Saturday 4 August 2012

Whether victim can file appeal before session court against order of acquittal of accused?

A proviso shows an exception to the Section that may qualify the main enactment. Ergo, the proviso to Section 372 of the Code of Criminal Procedure shows that no matter what is the position in the Code of Criminal Procedure, the right of appeal is given to the victim and that is not only as provided in the Code. It is an unqualified right and could be exercised not only as provided in the Code (i.e. not only with leave of the Court). It is a right untremmelled by other procedural provisions and requirements - to cite - the leave of the Court. It is, therefore, improper to be shackled by the position of the past in which a victim plays no role at all in the criminal justice system and to say that the victim cannot claim to be on higher pedestal in a criminal prosecution than the State and that such can never been the intention of the legislature. The intention of the legislature is writ large in the proviso which gives the substantive right to prefer three types of appeals only to the victim, no matter what else is provided in the Code.
Victim is not required to apply for or obtain leave of the Court to file any of the appeals under the proviso to section 372 CRPc.

Bombay High Court
Balasaheb Rangnath Khade vs The State Of Maharashtra & Ors on 27 April, 2012
ORAL JUDGMENT (Per Mrs. Roshan Dalvi, J.)

1. I have had the privilege of going through the erudite exposition of an arguable point of law which merits the depth of articulation as is done by my brother Judges Kanade and Thipsay. The point of law required to be decided merits enunciation of settled principles of interpretation of statutes for reading a clear provision as per its own terms, reading it along with every other provision in the chapter in which it appears, reading the statute as a whole and deciphering the intention of the legislature that propelled the enactment given the state of affairs that prevailed before the enactment, the mischief that was apparent and the mode in which the legislature sought to remedy it. The 'heyden's rule' or the 'mischief rule', which is the well settled principle of law, must be present to the mind of any interpretor of such enactment and which has been present to the mind of my brother Judges and must not be lost sight of.

The crime problem is the overdue debt a society pays for tolerating for years the conditions that breed lawlessness. - Earl warren.
2. An aspect of victimology, the doctrine of victim protection, victim representation and victim rehabilitation, is the subject matter of the above appeals.
3. The criminal justice system has been designed with the State at the center-stage. Law and order is the prime duty of the State. It fosters peace and prosperity. The rule of law is to prevail for a welfare State to prosper. The citizens in a welfare State are expected to have their basic human rights. These rights are often violated. The law and order is (3) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
breached. A citizen is harmed, injured or even killed as a result of the crime. He/she is a victim of an act termed an 'offence' in the criminal justice system. He/she seeks recourse to law and justice. Justice is given to him/her upon upholding the rule of law. It is denied to him/her upon any breach by the perpetrator of the violation or even by the defender of his rights - the State.
4. The machinery of the State is set in motion by the victim, either upon his/her own complaint which is a private complaint, when he, as a complainant, seeks to prosecute the case of harm done to him/her. He/she may require the State to prosecute the case of harm done to him/her by informing the State of the act of offence. He/she would then be only the first informant- the State would prosecute such crime.
5. He/she may be victim of the crime himself/herself, but not always.
6. A thin difference between the victim and the complainant may first be noted.
1. Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition at page 1610 defines the victim as a person harmed, injured or killed as a result of a crime, accident etc.
Section 2 (wa) of the Code of Criminal Procedure which was incorporated by the Amending Act, 5 of 2009 defines a victim as : a person who has suffered any loss or injury caused by reason of the act or omission for which the accused person has been charged and the expression "victim" includes his or her guardian or legal heir;
2. Black's Law Dictionary, Eighth Edition at page 302 defines the complainant as the party who brings a legal complaint against another.
3. Advanced Law Lexicon by P. Ramanatha Aiyar at page 926 defines (4) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
the complainant as a person or authority making a complaint to the council regarding something.

7. The State being the prosecuting authority upon a complaint of the complainant/first informant takes upon itself the recourse to law and justice in cases in which the complainant does not seek to prosecute the complaint himself/herself. The provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure deal with both the aspects.
