Report No. 99
4.9. Shri Seervai's views on criminal appeals.-
We would also like to quote the following comment1 offered by Shri H.M. Seervai in his reply to the questionnaire issued by us. Dealing with criminal appeals, he says that Article 136 of the Constitution vests in the Supreme Court the power formerly vested in the Privy Council when it was the final court of appeal from all courts in the British Empire. It was a residuary power, exercised by the Privy Council, to see that grave failure of justice was remedied. Stressing the point that a distinction must be made between Special Leave applications in criminal matters and other matters, he says:
"In criminal maters, the Privy Council rarely interfered when there was a concurrent finding of fact and the law had not been clearly misinterpreted. The Privy Council did not consider itself to be an additional court of appeal. It interfered with findings of law and/or fact, if they were perverse or so unreasonable that to allow the judgment under appeal to stand would be a miscarriage of justice, that is, it would shake the foundations of justice. This jurisdiction is now vested in the Supreme Court and both reason and expediency indicate that by and large, the view taken by the Privy Council should be adopted. This power is not to be exercised merely because a judge feels that some injustice has been done; for, the injustice in an individual case must be balanced against the much greater injustice which would be done to a large class of litigants if decision of their matters were indefinitely delayed.
It seems to me that in admitting criminal appeals, specially where there are concurrent findings of fact, the Supreme Court imposes upon itself needless burdens, and inflicts a serious injury upon itself for being unable to dispose of matters with reasonable dispatch. If the principle followed by he Privy Council in criminal matters is substantially adhered to by all the judges, there would be a two-fold benefit. It would discourage applications under Article 136 in criminal matters, and thus lessen the burden on the court on Mondays and Fridays. Secondly, the number of final hearings matters would be greatly reduced and the disposals speeded up. On certain occasions matters are admitted merely because the sentence is considered to be unduly severe. In such cases, the correct course is to grant leave only to appeal against the sentence or, if the question can be disposed of at the admission stage, to reduce the sentence after briefly hearing the parties."
1. Shri H.M. Seervai's reply to the Law Commission's questionnaire.