Guidelines for the High Court to interfere with the judgment and order of Acquittal passed by the Trial Court

Indian Law Encyclopedia

 Supreme Court  has laid down the guidelines for the High Court to interfere with the judgment and order of Acquittal passed by the Trial Court. The appellate court should not ordinarily set aside a judgment of Acquittal in a case where two views are possible, though the view of the Appellate Court may be more probable one. While dealing with a judgment of Acquittal, the appellate court has to consider the entire evidence on record, so as to arrive at a finding as to whether the views of the trial Court were perverse or otherwise unsustainable. Interference with the order of Acquittal is permissible only in “exceptional circumstances” for “compelling reasons”. The appellate court is entitled to consider whether in arriving at a finding of fact, the trial Court had failed to take into consideration admissible evidence and/or had taken into consideration the evidence brought on record contrary to law. Similarly, wrong placing of burden of proof may also be a subject matter of scrutiny by the appellate court.

The expressions like ‘substantial and compelling reasons’, ‘good and sufficient grounds’, ‘very strong circumstances’, ‘distorted conclusions’, ‘glaring mistakes’, etc., are not intended to curtail the 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 the Acquittal. Thus, where it is possible to take only one view i.e. the prosecution evidence points to the guilt of the accused and the judgment is on the face of it perverse, the appellate Court may interfere with an order of Acquittal.

The appellate court should also bear in mind the presumption of innocence of the accused and further that the trial Court’s Acquittal bolsters the presumption of his innocence. Interference in a routine manner where the other view is possible should be avoided, unless there are good reasons for interference.

(See: Sanwat Singh and Ors. v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1961 SC 715; Suman Sood alias Kamaljeet Kaur v. State of Rajasthan, (2007) 5 SCC 634; Brahm Swaroop and Anr. v. State of U.P., AIR 2011 SC 280; V.S. Achuthanandan v. R. Balakrishna Pillai and Ors., (2011) 3 SCC 317; and Rukia Begum and Ors. v. State of Karnataka, (2011) 4 SCC 779).

Thus, in such cases, this Court would usually not interfere unless

a. The finding is vitiated by some glaring infirmity in the appraisal of evidence. (State of U.P. v. Sahai, AIR 1981 SC 1442 at paras 19-21)

b. The finding is perverse. (State of M.P. v. Bachhudas, (2007) 9 SCC 135 at para 10 and State of Punjab v. Parveen Kumar, (2005) 9 SCC 769 at para 9)

c. The order suffers from substantial errors of law and fact (Rajesh Kumar v. Dharamvir, (1997) 4 SCC 496 at para 5)

d. The order is based on misconception of law or erroneous appreciation of evidence (State of U.P. v. Abdul, (1997) 10 SCC 135; State of U.P. v. Premi, (2003) 9 SCC 12 at para 15)

e. High Court has adopted an erroneous approach resulting in miscarriage of justice (State of T.N. v. Suresh, (1998) 2 SCC 372 at paras 31 and 32; State of M.P. v. Paltan Mallah, (2005) 3 SCC 169 at para 8)

f. Acquittal is based on irrelevant grounds (Arunachalam v. Sadhanatham, (1979) 2 SCC 297 at para 4

g. High Court has completely misdirected itself in reversing the order of conviction by the Trial Court (Gaurishanker Sharma v. State of U.P., AIR 1990 SC 709)

h. The judgment is tainted with serious legal infirmities (State of Maharashtra v. Pimple, AIR 1984 SC 63 at para 75)

18. In reversing an Acquittal, this Court keeps in mind that presumption of innocence in favour of the accused is fortified by an order of Acquittal and if the view of the High Court is reasonable and founded on materials on record, this Court should not interfere.

19. However, if this Court is of the opinion that the Acquittal is not based on a reasonable view, then it may review the entire material and there will be no limitation on this Court’s jurisdiction under Article 136 to come to a just decision quashing the Acquittal (See, (1985) 4 SCC 476 at para 45; (1996) 7 SCC 471 at para 4)