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Report No. 14

40. Acceptance of the doctrine of "compelling reasons".-

The doctrine of the need for the appellate court to have "very substantial and compelling reasons" before it could proceed to set aside an order of acquittal seems finally to have received unequivocal acceptance at the hands of the Supreme Court in 1955.1 In that case, the court referred to Surajpal Singh's case and followed it. The court was divided, the majority consisting of Bose and Chandrasekhara Aiyar, JJ. stated the legal position in regard to appeals of this character in the following words:

1. Aher Raja Khima v. State of Saurashtra, AIR 1956 SC 217.

"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 * * * * if the trial court takes a reasonable view of the case, interference under section 417 is not justifiable unless there are really strong reasons for reversing that view".

The dissenting Judge Venkatrama Ayyar J. traced the differing legal views expressed on the subject by the High Courts before Sheo Swarup's case and referred with approval to the judgment of the Judicial Committee in that case. After referring to a number of decisions, the learned Judge took the view that there was no scope for the application of "the doctrine of compelling reasons". He referred to the use of these words for the first time in Surajpal Singh's case and proceeded to analyse its implications. He stated:

"Do the words 'compelling reasons' in the above passage import a limitation on the powers of a court hearing an appeal under section 417 not applicable to a Court hearing appeals against convictions? If they do, then, it is merely the old doctrine that appeals against acquittals are in a less favoured position, dressed in a new garb, and the reasons for rejecting it as unsound are as powerful as those which found favour with the Privy Council in AIR 1934 PC 227 and AIR 1945 PC 151".

Since the last mentioned decision, there have been two further judgments1 of the Supreme Court in which the phrase "strong and compelling reasons" has again been used by the Supreme Court. In neither of these decisions, however, has the implication of this phrase been considered nor has any reference been made in them to the views expressed in the dissenting judgment of Venkatarama Ayyar, J.

1. Balbir Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1957 SC 216.

Bhagwan Das v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1957 SC 589.

41. Uncertainty in the minds of the High Courts.-

The phraseology used by the Supreme Court and the absence of any expression of its view on its implications have led the High Courts to put different meanings on the phrase "strong and compelling reasons". In a Bombay case,1 the High Court has gone to the length of holding that, in actual practice, the findings of fact of a judge recording a judgment of acquittal have to be treated as having substantially the same finality and validity as the verdict of a jury which can be set aside only when it is one which no reasonable body of men could have reached upon the evidence.

"Inevitably, therefore, the Government Pleader must satisfy us in appeals against acquittals that the conclusions of the trial court are not at all possible on the evidence on the record. In other words, we must not only come to the conclusion that the evidence (sic) is proved beyond a reasonable doubt, but we must also feel satisfied that it is difficult if not impossible to see how a contrary view can be held on the material available in the case". A similar view has been taken by the Allahabad High Court.2 It stated that "the High Court should find such reasons which may be termed compelling and substantial reasons or which may be deemed to be clinching and conclusive before it would be justified in upsetting an order of acquittal".

1. State v. Vithal Maruthi Patil, AIR 1953 Boni 369 (371).

2. State v. Ram Autar, AIR 1955 All 138 (147) (per Raghubar Dayal, J.).

42. Immediate amendment of the Cr. P.C. unnecessary.-

Notwithstanding what has been pressed upon us-the uncertainty and conflict in the principles laid down and the need for an amendment clarifying the law-we expect that the true legal position is bound before long to be laid down in clear and unequivocal terms by the Supreme Court itself. The need for an amendment of the law will arise, if at all, after the court has explained the true import of the principles laid down by it or in the event of its failure to do so.

43. Summary of Recommendations. Our recommendations regarding criminal appeals may be summarised as follows:-

(1) The Criminal Procedure Code should be amended so that appeals even from orders passed under section 122 refusing or rejecting a surety lie to the sessions judge and not to the district magistrate.

(2) As in the case of presidency magistrates, a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding two hundred rupees imposed by a court of session should be non-appealable.

(3) In non-separation States, the cadre of assistant sessions judges should be strengthened to enable them to dispose of appeals from the decisions of the second and third class magistrates.

(4) In separation States, appeals from the decisions of second and third class magistrates should lie only to the district magistrate (judicial) or to any specially empowered judicial first class magistrate. The Code may be amended for this purpose.

(5) Criminal appeals in the High Courts should be disposed of within six months and in the courts of session and the courts of magistrates within a maximum period of two months. It is, however, possible for the sessions courts and courts of magistrates to dispose of criminal appeals within thirty days and this should be aimed at.

(6) The powers of a single judge in all the High Courts should be enlarged so as to enable him to dispose of all criminal appeals except those in which sentences of death or imprisonment for life have been passed. However, if there are no arrears in a High Court and the judge-power permits this, it should be open to particular High Courts to provide that criminal appeals should be heard by a Bench of two judges.

(7) To ensure that criminal appeals in High Courts are disposed of early, the printing of paper books should be expedited and, if necessary, cyclostyling should be resorted to, instead of printing.

(8) The methods set out in paragraph 25 ante may be followed to ensure expeditious disposal of criminal appeals.

(9) The suggestion that Government appeals against orders of acquittal should not be liable to be dismissed at the stage of admission cannot be accepted.

(10) It is not immediately necessary to amend the law to clarify the position with regard to the powers of the High Court in dealing with appeals against an order of acquittal. The matter may be left to the Supreme Court itself for clarification.

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