Saturday, November 14, 2009

SC - Priciples laid down to hear an appeal against the order of acquittal

The Supreme Court Ajit Savant Majagvai v. State of Karnataka 1997 (7) SCC 110 and Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab 2000 (4) SCC 603 laid down the principles which would govern and regulate the hearing of appeal by the High Court against an order of acquittal passed by a trial Court. The principles which have been set out reiterated as under:

(1) In an appeal against an order of acquittal, the High Court possesses all the powers, and nothing less than the powers it possesses while hearing an appeal against an order of conviction.

(2) The High Court has the power to reconsider the whole issue, reappraise the evidence and come to its own conclusion and findings in place of the findings recorded by the trial court, if the said findings are against the weight of the evidence on record, or in other words, perverse.

(3) Before reversing the finding of acquittal, the High Court has to consider each ground on which the order of acquittal was based and to record its own reasons for not accepting those grounds and not subscribing to the view expressed by the trial court that the accused is entitled to acquittal.

(4) In reversing the finding of acquittal, the High Court has to keep in view the fact that the presumption of innocence is still available in favour of the accused and the same stands fortified and strengthened by the order of acquittal passed in his favour by the trial court.

(5) If the High Court, on a fresh scrutiny and reappraisal of the evidence and other material on record, is of the opinion that there is another view which can be reasonably taken, then the view which favours the accused should be adopted.

(6) The High Court has also to keep in mind that the trial court had the advantage of looking at the demeanour of witnesses and observing their conduct in the Court especially in the witness-box.

(7) The High Court has also to keep in mind that even at that stage, the accused was entitled to benefit of doubt. The doubt should be such as a reasonable person would honestly and conscientiously entertain as to the guilt of the accused.

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