Allahabad High Court: In an appeal against the judgment passed by the Special Judge acquitting the accused persons in Babri Masjid demolition case, the division bench of Ramesh Sinha and Saroj Yadav, JJ. has held that the appellants cannot be treated as ‘victims’, therefore, they have no locus to maintain the instant appeal.

The issue in this case is whether the appellants are the ‘victims’ of the case or not, and do they have locus to file the instant appeal under Section 372 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘CrPC’) or not?

The disputed structure, popularly known as “Ram Janam Bhoomi/Babri Masjid” at Ayodhya was demolished by a group of persons and consequently, two cases were registered on the same day for offences like robbery, rioting and mischief and other minor offences by different groups of persons against the media and 47 crimes were also registered for offences punishable under Sections 392, 394, 395, 147, 427, 336, etc. In the meanwhile, the appellants lodged First Information Report (‘FIR’) alleging that their house and other minority communities were looted and burnt by the lakhs of Kar Sewak. The accused persons were charged under Sections 395, 397, 436 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The respondent submitted that the appellants are neither complainants nor victims, therefore, they have no locus standi to challenge the impugned judgment.

The Court noted the definition of ‘victim’ as defined in Section 2(wa) CrPC and placed reliance on Manoj Kumar Singh v. State of U.P., 2016 SCC OnLine All 3250, wherein it was held that “only such person would be treated as ‘victim’, who is the subject-matter of trial, being direct sufferer of crime in terms of loss or injury caused to his own body, mind, reputation and property, and such loss or injury is one of the ingredient of the offence for which the accused person has been charged and, therefore, any other person cannot be accepted as victim within the first part of section 2 (wa) for the purposes of maintaining an appeal” and said that it is true that the right to appeal against the acquittal of the accused is not a mere matter of procedure, but is a substantive right of the ‘victim’.

Moreover, the respondent submitted that the appellants are only the prosecution witnesses of the case, thus it cannot be presumed that the appellants are the victims. Further, the allegations levelled by the appellants were not the subject matter of the trial and their allegations were tested by the trial Court in a separate sessions trial, wherein the Trial Court has acquitted the accused persons, vide judgment dated 02-02-1998, however, the said judgment has not been challenged by the appellants till date.

Also, the application filed by the appellants under Section 2(wa) and 24(8) CrPC, during the pendency of sessions trial, was also rejected by the trial Court vide order dated 25-08-2020, which has also attained finality and has not been challenged before any superior Court till date.

The Court said that it is quite apparent that accused persons were tried by the Trial Court and the allegations so made by the appellants were not the part of the charges upon which the accused persons were tried by the Trial Court and the impugned judgment was passed, rather the allegations so made by the appellant were tried in a separate sessions trial in which accused persons were acquitted by means of the judgment. Thus, in view of State v. Kalyan Singh, (2017) 7 SCC 444, the Court observed that the order dated 02.02.1998, and the final report dated 28.04.1993 can be regarded as res judicata.

The Court after placing reliance on Manoj Kumar Singh (supra) held that the appellants herein cannot be treated as ‘victims’ of the instant case. Thus, the appellants have no locus to challenge the impugned judgment passed by the Trial Court.

[Haji Mahboob Ahmad v. State of UP, 2022 SCC OnLine All 751, decided on 09-11-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Counsel for Appellant:- Advocate Khaleeq Ahmad Khan;

Advocate Mohemmed Amir Naqvi;

Advocate Najam Zafar;

Advocate Zafar, Rafat Farooqui;

Counsel for Respondent:- Government Advocate Shiv P. Shukla.

*Apoorva Goel, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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