8. Both prosecutions were expected to yield the same result - the prosecution of the crime seriously, faithfully, justly and efficiently. The results however were far from envisaged in case of the State-led prosecution. Yet for decades the system as prevailing ruled the roost even if it left much to be desired.
9. There came a time when the State-led prosecutions did not serve the purpose they were meant to serve. The State either failed and neglected in its solemn duty or it caused more harm than good in certain cases. This would have been a death-blow to the Rule of Law if the situation was not remedied. The stark reality of what the social scenario deteriorated into has been set out by the Supreme Court in the case of Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh & Anr. Vs. State of Gujarat & Ors. (2004) 4 SCC 158, a good part of which has been reproduced in the earlier part of this Judgment by my brother Judge Kanade.
10. The State sought to make amends in the years that followed which was a departure from what was earlier recommended to be the recognition of the rights of the citizens and the procedure of the criminal Courts in bringing the offenders of these rights to justice. (5) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
11. The mischief that the State sought to remedy was the total neglect of the violation of human rights of victims. The State, in other words, sought to embark upon and to grant to the victims of crime their human rights.
12. Far reaching efforts had come to be made in the direction of victimology in the western democracies which India had emulated from the time of drafting the Constitution of India.
13. The state of the victims in the discipline of victimology has gone far ahead in the west. The victims have a right to speak and to be heard at all stages of the criminal prosecution - bail, release, evidence, sentence and parole. 'Victims impact statements' are recorded and extensively used by the jury and the judge whilst convicting and sentencing respectively and thereafter 'victims impact assessments' are required to be done as a continuous act.
14. Section 377 (1) of the United States Code is in respect of Crime Victims' Rights Act (CVRA). The Rights of Crime Victims are set out thus :
(a) Rights of Crime Victims.- a crime victim has the following rights:
(1) The right to be reasonably protected from the accused. (2) The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.
(3) The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
(4) The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
(6) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
(5) The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
(6) The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
(7) The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay. (8) The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.

15. The Victims of Crime Act in Canada sets out in Section 2 the statement of principles upon which human rights are granted to victims for the victims' access to justice. Section 2 of the Victims of Crime Act runs thus:
2. The following principles are adopted for the guidance of persons in Declaration providing justice for victims of crime: treatment (a) victims should be treated with courtesy and compassion of victims and with respect for their dignity, privacy and convenience;
redress (b) victims should receive prompt and fair financial redress for the harm that they have suffered;
access to (c) victims should be informed of and should have access to services services including social, medical, legal and mental health and
informatio (d) victims should be informed about the progress of the n about investigation and prosecution of the offence, court procedures, court
the role of the victim in court proceedings and the ultimate procedures,
etc. disposition of the proceedings;
victim (e) victims are entitled, where their personal interests are concerns affected, to have their views and concerns brought to the attention of the court where consistent with criminal law and procedure;
safety (f) victims and their families should be protected from intimidation, retaliation and harassment;
property (g) victims should have their stolen property returned to (7) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
them as soon as possible after recovery by law enforcement authorities
victim (h) victims are entitled to prepare a victim impact statement impact and have it considered by the court at sentencing; statement
informatio (i) victims are entitled to be informed about the offender's n on status, including release dates, parole eligibility, and offender
probation terms.
status, etc.
16. Various other countries fell far short of such grant of human rights.
17. The General Assembly of the United Nations in its 96 th plenary meeting held on 29th November, 1985 set out the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power which recognizes and grants to the victims, their families, witnesses and others who aid them the rights in the area of access to justice and fair treatment, Restitution and Compensation as basic human rights.

