Bom HC | In absence of an accused, can Appellate Court pronounce Judgment in an appeal against conviction? HC considers

Bombay High Court: Vibha Kankanwadi, J., observed that,

“The practice of pronouncing Judgments in appeal against conviction in absence of the accused, thereby dismissing the appeal and then directing the trial Court to issue warrant, requires to be deprecated.”

The instant application was filed by the original accused for suspension of substantive sentence, during the pendency of revision imposed against him by Judicial Magistrate after holding him guilty of committing an offence punishable under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.

Bench stated that at first it is required to be seen, as to whether before admitting the revision and while dealing with the present application whether it is necessary first to direct the applicant to surrender himself.

It appears that the Appellate Court in the present case pronounced the Judgment on 04-05-2019 in absence of the appellant-accused.

Section 387 of CrPC deals with Judgment of subordinate Appellate Court and it provides that the rule contained in Chapter XXVII as to the judgment of a Criminal Court of original jurisdiction shall apply, so far as may be practicable, to the judgment in appeal of a Court of Session or Chief Judicial Magistrate.

“…if directions/ order is passed by the Appellate Court for exemption of the accused, then only the Judgment can be pronounced in absence of the accused; otherwise his presence should be secured before the Judgment is pronounced.”

No doubt, sub section (7) of Section 353 of the Code provides, that no judgment delivered by any Criminal Court shall be deemed to be invalid by the reason only in absence of any party, however, the Appellate Court cannot insist upon invoking sub section (7) of Section 353 of the Code if there was no endeavour on its part to secure the presence of the accused.

Court stated that it is the Appellate Court’s duty to see that the Judgment in an appeal against conviction should be pronounced in presence of the accused (only exception as enumerated in Section 353 (6) of the Code) and to take such appellant in custody upon the confirmation of the conviction.

Coming to the question of whether in the present case, Court could direct the revision applicant to surrender himself before the Appellate Court and then take up revision for hearing, Bench stated that the answer for the said question was in the Supreme Court’s decision of Bihari Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar, (2000) 10 SCC 346.

In the above-cited case, the following question was considered:

Whether the High Court while exercising its jurisdiction can refuse to hear or entertain the matter on the ground that the accused has not surrendered?

Following was observed:

“Under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, there is no such requirement though many High Courts in this country have made such provision in the respective rules of the High Court. But it is stated to us that there is no such rule in the Patna High Court Rules. In that view of the matter the High Court was not justified in rejecting the application for revision solely on the ground that the accused has not surrendered.”

In view of the above discussion, Court held that the revision application cannot be rejected on the ground that the accused did not surrender and therefore, there was no bar on considering the present application.

What was the basic crux and background of the matter?

The complainant stated he had extended loan amount, from time to time, and the disputed cheque was given by the accused in the discharge of said legal debt or liability. Accused took a defence that he had already given certain cheques in possession of the complainant and one of the said cheques was misused. He led evidence and in his defence he tried to show, that the presumption under Section 139 of the Negotiable Instruments Act had been rebutted by him.

Court found the above to be an arguable case and hence held that the revision deserves to be admitted.

Bench directed for the suspension of the substantive part of the sentence till the revision was decided.[Fazal Khalil Ahemad Shaikh v. Nadkishor Ramnivasji Agrawal, Criminal Application No. 2743 of 2019, decided on 13-02-2020]

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    Whether trial court can pass order in a case where the accused is declared as abscondin accused in NI 138 case

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