Criminal Procedure; Satya Pal Singh Vs. State of M.P. [Supreme Court of India, 06-10-2015]

Penal Code, 1860 – Ss. 498A & 304B – Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 – S. 4 – Criminal P.C. 1973 – S. 372 – Held, the right of questioning the correctness of the judgment and order of acquittal by preferring an appeal to the High Court is conferred upon the victim including the legal heir and others, as defined under Section 2(wa) of Cr.P.C., under proviso to Section 372, but only after obtaining the leave of the High Court as required under sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C.

JT 2015 (9) SC 281 : 2015 (10) Scale 444 : 2015 CriLJ 4929 : 2015 AIR (SCW) 6251 : 2015 All SCR 3523 : 2015 (4) RCR (Criminal) 705 : 2015 (4) Crimes 124 : 2015 (5) RAJ 183 : 2015 (4) MLJ (Criminal) 219 : 2015 Cri. L.R. 1106 : 2015 (3) DMC 670 : 2015 RajCriC 933 : 2015 (4) JLJR 343 : 2015 (4) Bom.C.R (Cri.) 311 : 2015 (4) Law Herald (SC) 3404 : 2015 (5) Law Herald 3762 : 2015 (4) Cri.CC 847 : 2015 (156) AIC 261 : 2015 (91) ACrC 955 : 2015 (4) JBCJ 491 : 2015 (3) PLJ (Criminal) 278 : 2015 (4) PLJR 468 : 2016 (1) Andh LD (Criminal) 288 : 2016 (1) ACC 288 : 2016 (1) ECrC 23 : 2016 (1) ALT (Crl.) 278 : 2015 (3) JabLJ 244 : 2016 (1) AICLR 7 : 2016 (1) CalLJ 212 : 2015 (3) ACJ (SC) 779


IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

[T.S. THAKUR] AND [V. GOPALA GOWDA] JJ.

October 6, 2015

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1315 OF 2015

(Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl) NO. 7954 of 2014)

SATYA PAL SINGH …… APPELLANT

VERSUS

STATE OF M.P. AND ORS. …… RESPONDENTS

J U D G M E N T

V. GOPALA GOWDA, J.

Leave granted.

2. This criminal appeal by special leave is directed against the impugned judgment and order dated 04.03.2014 passed in Criminal Appeal No.547 of 2013 by the High Court of M.P. at Gwalior whereby the High Court has upheld the decision of the Sessions Court, Bhind, M.P. (the trial court) in Sessions Case No. 293/2010 by acquitting all the accused i.e. respondent nos. 2 to 6 herein.

3. The appellant herein made a written complaint dated 19.07.2010 regarding the death of his daughter, Ranjana (hereinafter referred to as “the deceased”) to the Addl. Superintendent of Police, Bhind, M.P. The FIR was registered on 27.07.2010. The trial court after the examination of evidence on record passed the judgment and order dated 13.06.2013 acquitting all the accused of the charges levelled against them for the offences punishable under

Sections 498A and 304B of Indian Penal Code, 1860

(for short “IPC”) and

Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

and alternatively for the offence punishable under Section 302 of IPC. Being aggrieved of the decision of the trial court, the appellant approached the High Court against the order of acquittal of respondent nos. 2 to 6. The High Court vide its judgment and order dated 04.03.2014 has upheld the trial court’s decision of acquittal of all the accused persons. The impugned judgment and order of the High Court is challenged in this appeal before this Court questioning its correctness.

4. Being aggrieved of the impugned judgment and order the appellant being the legal heir of the deceased filed an appeal before the High Court under proviso to

Section 372 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

(for short “the Cr.P.C.”). The High Court, however, has mechanically disposed of the appeal by passing a cryptic order without examining as to whether the leave to file an appeal filed by the appellant as provided under sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C. can be granted or not. The correctness of the same is questioned by the appellant in this appeal inter alia urging various grounds.

5. Mr. Prashant Shukla, the learned counsel on behalf of the appellant placed strong reliance upon the judgment rendered by Delhi High Court in

Ram Phal v. State & Ors., 221 (2015) DLT 1

wherein the Full Bench, after interpreting the proviso to Section 372 read with Section 2(wa) of the Cr.P.C., has held that the father of the victim has locus standi to prefer an appeal, being a private party coming under the definition of victim under Section 2(wa) of the Cr.P.C. It was contended by him that in the instant case, the appellant, being father of the deceased, has locus standi to file an appeal before the High Court against the order of acquittal under proviso to Section 372 without seeking the leave of the High Court as required under sub-Section (3) of Section 378 of Cr.P.C. Thus, the appeal filed by the appellant was maintainable before the High Court of M.P. under the abovesaid provisions of Cr.P.C. He further urged that undoubtedly, the said legal aspect of the matter has not been dealt with by the High Court and the appeal was decided on merits but without examining as to whether the leave to file an appeal by the appellant is required to be granted or not under the above provisions of Cr.P.C.

6. The learned counsel for the appellant drew the attention of this Court towards the decision rendered by Delhi High Court in the case referred to supra, wherein it has elaborately adverted to the definition of victim as defined under Section 2(wa) of Cr.P.C. and proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. and has examined them in the light of their legislative history. It has also adverted to 154th Law Commission Report of 1996 in connection with the said legal provision of Cr.P.C. and has succinctly held that where the victim is unable to prefer an appeal then the appeal can be preferred by persons – such as relatives, foster children, guardians, fiancé or live-in partners, etc. of the victim, who are in a position to do so in his/her behalf. He urged that in the instant case, there is no need for the appellant, being the father of the deceased, to seek leave of the High Court as provided under sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C. to maintain the appeal before it as it is his statutory right to prefer an appeal against the order of acquittal of all accused persons in view of proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C.