18. In a ground-breaking Judgment of the US Supreme Court in the case of Payne vs. Tennessee 498 U.S. (1991) dated 27th June, 1991 Chief Justice Rehnquist considered whether the "victim impact statement" could be considered in cases of capital offence at the time of sentencing. That was the case of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in the first degree, which left a 28 year old mother with her 2 year old daughter dead and her 3 year old son grievously injured. Upon the prosecution evidence the defendant (accused) led evidence of 4 witnesses, being his parents, his girlfriend and a clinical psychologist as to his own character. On behalf of the son, who survived a near fatal assault, statement of his grand-mother was recorded by way of her testimony relating to the impact the offence had on the infant. The death penalty (8) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
awarded by the trial Judge was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Tennessee rejecting the contention on behalf of the defendant that the admission of the grand mother's testimony and the State's closing argument constituted prejudice to him and violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. US Supreme Court issued certiorari to reconsider the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Booth Vs. Maryland, 482 U.S. 496 (1987) and South Carolina Vs. Gathers, 490 U.S. 805 (1989) holding that in a capital trial the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibited the Jury from considering the victim impact statement at the sentencing phase upon the premise that the harm to the victim that a capital defendant caused would not reflect the defendant's blameworthiness which alone would be relevant to the capital sentencing decision. The Court considered the Maryland statute which was involved in the case of Booth requiring a victim impact statement showing that the effect of the crime on the victim and his family was required to be presented in the principal sentence report relating to the felony cases. The Court also considered that Gathers case was a case where a victim was an otherwise unproductive citizen, being out of work and mentally handicapped, but yet a murdered human being. The parameters of special limitation upon the imposition of death penalty under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was considered with regard to the responsibility of fixing punishments and establishing procedures for crimes which are committed and their trials. The Court concluded that for the jury to assess the defendant's moral culpability and blameworthiness meaningfully, it should have before it at the sentencing phase evidence of the specific harm caused by the defendant. The Court considered this aspect cited from the dissenting Judgment in the case of Booth itself on page 517 "The State has a legitimate interest in counteracting the mitigating evidence which the defendant is entitled to put in, by reminding the sentencer that just as the murderer should be considered as an individual, so too the victim is an individual whose death represents a unique loss to society and in particular to his family" Booth, 482 U.S. At 517 (White, J., dissenting).
(9) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
The Court further considered the dissenting Judgment of Justice Ms. Sandra O'Connor in the case of Gathers at page 821 citing the case of Booth thus:
By turning the victim into a "faceless stranger at the penalty phase of a capital trial, Booth deprives the State of the full moral force of its evidence and may prevent the jury from having before it all the information necessary to determine the proper punishment for a first-degree murder.
The Court considered the case of Payne accepting the dictum in the dissenting Judgments in the case of Booth and Gathers thus: The present case is an example of the potential for such unfairness. The Court considered the evidence led on behalf of the defendant to show his goodness and hence concluded that even the evidence of the victim's grand mother could be received in evidence and considered by the jury and concluded:
there is nothing unfair about allowing the jury to bear in mind that harm at the same time as it considers the mitigating evidence introduced by the defendant.
The Court considered that under the aegis of the Eighth Amendment the broadest latitude was given to the defendant to introduce relevant mitigating evidence reflecting on his individual personality and consequently allowed the State to argue to the jury "the human cost of the crime" of which defendant stood convicted.
19. Following the dictum set out by Justice Benjamin Cardozo in Snyder Vs. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97 (1934), "justice, though due to the accused, is due to the accuser also. The concept of fairness must not be strained till it is narrowed to a filament. We are to keep the balance true", the Court held that the victim impact statement would not per se be barred under the Eighth Amendment thus:
(10) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
A State may legitimately conclude that evidence about the victim and about the impact of the murder on the victim's family is relevant to the jury's decision as to whether or not the death penalty should be imposed. There is no reason to treat such evidence differently than other relevant evidence is treated.
20. The above case demonstrates how far the rights of victims to be represented and be heard have gone. A critique of this system considering the rights of victims of crime has been aptly titled "Victims of Crime : The victim's right to speak; the nation's responsibility to listen"- the most natural incident of the Right of Natural Justice.
