Appeal against an acquittal in bailable and non-cognizable offences is not maintainable in Sessions Court

High Court of Himachal Pradesh: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Ajay Mohan Goel, J., allowed a criminal revision petition holding that an appeal against an acquittal, where offences are bailable and non-cognizable, lies in the High Court and not in the Court of Sessions Judge.

The petitioner was acquitted by the Trial Court in a criminal case registered under Sections 41 and 42 of the Forest Act. In an appeal filed by the State, the learned Sessions Judge set aside the judgment of acquittal. Petitioner filed the instant petition contending that the impugned judgment passed by the Court of learned Sessions Judge was perverse and void abinitio, because the learned Appellate Court while entertaining and deciding the said appeal failed to appreciate that as the offences for which the petitioner was tried by the learned Trial Court were bailable offences, no appeal was maintainable before the learned Sessions Judge as per the provisions of Section 378 of the CrPC and the forum for the State to have had challenged the said decision was the High Court.

The High Court before adverting to the facts of the case discussed the scope of its revisional jurisdiction and observed that the High Court in exercise of its revisional power can interfere only if the findings of the Court whose decision is sought to be revised is shown to be perverse or untenable in law or is grossly erroneous or glaringly unreasonable. It also referred to the Supreme Court judgment in (2015) 3 SCC 123 wherein it was held that unmerited and undeserved prosecution is an infringement of guarantee under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. In that case, the Supreme Court has further held that the purpose of revision jurisdiction is to preserve the power in the Court to do justice in cases of criminal jurisprudence.

Coming to the facts of the instant case, the Court found that the offences for which the petitioner was tried were bailable and non-cognizable offences. And on a perusal of Section 378 of CrPC, the Court held that in case of acquittal, where the offences alleged against the accused are bailable and non-cognizabele, then appeal against the judgment of such acquittal is not maintainable before the Court of learned Sessions Judge, but the same has to be filed before the High Court.

The Court held that since the appeal was not maintainable in the Court of Sessions, therefore, the order of reversal of acquittal passed by the Trial Court could not be maintained. Accordingly, the revision petition was allowed. [Pushap Raj v. State of H.P., 2017 SCC OnLine HP 282, order dated March 16, 2017]

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