Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the Gujarat High Court had acquitted a man booked for the offences under Section 7 read with Sections 13(1) & 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, JJ has set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court after noticing that,

“The High Court has only made general observations on the depositions of the witnesses examined. However, there is no re-appreciation of the entire evidence on record in detail, which ought to have been done by the High Court while dealing with the judgment and order of conviction passed by the Learned Trial Court.”

The Court noticed that being First Appellate Court, the High Court was required to re-appreciate the entire evidence on record and also the reasoning given by the Learned trial Court while convicting the accused.

“Non-re-appreciation of the evidence on record may affect the case of either the prosecution or even the accused.”

Presumption of innocence – When available?

An Appellate Court while dealing with an appeal against acquittal passed by the Learned trial Court, is required to bear in mind that in case of acquittal there is double presumption in favour of the accused.

Firstly, the presumption of innocence is available to him under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved guilty by a competent court of law.

Secondly, the accused having secured his acquittal, the presumption of his innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial Court.

Therefore, while dealing with the cases of acquittal by the trial Court, the Appellate Court would have certain limitations.

The Court, further, relied on the decision in Umedbhai Jadavbhai v. State of Gujarat, (1978) 1 SCC 228, wherein it was observed,

“Once the appeal is entertained against the order of acquittal, the High Court is entitled to re-appreciate the entire evidence independently and come to its own   conclusion. Ordinarily, the High Court would give due importance to the opinion of the Sessions Judge if the same were arrived at after proper appreciation of the evidence. The High Court would be justified against an acquittal passed by the Learned Trial Court even on re-appreciation of the entire evidence independently and   come to its own conclusion that acquittal is perverse and manifestly erroneous”.  

However, so far as the appeal against the order of conviction is concerned, there are no such restrictions and the Court of appeal has wide powers of appreciation of evidence and the High Court has to re-appreciate the entire evidence on record being a First Appellate Court.

“Keeping in mind that once the Learned Trial Court has convicted there shall not be presumption of innocence as would be there in the case of acquittal.”

Conclusion

The Court, hence, found the approach of the High Court in dealing/non¬dealing with the evidence to be patently illegal leading to grave miscarriage of justice.

“The High Court ought to have appreciated that it was dealing with the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act which offences are against the society. And therefore, the High Court ought to have been more careful and ought to have gone in detail. We do not approve the manner in which the High Court has dealt with the appeal.”

It was, therefore, the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court acquitting the respondent – accused without adverting to the reasons given by the Learned trial Court while convicting the accused and without reappreciating the entire evidence on record in detail cannot be sustained and the same deserves to be quashed and set aside.

The matter was, hence, remanded to the High Court to consider and deal with the appeal afresh in accordance with law and on its own merits keeping in mind the observations made in the case at hand.

[State of Gujarat v. Bhalchandra Laxmishankar Dave, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 52, decided on 02.02.2021]


*Justice MR Shah has penned this judgment

Appearances before the Court: 
For State of Gujarat: Advocate Deepanwita Priyanka,
For Respondent-accused: Senior Advocate J.S. Attri and advocate Haresh Raichura
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Anoop Chitkara, J. upheld the decision of the first appellate court in the present case where the court on its own motion took cognizance of the complaint concerning the release of the respondent under Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 after his conviction under Section 332 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The complainant, a police constable, was on traffic duty when the respondent had beaten him up for not permitting the respondent to take his vehicle on the wrong side of the road.  The complainant was beaten by respondent firstly at open place and thereafter gave beatings to him in the premises of Thana while persons accompanying him were requesting the complainant to effect a compromise with the convict. 

The trial court convicted the accused-respondent under Section 332 IPC. The respondent appealed against the decision in the Sessions Court which upheld the conviction but expressed disagreement on sentencing on the grounds of non-consideration of Section 361 CrPC and remanded the matter back to the trial court to call for the report of the Probation Officer, and consider the plea of the convict for the benefit of Section 4 of the Probation of the Offenders Act. The trial court after considering the report of the probation officer by an order granted probation that stands challenged before this Court. 