21. In India in the past the Judges have attempted to accord and confer the victim their rights in the criminal justice system. In the case of Vijay Valia Vs. State of Maharashtra, 1987 Mh.L.J. 49 whilst considering the question of appointment of Special Public Prosecutors, the Division Bench of this Court sounded the requirement of the Courts accepting the right of the victim to partake in the criminal prosecution for doing the victim justice. The Court in various paras observed thus :
Both the State and the private party have a right to prosecute the offender whether the offence is cognizable or non-cognizable, and the prosecution, whether launched by the private party or the State, is a prosecution on behalf of the State.
The right to be heard includes the right to be represented by an able spokesman of one's confidence. This right belongs both to the accused and the complainant. It is not only the accused who is in need of assistance and protection of his rights but also the complainant. In fact, it is to vindicate the rights and grievances of the complainant and through him, of the State, that the prosecution is launched- whether by the State or the private party.
......whenever there is a request made by a private party to engage an advocate of his choice to be paid for by him, the request should be granted as a rule. The complainant in such cases is either a victim of the offence or is related to the victim or otherwise an aggrieved (11) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
person. He has a right to be heard and vindicated. As stated earlier, the right to be heard implies a right to be effectively represented at the hearing of the case. He has therefore a right to engage an advocate of his choice. There is therefore no reason why the State should refuse him the permission to conduct the prosecution with the help of his advocate. If there are any reasons for refusal, they should be stated and communicated to him in writing.
22. In the case of Nilabati Behera (Smt) alias Lalita Behera Vs. State of Orissa & Ors. (1993) 2 SCC 746 the Supreme Court enjoined Court to 'evolve' new tools and mould the remedies for harm done variously. In that case death of a son of 22 years in police custody entitled a mother to compensation as an heir of the "victim" by way of monetary amends and redressal by the State since the death constituted violation of the Fundamental Right to Life by the State's instrumentalities or servants.
23. We may also consider the recommendatory history leading to this legislative enactment. The Code of Criminal Procedure was sought to be wholly amended in tune with the reforms suggested by the well known Malimath Committee constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India on 24th November, 2000 which submitted its Report popularly called the Malimath Committee Report to the Ministry of Home Affairs in March, 2003. Though the Report sought to make more than the usual cosmetic changes and indeed suggested recommendations in the areas of victims participation in trial and investigation and victim compensation by way of the grant of Rights of Victims of Crimes, even that committee's recommendations fell far short of the depth that the victim's place in the Indian criminal justice system merited.
24. The excerpts of the Report may be a guide to understanding the course of action that the legislature was to undertake : (1) "The victim not, being a party, have no role to play in the trial except (12) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
giving evidence as a witness."
(2) "The committee suggests that among the related parties in crime, the victim has the deepest interest in the 'vindication of justice'. Question remains how far the victim could co-operate with the prosecution when he/she is in a traumatic stage of his/her life and his /her interest is threatened by people behind the actual culprit."
(3) "Active participation of the victim during investigation would be helpful in discovering the truth and if the victim participates in the trial, the judge can maintain a neutral position and need not become part of investigation Machinery as in the Inquisitorial System".
The Report referred to the draft bill on the subject submitted to Govt. in 1995 by the Indian Society of Victimology as a tentative framework for consideration. (GOI 2003 Pg 271).
It also also recommended citation of victim compensation fund administered by Legal Service Authority (GOI 2003 Pg 271). " should provide for the scale of compensation for different offences for guidance of court & it may specify offences in which compensation may not be granted and conditions under which it may be awarded or withdrawn."
25. The State was not quick to reform the Criminal Justice System. History has exhibited the nadir of the rights of victims of crime in the years during which the noble aspirations and recommendations of the Malimath Committee ran parallel to the actual subjugation of the victims in at least certain parts of India eloquently observed in the case of Zahira Sheikh (supra) by the Supreme Court.
26. India has just begun to blossom into recognizing, accepting and (13) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
appreciating the right of a victim in the criminal justice system, where the victim had no place and the State alone prosecuted every crime until 2008 as an offence against the State. The first trace of their right and their plight came to be accepted by the legislature though at a much late stage when extensive amount of irreversible harm, damage, injury and hurt could have been done to the victim and his/her family.
