Appeal by Complainant in case of Acquittal

Appeal against acquittal

Appeal against an order of acquittal is an extra ordinary remedy. It would put the already exonerated accused once again under shade of suspicion and troubles. Therefore, some restrictions are there in the appeal provisions.

Appeal in a complaint case

In a complaint case, a victim has the right to file an appeal to the High Court against a trial court order which acquits the accused.

Before amendment in Section 372 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC), there was no such provision for the victim to file an appeal against acquittal either in a police case, or in a complaint case.

A victim under Section 2 (wa) CrPC means a person who has suffered any loss of injury caused by reason of an act or omission for which the accused person has been charged. The expression victim includes his or her guardian or legal heir.

A complainant who satisfies the definition victim as in Section 2(wa) CrPC are entitled to file an appeal under Section 372 CrPC as a matter of right. A widow of the deceased is a victim. A victim is one who suffered any loss or injury. So a brother of the deceased is not a victim.

If the case is one in which the Magistrate refers the complaint to the police for police report without taking cognizance on the complaint, then that is not a case instituted upon complaint. In such a case the complainant cannot file an appeal to the High Court under Section 378(4).

Appeal lies only to High Court in a complaint case

The proviso to Section 372 CrPC gives substantive right to the victim to file an appeal.

It is merely an enabling provision conferring right to the victim to file an appeal against the orders acquitting the accused, convicting the accused for a lesser offence, or imposing an inadequate compensation. The Section however does not provide mode or procedure or limitation.

In a complaint case, when an appeal is presented by the complainant, he/she is required to seek special leave of the High Court under Section 378(4) CrPC.

The Sections 378(4) & 378(5) specifically provide for the procedures such as the forum to file an appeal, period of limitation and leave to appeal for the complainant to file an appeal against the acquittal in a case which has been instituted upon complaint.

The Section 378(5) CrPC prescribes the period of limitation aa the one prescribed under Article 114 of the Limitation Act, 1963.

In a police case appeal lies to the appellate court

In a police case, the procedure is different.

In such a case when the acquittal order is passed by the Magistrate, the appeal would lie before the Court of Sessions.

In case, the order of acquittal is passed by the Sessions Court either in its original jurisdiction or as an appellate court, then the appeal would lie before the High Court under Section 378(4) CrPC because of the words “such an order of acquittal”.

Different procedures in both cases

In short, the criminal law prescribes different procedures in regard to appeal in a complaint case and a police case.

Application for leave is prescribed only by an appeal preferred by a complainant. For the state government or central government such a leave is not needed. Even if the state government is appealing in the capacity of a complainant such a leave is not necessary.

The High Court has enough discretion to grant or not to grant special leave in such cases.

HC can interfere with the order of acquittal

The High Court can interfere with the order of acquittal only when the order of acquittal is perverse in the light of evidence, if the law applied is improper, when there is substantial omission to consider the evidence, the view taken by the acquitting court is impermissible on the evidence on record or the order of acquittal would result in miscarriage of justice.

In short, the High Court will exercise its appellate power only in extra ordinary cases for very substantial and compelling reasons.