A person is presumed to be innocent till proven guilty and once held to be not guilty of a criminal charge, he enjoys the benefit of such presumption

The penal laws in India are primarily based upon certain fundamental procedural values, which are right to fair trial and PRESUMPTION of innocence. A person is presumed to be innocent till proven guilty and once held to be not guilty of a criminal charge, he enjoys the benefit of such PRESUMPTION which could be interfered with only for valid and proper reasons. An appeal against acquittal has always been differentiated from a normal appeal against conviction. Wherever there is perversity of facts and/or law appearing in the judgment, the appellate court would be within its jurisdiction to interfere with the judgment of acquittal, but otherwise such interference is not called for. We may refer to a recent judgment of this Court in the case of State of Rajasthan, through Secretary, Home Department v. Abdul Mannan, (2011) 8 SCC 65, wherein this Court discussed the limitation upon the powers of the appellate court to interfere with the judgment of acquittal and reverse the same.

11. This Court referred to its various judgments and held as under:

12. As is evident from the above recorded findings, the judgment of conviction was converted to a judgment of acquittal by the High Court. Thus, the first and foremost question that we need to consider is, in what circumstances this Court should interfere with the judgment of acquittal. Against an order of acquittal, an appeal by the State is maintainable to this Court only with the leave of the Court. On the contrary, if the judgment of acquittal passed by the trial court is set aside by the High Court, and the accused is sentenced to death, or life imprisonment or imprisonment for more than 10 years, then the right of appeal of the accused is treated as an absolute right subject to the provisions of Articles 134(1)(a) and 134(1)(b) of the Constitution of India and Section 379 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In light of this, it is obvious that an appeal against acquittal is considered on slightly different parameters compared to an ordinary appeal preferred to this Court.

13. When an accused is acquitted of a criminal charge, a right vests in him to be a free citizen and this Court is very cautious in taking away that right. The PRESUMPTION of innocence of the accused is further strengthened by the fact of acquittal of the accused under our criminal jurisprudence. The courts have held that if two views are possible on the evidence adduced in the case, then the one favourable to the accused, may be adopted by the court. However, this principle must be applied keeping in view the facts and circumstances of a case and the thumb rule is that whether the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. If the prosecution has succeeded in discharging its onus, and the error in appreciation of evidence is apparent on the face of the record then the court can interfere in the judgment of acquittal to ensure that the ends of justice are met. This is the linchpin around which the administration of criminal justice revolves.

14. It is a settled principle of criminal jurisprudence that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution and it has to prove a charge beyond reasonable doubt. The PRESUMPTION of innocence and the right to fair trial are twin safeguards available to the accused under our criminal justice system but once the prosecution has proved its case and the evidence led by the prosecution, in conjunction with the chain of events as are stated to have occurred, if, points irresistibly to the conclusion that the accused is guilty then the court can interfere even with the judgment of acquittal. The judgment of acquittal might be based upon misappreciation of evidence or apparent violation of settled canons of criminal jurisprudence. [ Supreme court in State of Rajasthan Versus Shera Ram @ Vishnu Dutta (2011) 13 SCALE 140 ]