27. An attempt at protecting the victim's rights and allowing their prosecution has been made for the first time under the proviso to Section 372 in Chapter XXIX dealing with appeals.
The noble principle :
"Hear those who cannot shout;
Listen to those who cannot speak"
for the first time found a foothold in our Criminal Justice System in which all but the most affected were heard.

28. The victims, even today, have no semblance of rights at the investigation stage and a feeble position at the trial stage of a criminal prosecution.
29. The hardship by neglect, intimidation or corruption that victim face during investigation may not be elucidated in this Judgment, but is known to all and demands that it be judicially noticed and accepted.
30. The amendment by way of the proviso to sub-section 8 of Section 24 relating to the appointment of public prosecutor hardly does lip service to the cause of the victim or can be expected to cause even a ripple in the tide of injustice that a victim suffers. Section 24(8) runs thus :
8. The Central Government or the State Government may appoint, for the purposes of any case or class of cases, a person who has been in practice as an advocate for not less than ten years as a Special (14) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
Public Prosecutor :
[Provided that the Court may permit the victim to engage an advocate of his choice to assist the prosecution under this sub- section.]
31. It is only after the victim is treated differently, and even unfairly and unequally as well as inequitably in the trial by only having a right to assist the public prosecutor upon the permission of the Court that the victim is given the specific right to prefer an appeal under the proviso to Section 372 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
32. The legislature, therefore, must be taken to have present to its mind the damage and harm that may have been caused to the victim in a trial prosecuted by the public prosecutor almost entirely with, at best, an assistance from the Advocate engaged by the victim, if permitted by the Court resulting in an acquittal or a conviction for the lesser offence or granting or imposing inadequate compensation that the legislature allowed the victim to right the wrong.
33. It need hardly be stated that even the rights granted by the legislature fall far short of the standards of fairness and equity expected of a vibrant democracy such as India. The legislature may do well to apply its mind in that behalf and make law taking directions from the Anglo American Jurisprudence that the citizens of this country equally deserve.
34. After the amendment of 2009 by the Amending Act 5 of 2009 the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court in its Judgment dated 07.07.2010 in the case of Sathyavani Ponrani Vs. Samuel Raj & Anr. in Cri. O.P. (MD) No. 5474 of 2010 considered the issue whether a victim was entitled to be heard and to take part in a criminal proceeding.
(15) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
35. For now this Judgment has to contend with an onslaught upon even the barest of the first semblance of the only absolute right given to the victim - the right to appeal.
36. Whether or not the victim has a right on par with the State (that he or she may have until then only assisted in the trial) or whether the victim has right on par with the accused to file the appeal would be seen from the comparative reading of the two sections in the chapter of appeals relating to the appeals by the victims and by the accused. Further whether or not a victim is required to be equated with a complainant in a private complaint would be a material aspect to consider. The cases in which the legislature has specifically granted no right of appeal would be required to be seen from the provisions relating to the bar of the right of appeal. Considering the various provisions in chapter XXIX in the Code of Criminal Procedure relating to appeals, the right of the victim to file the appeal would be placed. The relevant part of the contrasting and comparable sections have been critically appraised by the learned Amicus Curiae.
37. Section 372 - the head section runs thus :
372. No appeal to lie unless otherwise provided.- 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.
38. The section provides how any appeal from any Judgment or order of a criminal Court would lie as provided in that chapter. The Section preceded Sections 373 & 374 giving a right to appeal to the person required to keep peace and good behaviour or to provide a surety for a convict as also the absolute right to appeal against convictions by the accused. It also precedes Sections 375 & 376 barring the right to appeal in cases where the accused pleaded guilty and in petty cases. It also precedes Sections 377 & (16) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
378 which gave the right to the State to appeal the sentence and to appeal the acquittal. Under Section 378 it further provided the condition precedent to filing the appeal being obtaining of leave of the High Court in case of appeals by the State and special leave in case of appeals upon complaints i.e. private complaints filed by the complainant. The section also provided the right to appeal to the Supreme Court under Section 379 and the special right of appeal of more persons than one under Section 380. All these sections formed the Chapter of the Code of Criminal Procedure prior to the Amending Act 5 of 2009 adding the proviso to Section 372, the head section. The amending Act has not amended any other part of chapter XXIX dealing with the appeals. Consequently prior to 2009 all appeals filed were to be as provided in that chapter of the Code.
