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IndiaAppellate Court Can’t Overturn Acquittal Only On Ground That Another View Is...

Appellate Court Can’t Overturn Acquittal Only On Ground That Another View Is Possible: SC


New Delhi, Apr 12: The Supreme Court has said the appellate court cannot overturn the order of acquittal only on the ground that another view is possible.
A bench of justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan said unless the appellate court records a finding that the judgment of acquittal is perverse, no interference can be made.

“The appellate court cannot overturn the order of acquittal only on the ground that another view is possible. In other words, the judgment of acquittal must be found to be perverse. Unless the appellate court records such a finding, no interference can be made with the order of acquittal,” the bench said.
The apex court made these observations while deciding an appeal in a murder case, where the order of acquittal of the trial court was overturned by the high court.
Justice Oka, who penned the verdict on behalf of the bench, said it is a settled law that while deciding an appeal against acquittal, the appellate court has to re-appreciate the evidence.
“After re-appreciating the evidence, the first question that needs to be answered by the appellate court is whether the view taken by the trial court was a plausible view that could have been taken based on evidence on record. Perusal of the impugned judgment of the high court shows that this question has not been adverted to,” the bench said.
It added the appellate court can interfere with the order of acquittal only if it is satisfied after re-appreciating the evidence that the only possible conclusion was that the guilt of the accused had been established beyond a reasonable doubt.
The bench said, “The high court has ignored the well-settled principle that an order of acquittal further strengthens the presumption of innocence of the accused. After having perused the judgment, we find that the high court has not addressed itself on the main question.”
Further analysing the high court verdict, Justice Oka said it had committed another error by recording a finding that the accused have failed to adduce evidence in their support and failed to establish the falsity of the prosecution version of the case.
“This concept of the burden of proof is entirely wrong. Unless, under the relevant penal statute, there is a negative burden put on the accused or there is a reverse onus clause, the accused is not required to discharge any burden. In a case where there is a statutory presumption, after the prosecution discharges initial burden, the burden of rebuttal may shift on the accused,” it said.
Further elaborating its reasoning, the bench said in the absence of the statutory provisions, in this case, the burden was on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Therefore, the high court's finding on the burden of proof is completely erroneous. It is contrary to the law of the land,” it said.
It said there was no reason for the high court to overturn the order of acquittal when the findings of the trial court were possible findings that could be arrived at after re-appreciating evidence.
“Therefore, the appeal must succeed. We set aside the judgment and order dated December 14, 2018 of the high court and set aside the conviction of the appellants. The judgment and order dated July 5, 1997 of the trial court is restored,” it ordered.
The case pertains to a father-son duo, who was prosecuted for the offence of murder of one Punjabhai in Gujarat. The incident occurred on September 17, 1996.
The allegation is that the father-son duo assaulted Punjabhai with pipes and sticks. The deceased suffered a large number of injuries and ultimately succumbed to the injuries. (Agencies)

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