‘Father of deceased’ has the Locus standi to file an Appeal against Acquittal of Accused, but with leave of the High Court; SC partially overrules Delhi HC’s Full Bench Judgment

‘Father of deceased’ has the Locus standi to file an Appeal against Acquittal of Accused, but with leave of the High Court; SC partially overrules Delhi HC’s Full Bench Judgment

A two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in Satya Pal Singh v. State of M.P held that the father of the deceased has locus standi to prefer an appeal before the High Court under proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. as he falls within the definition of victim as defined under Section 2(wa) of Cr.P.C. to question the correctness of the Judgment and order of acquittal of Accused in the Case.  The Bench was hearing an Appeal filed by the father of the deceased, against a Judgment passed in Criminal Appeal No.547 of 2013 whereby the High Court of Madhya Pradesh has upheld the decision of the trial court acquitting all the accused tried for the offences punishable under Sections 498A and 304B of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, alternatively for the offence punishable under Section 302 of IPC. Being aggrieved of the impugned judgment and order the appellant being the legal heir of the deceased filed an appeal before the High Court under proviso to Section 372 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The High Court, however, has mechanically disposed of the appeal by passing a cryptic order without examining as to whether the leave to file an appeal filed by the appellant as provided under sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C. can be granted or not.

The Counsel for the Appellant relied on a Full Bench Judgment of Delhi High Court in Ram Phal v. State & Ors wherein, it has held that the father of the victim has locus standi to prefer an appeal as he comes under the definition of victim under Section 2(wa) of the Cr.P.C. It was contended that in the instant case, the appellant, being father of the deceased, has locus standi to file an appeal before the High Court against the order of acquittal under proviso to Section 372 without seeking the leave of the High Court as required under sub-Section (3) of Section 378 of Cr.P.C.

Analyzing the Delhi High Court Judgment, Justice Gopal Gowda held as follows;

The Full Bench of the High Court of Delhi after examining the relevant provisions under Section 2(wa) and proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C., in the light of their legislative history has held that the right to prefer an appeal conferred upon the victim or relatives of the victim by virtue of proviso to Section 372 is an independent statutory right. Therefore, it has held that there is no need for the victim in terms of definition under Section 2(wa) of Cr.P.C. to seek the leave of the High Court as required under sub-Section (3) of Section 378 of Cr.P.C. to prefer an appeal under proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. The said view of the High Court is not legally correct for the reason that the substantive provision of Section 372 of Cr.P.C. clearly provides that no appeal shall lie from any judgment and order of a Criminal Court except as provided for by Cr.P.C. Further, sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C. provides that for preferring an appeal to the High Court against an order of acquittal it is necessary to obtain its leave.

To that extend the Supreme Court overruled the Judgment in of Delhi High Court in Ram Phal

Setting aside the Judgment of High Court, Supreme Court made it clear the legal position in the following words

 “whether the appellant herein, being the father of the deceased, has statutory right to prefer an appeal to the High Court against the order of acquittal under proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. without obtaining the leave of the High Court as required under sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C.”, this Court is of the view that the right of questioning the correctness of the judgment and order of acquittal by preferring an appeal to the High Court is conferred upon the victim including the legal heir and others, as defined under Section 2(wa) of Cr.P.C., under proviso to Section 372, but only after obtaining the leave of the High Court as required under sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C. The High Court of M.P. has failed to deal with this important legal aspect of the matter while passing the impugned judgment and order. 

Read the Judgment here.