39. By the proviso which was to except that section or to qualify that section or to clarify that section the insertion of the victim's right came to be legislated thus :
[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.]
40. Consequently the chapter as amended would show that though none can file an appeal except as provided for in that chapter, the victim had a right to appeal.
That right is also circumscribed under 3 circumstances (1) acquittal, (2) conviction for lesser offence (3) inadequate compensation. The competent Court where the appeal would be filed has also been specified being where the appeal would lie against the order of conviction.
Hence the proviso provided for the right of the victim for the first time in the criminal jurisprudence of the country and specified the 3 cases when (17) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
such right was given and the only court where such rights could be exercised. In fact, it would, therefore, not be a far-fetched proposition to take the proviso to Section 372 as a complete Code in itself.
41. It may at once be mentioned that the legislature has yet not given the victim the absolute right to appeal against any order of the trial Court. The most significant absence is the right to appeal against the inadequate sentence. It may be apt to state that whereas this right could have been exercised in countless cases where the sentence imposed is the minimum imposable, it would be even more pronounced in cases of victims of rape and sexual offences where it is endemic that less than minimum sentence prescribed under the law is imposed and which has generated and entire separate jurisprudence on the issue. Be as it may, the largesse of the legislature in recognizing, accepting and granting the right of appeal to the victim in the aforesaid 3 circumstances is complete. It rings eloquent by the emphasized words "the victim shall have the right to prefer an appeal".
42. This right is unparalleled in the chapter of Appeals. There is no other who has been conferred a similar "right to prefer an appeal". The closest that one can get to such a right is the special right of appeal under Section 380 which applies to more than one convict and runs thus :
380. Special right of appeal in certain cases.- Notwithstanding anything contained in this Chapter, when more persons than one are convicted in one trial, and an appealable judgment or order has been passed in respect of any of such person, all or any of the persons convicted at such trial shall
have a right of appeal
43. The right of more than one convict may be seen alongside the right of a single convict under Section 374, the relevant part of which runs thus:
374. Appeals from convictions.- (1) Any person convicted on a trial held by a High Court in its extraordinary original criminal (18) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
jurisdiction may
appeal to the Supreme Court .
(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
Hence convicts are allowed to file an appeal against their conviction.
44. Similarly under Section 377 the State may appeal against the sentence thus:
377. Appeal by the State Government against sentence.- (1) Save as otherwise provided in sub-section (2), the State Government , may
in any case of conviction on a trial held by any Court other than a High Court, direct the Public Prosecutor to present [an appeal against the sentence on the ground of its inadequacy-
45. Under Section 378(1) the State may direct the Public Prosecutor to present an appeal from an order of acquittal, the relevant part of which runs thus:
378. Appeal in case of acquittal.- (1) Save as otherwise provided in sub-section (2), and subject to the provisions of sub-sections (3) and (5),-
(a) the District Magistrate may in any case, direct the Public ,
Prosecutor to present an appeal to the Court of Session from an order of acquittal.
which would be entertained only with leave of the Court under Section 378(3).
46. Similarly under Section 378(4) the complainant in a private appeal may present an appeal to the High Court, the relevant part of which runs thus:
(4) If such an order of acquittal is passed in any case instituted upon complaint and the High Court, on an application made to it by the complainant in this behalf, grants special leave to appeal from the (19) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
order of acquittal, the complainant may
present such an appeal
to the
High Court.
