acquittal or against
conviction. That is one aspect of the question. The other aspect of the
question centres round the approach which the High Court adopts in dealing with
appeals against orders of acquittal. In dealing with such appeals, the High
Court naturally bears in mind the presumption of innocence in favour of an
accused person and cannot lose sight of the fact that the said presumption is
strengthened by the order of acquittal passed in his favour by the trial Court
and so, the fact that the accused person is entitled for the benefit of a
reasonable doubt will always be present in the mind of the High Court when it
deals with the merits of the case. As an appellate Court the High Court is
generally slow in disturbing the finding of fact recorded by the trial Court,
particularly when the said finding is based on an appreciation of oral evidence
because the trial Court has the advantage of watching the demeanour of the
witnesses who have given evidence. Thus, though the powers of the High Court in
dealing with an appeal against acquittal are as wide as those which it has in
dealing with an appeal against conviction, in dealing with the former class of
appeals, its approach is governed by the overriding consideration flowing from
the presumption of innocence...
suggested by the expression "substantial and compelling reasons"
should not be construed as a formula which has to be rigidly applied in every
case, and so, it is not necessary that before reversing a judgment of
acquittal, the High Court must necessarily characterize the findings recorded
therein as perverse.
question which the Supreme Court has to ask itself, in appeals against
conviction by the High Court in such a case, is whether on the material produced
by the prosecution, the High Court was 16 justified in reaching the conclusion
that the prosecution case against the appellants had been proved beyond a
reasonable doubt, and that the contrary view taken by the trial Court was
erroneous. In answering this question, the Supreme Court would, no doubt,
consider the salient and broad features of the evidence in order to appreciate
the grievance made by the appellants against the conclusions of the High
In Khedu Mohton & Others v. State of Bihar, (1970) 2 SCC 450,
this Court gave the appellate court broad guidelines as to when it could
properly disturb an acquittal. The Court observed as under:
It is true that the powers of the High Court in considering the evidence on
record in appeals under Section 417, Cr. P.C. are as extensive as its powers in
appeals against convictions but that court at the same time should bear in mind
the presumption of-innocence of accused persons which presumption is not
weakened by their acquittal. It must also bear in mind the fact that the
appellate judge had found them not guilty.
the conclusions reached by him are palpably wrong or based on erroneous view of
the law or that his decision is likely to result in grave injustice, the High
Court should be reluctant to interfere with his conclusions. If two reasonable
conclusions can be reached on the basis of the evidence on record then the view
in support of the acquittal of the accused should be preferred. The fact that
the High Court is inclined to take a different view of the evidence on record
is not sufficient to interfere with the order of acquittal."
In Bishan Singh & Others v. The State of Punjab (1974) 3 SCC
288, Justice Khanna speaking for the Court provided the legal position:
It is well settled that the High Court in appeal under Section 417 of the CrPC
has full power to review at large the evidence on which the order of acquittal
was founded and to reach the conclusion that upon the evidence the order of
acquittal should be reversed. No limitation should be placed upon that power
unless is be found expressly stated be in the Code, but in exercising the power
conferred by the Code and before reaching its conclusion upon fact the High
Court should give proper weight and consideration to such matters as (1) the
views of the trial judge as to the credibility 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 doubt; & (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."
In K. Gopal Reddy v. State of A.P. (1979) 1 SCC 355, the Court
.....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 doubt. But, fanciful and
remote possibilities must be left out of account. To entitle an accused person
to the benefit 18 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.
reasonable doubt", it has been remarked, "does not mean some light, airy,
insubstantial doubt that may flit through the minds of any of us about almost
anything at some time or other, it does not mean a doubt begotten by sympathy
out of reluctance to convict; it means a real doubt, a doubt founded upon
reasons. [Salmond J. in his charge to the jury in R. v. Fantle reported in 1959
Criminal Law Review 584.]"
In Tota Singh & Another v. State of Punjab (1987) 2 SCC 529,
the Court reiterated the same principle in the following words:
Court has repeatedly pointed out that the mere fact that the appellate court is
inclined on a re-appreciation of the evidence to reach a conclusion which is at
variance with the one recorded in the order of acquittal passed by the court
below will not constitute a valid and sufficient ground for setting aside the
acquittal. The jurisdiction of the appellate court in dealing with an appeal
against an order of acquittal is circumscribed by the limitation that no
interference is to be made with the order of acquittal unless the approach made
by the lower court to the consideration of the evidence in the case is vitiated
by some manifest illegality or the conclusion 19 recorded by the court below is
such which could not have been possibly arrived at by any court acting reasonably
and judiciously and is, therefore, liable to be characterised as perverse.
Where two views are possible on an appraisal of the evidence adduced in the
case and the court below has taken a view which is a plausible one, the
appellate court cannot legally interfere with an order of acquittal even if it
is of the opinion that the view taken by the court below on its consideration
of the evidence is erroneous."
In Sambasivan & Others v. State of Kerala (1998) 5 SCC 412,
the Court observed thus:
The principles with regard to the scope of the powers of the appellate court in
an appeal against acquittal, are well settled. The powers of the appellate
court in an appeal against acquittal are no less than in an appeal against conviction.
But where on the basis of evidence on record two views are reasonably possible
the appellate court cannot substitute its view in the place of that of the
trial court. It is only when the approach of the trial court in acquitting an
accused is found to be clearly erroneous in its consideration of evidence on
record and in deducing conclusions therefrom that the appellate court can
interfere with the order of acquittal."
