DATE OF JUDGEMENT:
8 November, 2021
Justice DY Chandrachud
Justice AS Bopanna
Appellants- Jogi &Ors.
Respondents- The State of Madhya Pradesh
The Supreme Court held that while considering an appeal under Section 374(2) of CrPC, the HC has to independently evaluate the whole evidence and come to an independent conclusion.
Section 372(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973-
374. Appeals from convictions-
(2) Any person convicted on a trial held by a Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge or on a trial held by any other Court in which a sentence of imprisonment for more than seven years has been passed against him or against any other person convicted at the same trial, may appeal to the High Court.
- The origin of this appeal arises from an incident where 46 people were originally accused of burning the house of Hangry Lohar and killing the three people inside it. Thereafter, they were also accused of burning his daughter’s house resulting in injuries to three persons.
- Out of the forty-six, forty-four accused were put to trial and all of them were convicted by the trial court.
- After this an appeal was filed by 45 persons against this judgement in High Court under Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Thirty-fiveaccused were convicted under the provisions of Sections 148, 149, 323/149, 436/149 (five counts) and 302/149 (three counts) of the Indian Penal Code 1860 and seven accused were acquitted.
Whether the decision of High Court is valid?
- The apex court made the observation that since the High Court was dealing with a substantive appeal under the provisions of Section 374 of the CrPC, 1973 and therefore, it was mandatory for the HC to evaluate the evidence on the record independently and to arrive at its own conclusions about the accused’s culpability or lack thereof based on the evidence.
- The SC noted that the High Court in this case does not seems to have made any independent evaluation except for the statement that said that a review of the record reveals that the trial court correctly relied on the statement of eye-witnesses, which was unshakable and of excellent quality, to record a finding of guilt against these appellants.
- The court relied on the case of Majjal v. State of Haryana, (2013) 6 SCC 798 to hold that the High Court was duty bound to consider the entirety of the evidence while considering the criminal appeal under Section 374(2) of CrPC.
- The court consequently held that since the High Court has not made any independent application of mind in regards to the appellants, the order of remand seemed necessary.
- Therefore, the impugned judgement and order of the High Court insofar as it concerns to the appellants was set aside by the court and the appeal was remitted back to the High Court. (Except for accused no. 19,21,24,38, and 44). However, it was clarified that this order will have no effect on the accused who were acquitted by the HC judgement.
- The HC was requested to dispose of the appeal on remand within a period of 3 months keeping in mind the passage of time as this appeal pertains to 2008. The court at last also granted liberty to the appellants to move an application for suspension of sentence before the High Court under Section 389(1) of the CrPC if they are so advised.
Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, deals with appeals from convictions. Clause 2 of this section allows an accused who was convicted by a sessions judge or an additional sessions judge for more than 7 years to appeal to the High Court. The decision of the Supreme Court is commendable in this case as it clarifies that theHigh Court under this section is obligated to independently evaluate the entire situation and then come to an independent conclusion in regards to the appellant. This prevents any biasedness towards the appellants and gives them a fair chance. However, there might also be cons to this judgement as this could delay the proceedings of HC and even if the HC agrees with the observations of the trial courts, it will still have to make the same observation and document it separately.
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What is appellate jurisdiction?
What does Section 374 of CrPC deals with?