47. Whereas the victim shall have a right to appeal, the accused may have the right to appeal. Similarly the person ordered to give security or whose surety is rejected may appeal. A convict may appeal; only more than one convict shall have the right to appeal. The State may present an appeal. Similarly the private complainant may present an appeal, but subject to leave of Court.
48. The most material aspect to consider is why the victim has been given the substantive right to prefer an appeal under the proviso. In the criminal justice system as then prevailing, even upon the amending Act 5 of 2009, after the Malimath Committee Recommendations, as aforesaid, the victim played no substantial part in prosecuting the crime committed against him/her: the victim could only assist the prosecutor at best only subject to the magnanimity of the trial Court in permitting that Act. Much harm could have been done to the victim by such a system. That harm could then be remedied only in an appeal. Only the victim can bring forth the entire truth to the Appeal Court. That right, which is given after strictures came to be passed by the Supreme Court in the case of Zahira Shaikh (Supra) against the character of prosecution in that case and even after the penultimate amendment of 2005, was to right such wrong. It was not only a second opportunity at hearing. It would be the first proceeding of its kind to the victim. The victim would essentially be heard only in appeal that he/she prefers. The right of hearing hitherto restricted and even denied is for the first time granted. The victim would have to show the Court what miscarriage of justice had taken place which prompted him or her to exercise that right of appeal. It is the victim for whom the Justice System was created in the first place. Yet it is common knowledge requiring judicial notice, that the victims are a neglected lot. They are, at best, wholly (20) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
ignored. Heeding what was the social scenario at and before the amendment was brought about and its effect upon the society, law, as an instrument of social welfare, came to the rescue of the victims who were then not only the victim of the particular crime but victims in the criminal justice system itself, then neglected and even violated -"Re-victimised"- as has been critiqued certain researchers and jurists of our Justice System. The denial of the rights of the victim were under manifold circumstances which propelled the legislature into recognizing and granting the victims the specific right to file the appeal which hitherto they did not have. The rights of the victim were, of course, jeopardized, curtailed, restricted, neglected or breached at all stages of the criminal machinery some damage and harm done may be fatal and may not be restorative or remediable e.g. if an important witness is not examined at all by the investigating officer and the victim, not being in charge of the investigation, is unable to assist or even help himself/herself. Similarly at the trial stage an important witness may not be examined leaving an unfillable hole in the prosecution case which would directly affect the victim's human rights.
The harm and damage could also be done by an ineffective prosecution at the appeal stage. This Court must take judicial notice of the efficacy of the prosecution before itself and appreciate how the legislature, though late in the day took note of that situation and sought to remedy it by putting in the hands of the victim the carriage of the proceedings hitherto unavailable to him/her.
The law, for the first time, sought to remedy that situation albeit at a later hour - after the trial in an appeal so that the victim can lay bare the facts of the case to the Appeal Court and to demonstrate before the Appeal Court the miscarriage of justice done to him/her directly. The fact that an appeal may be filed from an order of acquittal is not all and is not enough. The worth of the appeal can be seen from the case made out by the prosecution in appeal. The practice of the prosecution is to (21) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
the knowledge of the Court. The prosecutor who prosecutes the trial never prosecutes the appeal. It is he/she alone who knows the merits of the prosecution case shown to the trial Court but not appreciated or accepted. He/she must file the appeal. That is not done. Another prosecutor in the Appeal Court files the appeal not knowing the nuances of the case or its strong points. It is the victim who knows his/her case better. It is the victim who can assist the Court better. It is that victim who alone was until the amendment of 2009 sidelined, ignored and kept down. It is he/she who is then sought to be given a right until then denied to him/her. It is, therefore, not in not filing the appeal against acquittal, but in not prosecuting such appeal that a departure was merited and has been done. The appeal by the victim is, therefore, on a different footing. It is of a person who knows the nuances of the case and who seeks to bring the hitherto unappreciated facts to light. In short it is he/she who would exhibit the truth of the case which another impersonal authority has been shown not to have known or cared for.