In Bhagwan Singh & Others v. State of M.P. (2002) 4 SCC 85,
the Court repeated one of the fundamental principles of criminal jurisprudence
that if two views are possible on the evidence adduced in the case, one
pointing to the guilt of the 20 accused and the other to his innocence, the
view which is favourable to the accused should be adopted. The Court observed
as under:- "7. ..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 a
Judge made guidelines for circumspection. The paramount consideration of the
court is to ensure that miscarriage of justice is avoided...."
In Harijana Thirupala & Others v. Public Prosecutor, High
Court of A.P., Hyderabad (2002) 6 SCC 470, this Court again had an occasion to
deal with the settled principles of law restated by several decisions of this
Court. Despite a number of judgments, High Courts continue to fail to keep them
in mind before reaching a conclusion. The Court observed thus:
The principles to be kept in mind in our system of administration of criminal
justice are stated and restated in several decisions of this Court. Yet,
sometimes High Courts fail to keep them in mind before reaching a conclusion as
to the guilt or otherwise of the accused in a given case. The case on hand is
one such case. Hence it is felt necessary to remind about the well-settled
principles again. It is desirable and useful to remind and keep in mind these
principles in deciding a case.
our administration of criminal justice an accused is presumed to be innocent
unless such a presumption is rebutted by the prosecution by producing the
evidence to show him to be guilty of the offence with which he is charged.
Further if two views are possible on the evidence produced in the case, one
indicating to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the view
favourable to the accused is to be accepted. In cases where the court
entertains reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of the accused the benefit of
such doubt should go in favour of the accused. At the same time, the court must
not reject the evidence of the prosecution taking it as false, untrustworthy or
unreliable on fanciful grounds or on the basis of conjectures and surmises. The
case of the prosecution must be judged as a whole having regard to the totality
of the evidence. In appreciating the evidence the approach of the court must be
integrated not truncated or isolated. In other words, the impact of the
evidence in totality on the prosecution case or innocence of the accused has to
be kept in mind in coming to the conclusion as to the guilt or otherwise of the
accused. In reaching a conclusion about the guilt of the accused, the court has
to appreciate, analyse and assess the evidence placed before it by the
yardstick of probabilities, its intrinsic value and the animus of witnesses. It
must be added that ultimately and finally the decision in every case depends
upon the facts of each case.
Doubtless 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.
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 22 Court would not be justified to interfere with the
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
13. It is
unfortunate that by the impugned order, the High Court has upset the
well-reasoned order of acquittal passed by the trial court. It appears to us
that the High Court while doing so, did not bear in mind the well-settled
principles stated above as to what should be the approach in reversing an order
of acquittal and under that circumstances it should be reversed.
In State of Rajasthan v. Raja Ram (2003) 8 SCC 180, this Court
observed as under:
..... Generally, the order of acquittal shall not be interfered with because
the 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 principle to be followed by appellate court considering the appeal against
the judgment of acquittal is to interfere only when there are compelling and
substantial reasons for doing so. If the impugned judgment is clearly 23
unreasonable, it is a compelling reason for interference."
In State of Goa v. Sanjay Thakran & Another, (2007) 3 SCC 755,
this Court observed as under:
...... while exercising the powers in appeal against the order of acquittal the
court of appeal would not ordinarily interfere with the order of acquittal
unless the approach of the lower court is vitiated by some manifest illegality
and the conclusion arrived at would not be arrived at by any reasonable person
and, therefore, the decision is to be characterized as perverse. Merely because
two views are possible, the court of appeal would not take the view which would
upset the judgment delivered by the court below....."
In Chandrappa & Others v. State of Karnataka (2007) 4 SCC 415,
this Court held:
An appellate court has full power to review, reappreciate and reconsider the
evidence upon which the order of acquittal is founded.
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.
Various 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 24 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.
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.
two reasonable conclusions are possible on the basis of the evidence on record,
the appellate court should not disturb the finding of acquittal recorded by the
In Ghurey Lal v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2008) 10 SCC 450, a two
Judge Bench of this Court of which one of us (Bhandari, J.) was a member had an
occasion to deal with most of the cases referred in this judgment. The exercise
of surveying relevant judgments has again been taken with the hope that the
Appellate Courts would keep in view the settled legal position while dealing
with the trial courts' judgments of acquittals.
The following principles emerge from the cases above:
accused is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The accused possessed
this presumption when he was before the trial court.
court's acquittal bolsters the presumption that he is innocent.
power of reviewing evidence is wide and the appellate court can re-appreciate
the entire evidence on record. It can review the trial court's conclusion with
respect to both facts and law, but the Appellate Court must give due weight and
consideration to the decision of the trial court.
appellate court should always keep in mind that the trial court had the
distinct advantage of watching the demeanour of the witnesses. The trial court
is in a better position to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses.
appellate court may only overrule or otherwise disturb the trial court's acquittal
if it has "very substantial and compelling reasons" for doing so.
5. If two
reasonable or possible views can be reached - one that leads to acquittal, the
other to conviction - the High Courtís /appellate courts must rule in favour of
We have considered the entire evidence and documents on record and
the reasoning given by the trial court for acquitting the accused and also the
reasoning of the High Court for reversal of the judgment of acquittal.
On careful marshalling of the entire evidence and the documents on
record, we arrive at the conclusion that the view taken by the trial court is
certainly a possible or plausible view.
settled legal position as explained above is that if the trial court's view is
possible or plausible, the High Court should not substitute the same by its own
possible view. In the facts and circumstances of this case, the High Court in
the impugned 27 judgment was not justified in interfering with the well
reasoned judgment and order of the trial court.
Consequently, this appeal filed by the appellant is allowed and
disposed of and the impugned judgment of the High Court is set aside.
.................................J. (Dalveer Bhandari)
.................................J. (Harjit Singh Bedi)
September 1, 2009.
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