The Court relied upon the decision delivered by this court in the case of State of Himachal Pradesh v. Lat Singh, 1989 SCC OnLine HP 71 and observed that Section 360 of CrPC is not applicable in the State since Probation of Offenders Act is applicable here. Section 361 of CrPC, however, applies with full force requiring courts to record special reasons for not applying the provisions of the Act to a case where the court could have dealt with the accused under the said provisions. 

The court even answered the question with respect to the power of the Sessions Court to remand the case for considering the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act. The answer to it lies in Section 386(b)(iii) CrPC which defines the powers of the Appellate Court and states that in an appeal from a conviction the Appellate Court may, with or without altering the findings, alter the nature or extent of sentence, but not so as to enhance the same.

In view of the facts of the case and the law discussed above, the Court upheld the decision of the first appellate court of remanding the matter to the trial court as well as the decision of the trial court granting a benefit to the accused under Section 4 of the Act. The High Court thereby dropped and closed the proceedings initiated in this case. [Court on its own motion v. Raghubir Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 2233, decided on 23-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: The Bench of Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J. allowed an appeal challenging the judgment of first appellate court whereby the trial court’s order was set aside without taking the findings of trial court into consideration.

Appellant herein was a defendant in a suit for possession filed by the respondent (plaintiff before trial court), which was dismissed by the trial court. In an appeal by the respondent-plaintiff, the first appellate court set aside the trial court’s order. Aggrieved thereby, the instant regular second appeal was filed. 

The sole issue pertained to the scope, ambit and power of first appellate court while deciding first appeal. It was opined that the right to file first appeal against a decree under Section 96 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is a valuable legal right of the litigant. The jurisdiction of first appellate court while hearing first appeal is very wide like that of trial court and it is open to the appellant to attack all findings of fact or/and of law in the first appeal. It is the duty of first appellate court to appreciate the entire evidence, and then it may come to a different conclusion. While doing so, the judgment of first appellate court must reflect its conscious application of mind and record findings supported by reasons, on all issues along with the contentions put forth, and pressed by the parties. While reversing a finding of fact, the first appellate court must come into close quarters with the reasoning assigned by the trial court and then assign its own reasons for arriving at a different finding.

The Court noted that in the instant case, the first appellate court had not at all adverted to findings and reasons recorded by the trial court and had simply chosen to write a separate judgment without taking into consideration any of the facts and circumstances that prevailed upon the trial court to dismiss the suit.

In view of the above, the impugned order of the first appellate court was set aside, and the matter was remanded to it for a fresh decision.[Sunder Singh v. Roop Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 550, decided on 26-04-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Court, yet again, reminded the High Courts of the limitations under Section 100 CPC and said:

“despite the catena of decisions of this Court and even the mandate under Section 100 of the CPC, the High Courts under Section 100 CPC are disturbing the concurrent findings of facts and/or even the findings recorded by the First Appellate Court, either without formulating the substantial question of law or on framing erroneous substantial question of law.”

The bench L Naeswara Rao and MR Shah, JJ was hearing the appeal against the judgment of Punjab and Haryana High Court wherein the High Court had allowed the Second Appeal and had quashed   and set aside the judgment and decree passed by the First Appellate Court dismissing the suit and consequently has restored the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court decreeing the suit relating to perpetual injunction.

The bench noticed that:

“While interfering with the judgment and order passed by the first Appellate Court, it appears that while upsetting the judgment and decree passed by the First Appellate Court, the High Court has   again appreciated the entire evidence on record, which in exercise of powers under Section 100 CPC is not permissible. While passing the impugned judgment and order, it appears that High Court has not at all appreciated the fact that the High Court was deciding the Second Appeal under Section 100 of the CPC and not first appeal under Section 96 of the CPC.”

The Court reiterated that the jurisdiction of the High Court, in an appeal under Section 100 of the CPC, is strictly confined to the case involving substantial question of law and while deciding the second appeal under Section 100 of the CPC, it is not permissible for the High Court to re­appreciate the evidence on record and interfere with the findings recorded by the Courts below and/or the First Appellate Court and if the First Appellate Court has exercised its discretion in a judicial manner, its decision cannot be recorded as suffering from an error either of law or of procedure requiring interference in Second Appeal.

[Gurnam Singh v. Lehna Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 374, decided on 13.03.2019]