While dealing with a judgment of Acquittal, an appellate court must consider the entire evidence on record

Indian Law Encyclopedia

Supreme Court in Dr. Sunil Kumar Sambhudayal Gupta and Ors. v. State of Maharashtra, JT 2010 (12) SC 287, considered various aspects of dealing with a case of Acquittal and after placing reliance upon earlier judgments of this Court particularly in Balak Ram and Anr. v. State of U.P., AIR 1974 SC 2165; Budh Singh and Ors. v. State of U.P., AIR 2006 SC 2500; S. Rama Krishna v. S. Rami Reddy (D) by his L.Rs. and Ors.,, AIR 2008 SC 2066; Arulvelu and Anr. v. State, (2009) 10 SCC 206; and Babu v. State of Kerala (2010) 9 SCC 189, held that:

22. It is a well-established principle of law, consistently re-iterated and followed by this Court is that while dealing with a judgment of Acquittal, an appellate court must 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. Even though the appellate court is entitled to consider, whether in arriving at a finding of fact, the trial Court had placed the burden of proof incorrectly or failed to take into consideration any admissible evidence and/or had taken into consideration evidence brought on record contrary to law; 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 the more probable one. The trial court which has the benefit of watching the demeanor of the witnesses is the best judge of the credibility of the witnesses.

23. Every accused is presumed to be innocent unless his guilt is proved. The presumption of innocence is a human right. Subject to the statutory exceptions, the said principle forms the basis of criminal jurisprudence in India. The nature of the offence, its seriousness and gravity has to be taken into consideration.

The appellate court should 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 with the decision of the Trial Court in a casual or cavalier manner where the other view is possible should be avoided, unless there are good reasons for such interference.

24. In exceptional cases where there are compelling circumstances, and the judgment under appeal is found to be perverse, the appellate court can interfere with the order of Acquittal. The findings of fact recorded by a court can be held to be perverse if the findings have been arrived at by ignoring or excluding relevant material or by taking into consideration irrelevant/inadmissible material. A finding may also be said to be perverse if it is `against the weight of evidence’, or if the finding so outrageously defies logic as to suffer from the vice of irrationality.

Thus, unless there are substantial and compelling circumstances, the order of Acquittal is not required to be reversed in appeal.

 So far as the issue of setting aside the conviction under Section 120B IPC against both the Respondents and not framing the charge under any other penal provision is concerned – it has to be considered, as to whether conviction under any other provision for which the charge has not been framed, is sustainable in law. The issue is no longer res integra and has been considered by the Court from time to time. The accused must be aware as to what is the case against them and what defence they could lead. Unless the parties satisfy the Court that there has been a failure of justice from non framing of charge under a particular penal provision, and some prejudice has been caused to them, conviction under such provision of law is sustainable. (Vide: Amar Singh v. State of Haryana,, AIR 1973 SC 2221)

supreme  Court in Sanichar Sahni v. State of Bihar,, AIR 2010 SC 3786, while considering the issue placed reliance upon various judgments of this Court particularly in Topandas v. State of Bombay,, AIR 1956 SC 33; Willie (William) Slaney v. State of M.P., AIR 1956 SC 116; Fakhruddin v. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1967 SC 1326; State of A.P. v. Thakkidiram Reddy, AIR 1998 SC 2702; Ramji Singh v. State of Bihar,, AIR 2001 SC 3853; and Gurpreet Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 2006 SC 191, and came to the following conclusion:

Therefore,…. unless the convict is able to establish that defect in framing the charges has caused real prejudice to him and that he was not informed as to what was the real case against him and that he could not defend himself properly, no interference is required on mere technicalities.

Conviction order in fact is to be tested on the touchstone of prejudice theory.