7. It was further urged by him that the High Court ought to have granted the leave to the appellant to file an appeal by the appellant as required under sub-Section (3) of Section 378 of Cr.P.C. and thereafter it ought to have examined and disposed of the appeal on merits.

8. He further vehemently contended that the appeal before the High Court was filed by the appellant challenging the acquittal order passed by the trial court but the High Court has concurred with the decision of the trial court mechanically without reappreciating the evidence on record. He further submitted that the decision of the High Court suffers from error in law as the High Court, being the Appellate Court, was required to re-appreciate the evidence on record to exercise its appellate jurisdiction in the appeal filed by the appellant with reference to the legal contentions urged in the memorandum of appeal but it has failed to do so. The High Court in a very cursory and casual manner has held that after a perusal of evidence on record it found no reason to interfere with the decision of the trial court as the prosecution has failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the charges levelled against all the accused are proved and it has dismissed the appeal by passing a cryptic order, which amounts to non-exercise of appellate jurisdiction properly by the High Court. Thus, the impugned judgment and order of the High Court is vitiated in law and therefore, the same is required to be set aside by this Court. He further requested this Court to remand the matter to the High Court for re-appreciation of the evidence on record and pass appropriate order on merits of the case after hearing both the parties.

9. We have carefully examined the above mentioned provisions of Cr.P.C. and the Full Bench decision of Delhi High Court referred to supra upon which strong reliance is placed by the learned counsel for the appellant. There is no doubt that the appellant, being the father of the deceased, has locus standi to prefer an appeal before the High Court under proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. as he falls within the definition of victim as defined under Section 2(wa) of Cr.P.C. to question the correctness of the judgment and order of acquittal passed by the trial court in favour of respondent nos. 2 to 6 in Sessions Case No. 293/2010.

10. The proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. was amended by Act No.5 of 2009. The said proviso confers a statutory right upon the victim, as defined under Section 2(wa) of Cr.P.C. to prefer an appeal against an order passed by the trial court either acquitting the accused or convicting him/her for a lesser offence or imposing inadequate compensation. In this regard, the Full Bench of Delhi High Court in the case referred to supra has elaborately dealt with the legislative history of insertion of the proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. by Act No. 5 of 2009 with effect from 31.12.2009. The relevant provision of Section 372 of Cr.P.C. reads thus:-

“372. No appeal shall lie from any judgment or order of a Criminal Court except as provided for by this Code or by any other law for the time being in force:-

Provided that the victim shall have a right to prefer an appeal against any order passed by the Court acquitting the accused or convicting for a lesser offence or imposing inadequate compensation, and such appeal shall lie to the Court to which an appeal ordinarily lies against the order of conviction of such Court.”

The said amendment to the provision of Section 372 of Cr.P.C. was prompted by 154th Law Commission Report. The said Law Commission Report has undertaken a comprehensive review of Cr.P.C. and its recommendations were found to be very appropriate in amending the Cr.P.C. particularly in relation to provisions concerning arrest, custody and remand, procedure to be followed in summons and warrantcases, compounding of offences and special protection in respect of women and inquiry and trial of persons of unsound mind. Further, the Law Commission in its report has noted the relevant aspect of the matter namely that the victims are the worst sufferers in a crime and they do not have much role in the Court proceedings. They need to be given certain rights and compensation so that there is no distortion of the criminal justice system. The said report of the Law Commission has also taken note of the views of the criminologist, penologist and reformers of criminal justice system at length and has focused on victimology, control of victimization and protection of the victims of crimes and the issues of compensation to be awarded in favour of them. Therefore, the Parliament on the basis of the aforesaid Report of the Law Commission, which is victim oriented in approach, has amended certain provisions of the Cr.P.C. and in that amendment the proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. was added to confer the statutory right upon the victim to prefer an appeal before the High Court against acquittal order, or an order convicting the accused for the lesser offence or against the order imposing inadequate compensation.

11. The Full Bench of the High Court of Delhi after examining the relevant provisions under Section 2(wa) and proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C., in the light of their legislative history has held that the right to prefer an appeal conferred upon the victim or relatives of the victim by virtue of proviso to Section 372 is an independent statutory right. Therefore, it has held that there is no need for the victim in terms of definition under Section 2(wa) of Cr.P.C. to seek the leave of the High Court as required under sub-Section (3) of Section 378 of Cr.P.C. to prefer an appeal under proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. The said view of the High Court is not legally correct for the reason that the substantive provision of Section 372 of Cr.P.C. clearly provides that no appeal shall lie from any judgment and order of a Criminal Court except as provided for by Cr.P.C. Further, sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C. provides that for preferring an appeal to the High Court against an order of acquittal it is necessary to obtain its leave. We have to refer to the rules of interpretation of statutes to find out what is the effect of the proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C., it is well established that the proviso of a statute must be given an interpretation limited to the subject-matter of the enacting provision. Reliance is placed on the decision of this Court rendered by four Judge Bench in