Supreme Court Guidelines; Factors to be kept in mind while hearing appeal against acquittal

Supreme Court Guidelines; Factors to be kept in mind while hearing appeal against acquittal

A Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justices R.M.Lodha and Shiva Kirti Singh today issued Guidelines to the Courts below on the factors to be considered while hearing Appeal against Acquittal. In Muralidhar @ Gidda vs. State of Karnataka[Criminal Appeal Number 551/2011] the Supreme Court while setting aside the Karnataka High Court Judgment which reversed the order of acquittal passed by the trial Court in a Murder Case, issued the following guidelines

(i)   There is presumption of innocence in favour of an accused person and such presumption is strengthened by the order of acquittal passed in his favour by the trial court,

(ii)   The accused person is entitled to the benefit of reasonable doubt when it deals with the merit of the appeal against acquittal,

(iii)   Though, the power of the appellate court in considering the appeals against acquittal are as extensive as its powers in appeals against convictions but the appellate court is generally loath in disturbing the finding of fact recorded by the trial court. It is so because the trial court had an advantage of seeing the demeanor of the witnesses. If the trial court takes a reasonable view of the facts of the case, interference by the appellate court with the judgment of acquittal is not justified. Unless, the conclusions reached by the trial court are palpably wrong or based on erroneous view of the law or if such conclusions are allowed to stand, they are likely to result in grave injustice,  the reluctance on the part of the appellate court in interfering with such conclusions is fully justified, and

(iv)   (Merely because the appellate court on re-appreciation and re-evaluation of the evidence is inclined to take a different view, interference with the judgment of acquittal is not justified if the view taken by the trial court is a possible view.        The evenly balanced views of the evidence must not result in the interference by the appellate court in the judgment of the trial court

The court also relied on the landmark Judgment of Lord Russell in Sheo Swarup v. King Emperor [AIR 1934 Privy Council 227 which highlighted the approach of the High Court as an appellate court hearing the appeal against acquittal. Lord Russell said, “… the High Court should and will always give proper weight and consideration to such matters as (1) the views of the trial Judge as to the credibility of the witnesses; (2) the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused, a presumption certainly not weakened by the fact that he has been acquitted at his trial; (3) the right of the accused to the benefit  of  any  doubt;  and  (4)  the  slowness  of  an  appellate  court  in disturbing a finding of fact arrived at by a Judge who had the advantage of seeing the witnesses.”  The opinion of the Lord Russell has been followed over the years”.

The Bench also relied on the following Judgments of the Supreme Court of India

[1]    Surajpal Singh v. State; [AIR 1952 SC 52]

[2]    Tulsiram Kanu v. State;[AIR 1954 SC 1]

[3]    Madan Mohan Singh v. State of U.P.; [AIR 1954 SC 637]

[4]    Atley v. State of U.P.; [AIR 1955 SC 807]

[5]    Aher Raja Khima v. State of Saurashtra;   [AIR 1956 SC 217]

[6]    Balbir Singh v. State of Punjab; [AIR 1957 SC 216]

[7]     M.G. Agarwal v. State of Maharashtra; [AIR 1963 SC 200]

[8]    Noor Khan v. State of Rajasthan; [AIR 1964 SC 286]

[9]   Khedu Mohton v. State of Bihar;  [(1970) 2 SCC 450],

[10]   Shivaji Sahabrao Bobade v. State of Maharashtra; [(1973) 2 SCC 793]

[11]   Lekha Yadav v. State of Bihar;  [(1973) 2 SCC 424]

[12]   Khem Karan v. State of U.P.; [(1974) 4 SCC 603]

[13]   Bishan Singh v. State of Punjab; [(1974)  3 SCC 288]

[14]   Umedbhai Jadavbhai v. State of Gujarat; [(1978) 1 SCC 228]

[15]   K. Gopal Reddy v. State of A.P. ; [(1979) 1 SCC 355]

[16]   Tota Singh v. State of Punjab [(1987) 2 SCC 529]

[17]    Ram Kumar v. State of Haryana; [1995 Supp (1) SCC 248]

[18]   Madan Lal v. State of J&K;  [(1997) 7 SCC 677]

[19]   Sambasivan v. State of Kerala; [(1998) 5 SCC 412]

[20]   Bhagwan Singh v. State of M.P.; [(2002) 4 SCC 85]

[21]   Harijana Thirupala v. Public Prosecutor, High Court of A.P.; [(2002) 6 SCC 470]

[22]   C. Antony v. K. G. Raghavan Nair; [(2003) 1 SCC 1]

[23]    State of Karnataka v. K. Gopalakrishna;  [(2005) 9 SCC 291]

[24]   State of Goa v. Sanjay Thakran; [(2007) 3 SCC 755]

[25]   Chandrappa v. State of Karnataka; [(2007) 4 SCC 415]

[27]   Ghurey Lal v. State of U.P.; [(2008) 10 SCC 450]