All about Revision in Criminal Cases


Revision is the process of examination of an order of a lower court by a higher court, so as to rectify any improper exercise of judicial power.

The precise purpose of revision is to examine the correctness, legality or propriety of any proceedings before any inferior court. Revision keeps the lower court within the bounds of their authority and makes them work according to well defined principles of law. Revisional jurisdiction is analogous to power of supervision and superintendence.

Appeal may not normally end the illegality

In a court case, the provision of appeal to the higher court is inbuilt in law. An aggrieved litigant can redress his grievance by exercising that provision. But in some cases there is no provision for appeal at all. Even if appeal is there, there is only one appeal in some cases. In some other cases the appeal provision may not be holistic enough to address every sort of grievance of the litigant. Therefore in order to avoid the remote possibility of any miscarriage of justice there is a provision for revision.

The provision for revision is discretionary in nature. So no party to a case has an inherent right to be heard before a court exercising revision. The court can dispose of the revision petition of its own without even hearing the parities.

Provisions in Criminal Procedure Code

The provisions for revision in criminal cases are provided from sections 397 to 405 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The sections 399, 400 and 401 of CrPC deal with the powers of revision of Sessions Judge, Additional Sessions Judge and High Court. In the exercise of revision, the High Court is superior to Sessions Judge and the Sessions Judge is superior to Assistant Sessions Judge, Chief Judicial Magistrate, and all other magistrates including District Magistrate.

In some circumstances, a “further inquiry” can be ordered under section 398 of CrPC in certain circumstances. The sections 397 to 401 of CrPC are closely interlinked and hence are to be read together.

The records can be called for

In order to exercise the powers of revision the High Court or Sessions Court can call for the records of proceedings for examination and pass suitable orders to remove any miscarriage of justice. It is an exercise of supervisory jurisdiction.

The record of any proceeding to be called for need not be about the commission or trial of an offence, but can be about prevention of an offence as well. That means, for examination in revision, the records of any proceeding before an inferior court can be called for.

The basic test for calling the record is not the nature of the proceeding but the nature of the court in which that proceeding is held. The term ‘inferior court’ does not denote any ‘administrative inferiority’ but only ‘judicial inferiority’.

For the purpose of revision, all Judicial Magistrates, all Assistant Sessions Judges and all Additional District Judges are considered inferior to the Sessions Judge. Addition District Magistrate is also inferior to District Court. Similarly all subordinate courts are inferior to the High Court.

However an inquiry into a death conducted under the Section 176 CrPC is not a function of a criminal court but something analogous to investigation. Hence no revision is possible on that.

A stranger can initiate revision

In revision, a revisional court can carry out revision suo moto or on the motion of even a stranger. The court can act on the basis of a newspaper report or an anonymous post card if there is sufficient ground for conducting a revision. The party pointing out the information has no authority to demand revision but it is the court which has authority. The party is only drawing the attention of the court.

No revision in interlocutory orders

In an interlocutory order passed in appeal in any inquiry, trial or other proceeding, no revision is allowed as per section 397(2) of CrPC.

The matter involved in such an order passed in appeal can be challenged only at the end of the proceeding when the final order goes against the party.

Nature of an interlocutory order

There are altogether three categories of order that a court can pass – final, intermediate and interlocutory.

Interlocutory order is an order passed at some intermediate stage of a proceeding. It is not a kind of order that disallows the right of the parties. The expression ‘interlocutory’ is understood in contra-distinction to what is termed as final. A court usually disposes of many ancillary disputes raised by parties in a proceeding by issuing numerous orders. All such orders which do not finally dispose of a judicial proceeding are termed ‘interlocutory’ orders.

Such interlocutory orders form part of the steps, taken towards the final adjudication in the prosecution of a proceeding. Every such interlocutory order may dispose of a particular point of controversy raised in the proceeding. An order would be an interlocutory order unless such an order finally disposes of the controversy between the parties.

The grant or refusal of bail is an interlocutory order. Order summoning witnesses, adjourning cases, granting or cancelling bail, calling for reports etc are interlocutory orders. An order rejecting an application for recalling witnesses is an interlocutory order.

Intermediate or quasi – final order: There are some orders which are neither interlocutory nor final in nature. They are termed intermediate orders or quasi-final orders. Therefore an intermediate order is one which is interlocutory in nature but when reversed, it has the effect of terminating the proceedings and thereby resulting in a final order. Two such intermediate orders are an order taking cognizance of an offence and summoning an accused and an order for framing charges. Prima facie these orders are interlocutory in nature, but when an order taking cognizance and summoning an accused is reversed, it has the effect of terminating the proceedings against that person resulting in a final order in his or her favour.

Similarly, an order for framing of charges if reversed has the effect of discharging the accused person and resulting in a final order in his or her favour. Therefore, an intermediate order is one which if passed in a certain way, the proceedings would terminate but if passed in another way, the proceedings would continue. The basic test is that when an order rejecting a plea of the accused on a point when granted will conclude the particular proceeding it cannot be treated as an interlocutory order.

There is no doubt that in respect of a final order a court can exercise its revisional jurisdiction. There is equally no doubt that in respect of an interlocutory order, the court cannot exercise its revision jurisdiction. In case of an intermediate order, the court can exercise its revision jurisdiction since it is not an interlocutory order.

Final order: An order on taking cognizance is a final order and hence revision is possible on that. An order on framing charge is not interlocutory. The order on tendering pardon is a final order. However an interlocutory order issued without jurisdiction is a nullity and hence is revisable.

Power to order inquiry under revision

The power of the High Court or Session Court under Section 398 of CrPC is primarily to examine any record received in exercise of powers under Section 397 CrPC – that is in regard to the correctness, legality or propriety of any finding. Such power is exercisable to any pending or concluded proceeding. The power under Section 398 is not co-extensive with the power under section 397 but far wider.

Therefore, the High Court or Sessions Judge can direct the Chief Judicial Magistrate or any Magistrate to conduct further inquiry into any complaint dismissed under section 203 for having no sufficient ground, or under section 204 (4) for not paying process fee for issuing process, or the discharge of any person accused of any offence under the CrPC. The High Court or Sessions Court can order a ‘further inquiry’ in such cases. However a ‘further inquiry’ is not a ‘fresh preliminary inquiry’ but a mere re-appraisal of the very evidence which was examined prior to the passing of the order.

In short when a case is before a Court of Session for revision it can exercise the powers under both the Sections 397 and 398.

Revisional court enjoys the powers of a Court of Appeal

While carrying out revision, the High Court or Sessions Judge may exercise all the powers conferred on a Court of Appeal under Sections 386, 389, 390 and 391 of the CrPC, or on a Court of Sessions under Section 307 of CrPC.

A revisional court cannot issue an order prejudicial to the party without hearing the party or his pleader, in his own defence. Revision of an order cannot be invoked when there is a provision for appeal and that is not already invoked.

The revisional court can outright dismiss the revision petition if there is no sufficient ground for interference.

In a revision on acquittal, the court can reverse the order of acquittal, direct conduct of a further inquiry, order retrial of the accused, commit him for trial and pass sentence according to law if the accused is found guilty.

In case of a revision on conviction, the court can reverse the conviction and sentence and acquit or discharge the accused, or order him to be retried by the appropriate court.

In a revision for enhancement of sentence, the court can reverse the finding, and acquit or discharge the accused or order him to be retried by a competent court. It can maintain the sentence or alter the sentence so as to enhance or reduce it.

If revision is from any other order, the court can alter or reverse such order. The court can make any amendment or issue any just and proper order.

The revisional court has no power to impose greater punishment than that might have been inflicted by the trial court.

Power of revisional court to grant bail

The revisional court can grant bail of a convicted person if he is in confinement and his revision against the conviction is pending.

If the conviction is for an offence punishable with death or life or for not less than 10 years, the prosecution needs to be heard before granting bail. The court can suspend the execution of sentence as well, if revision is pending.

HC can direct arrest in acquittal

When a revision of an order of acquittal is considered in revision, the High Court can order arrest of the accused and bring him before it or a subordinate court and commit him to prison pending the disposal of the revision petition.

Revisional court can take additional evidence

To ensure justice, revisional court can take additional evidence in quite suitable cases. This power is to ensure justice but is not an arbitrary discretion. This power is to be used only sparingly. The court shall record its reasons when using this power. This power should not be used as a disguise for a retrial or to direct fresh disposal of the case by the trial court.

Revisional court can allow pardon to an accomplice

The revisonal court can tender pardon to an accomplice, who has directly or indirectly involved in any offence, in order to obtain evidence of a person accused of an offence.

Limitations of revisional court

A court exercising revision, unlike as in an appeal, cannot convert the acquittal into one of conviction.

Similarly when a revision is filed to a Session Court no further revision can be filed in the High Court or vice versa. Therefore a person aggrieved by an order of revision by a Sessions Judge has no right to approach the High Court again for revision.

High Court’s power of revision

The revisonal powers of the High Court are very wide. The jurisdiction of the High Court is discretionary and is used only in exceptional cases where there is a glaring miscarriage of justice. The revision is a procedural mechanism to rectify any manifest error in justice dispensation.

HC can withdraw or transfer revision case

In a joint trial, if one among the accused persons moves the High Court and any other accused person moves the Sessions Court on the same matter, the High Court should decide which of the two courts should deal with the matter. While deciding the matter the High Court should consider the general convenience of the parties and the importance of the issues involved. If the High Court transfers the revision petitions to the Sessions Court and it disposes the petitions no further revision is possible before the High Court.

Order of the High Court on revision

When the High Court or Sessions Court decides a case in a revision petition, it shall certify its judgment or order to the court which the order or sentence appealed against was originally passed.

If the order is to a judicial magistrate it shall be sent through the Chief Judicial Magistrate and to an Executive Magistrate through the District Magistrate. The lower court should then make the judgment conformable to its judgment.


Revision is an exceptional power of the court. It should be exercised only in extraordinary cases where there is a glaring defect in the proceedings or there is a manifest error of point of law which would result in grave miscarriage of justice.