49. The victim in a private complaint is in a diametrically different position. That is the victim who has prosecuted the private complaint as a complainant. He/she was in control of the criminal prosecution. He/she decided who would be his/her witnesses and after a full and unfettered prosecution his complaint came to be rejected by an acquittal of the accused. Upon such complaint, filing the appeal under Section 378(4) would then require special leave from the High Court to appeal. That would be the leave granted to that complainant which would give the complainant a second opportunity to prosecute his case.
50. It would be, therefore, too myopic a view to say that the private complainant could be placed on par with the first informant. These complainants come from wholly different worlds. They set the wheels of (22) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
justice moving in wholly different spheres. Whereas one stands on his own feet and is in control of his proceeding, the other is left to the vagaries of the investigating agency and the prosecuting agency. There is nothing he/she can do in the investigation; there is little he/she can do in a prosecution. The only place he/she could be heard is in the appeal so far.
51. Consequently the victim, an expression defined in Section 3(wa), being a person who has suffered loss or injury by reason of the act of the accused is the first informant in a police case and not the complainant in a private complaint. Whereas the victim has the absolute right to prefer an appeal, the complainant may present an appeal with leave of the Court only. Whereas the victim, therefore, has a free and unfettered right to speak, the complainant does not. Whereas the victim speaks eloquent for the first time, the complainant reiterates his/her case.
52. The right of the victim to speak, therefore, corresponds with the obligation of the Court to listen and that listening is a must for the right to be free, full and unfettered; it cannot be shackled upon leave granted by the Court, the hearing of which the Court is obligated to listen. Requiring the victim to obtain leave would mean that it is trammeled by what the Court deems fit to do. The Court in the case of the victim has no right to use its discretion, sagacity or wisdom to decide whether or not a given victim may appeal a judgment of acquittal, lesser offence or inadequate compensation. The Court would be duty bound to hear the appeal on merits and allow it or dismiss it on merits. To grant the Court the right to give leave would be to denude the only right of the victim granted to him or her in Indian criminal jurisprudence. That could never be envisaged to be the intention of the legislature when the proviso was inserted as an exception/qualification/clarification to the head section of the chapter dealing with the appeals demonstrating in no uncertain terms that though (23) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
all appeals would be guided by the Code, the victim shall have the right of appeal.
53. The debate about the extent of the right of the victim is on the premise that the victim must be equated with the State or the private complainant; the right to accused to be kept at bay on a special pedestal. Hence the argument is focused on and around only the right to file appeal against acquittal. This, however, misses the truism that the victim is also given the statutory right to appeal a lesser offence or inadequate compensation.
With whom would that right of appeal be equated ?
What would be the parameters of leave in cases of appeals against inadequate compensation or conviction for lesser offence ? If the victims may bring forth their appeals on those aspects, why not against a full acquittal, which would be for more gross an injury to the victim than a lesser sentence in a conviction upon a lesser offence or mere inadequate compensation ?
54. Those appeals do not fall within the parameters of Section 378 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Consequently the requirement of obtaining leave of the High Court to file an appeal cannot be read into the provision with regard to the substantive right given to the victim to file such appeal.
55. The proviso sets out not only the appeals against the acquittal which a victim can file but also the aforesaid two other appeals. None has argued that in case of appeals against a lesser offence or inadequate compensation, leave of the High Court is required to be obtained because there is no such provision in the earlier Code in that regard. If, therefore, for such appeals leave need not be obtained and the Court may consider the (24) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
merit of the appeals upon its filing, there is no particular reason why the appeals against acquittals only could be singled out for leave. In fact, an appeal against acquittal would be a more serious appeal by a victim since the accused is wholly acquitted and not even convicted for a lesser offence. The appeal in case compensation granted as per Section 357 or 357-A would seek to right a lesser prejudice caused to the victim. There is no provision for obtaining leave in those cases. It, therefore, would not stand to reason that for a case in which the accused is wholly acquitted the victim would be able to prosecute an appeal not per se but only if permitted by the Court and would have to stand the additional scrutiny of the Court for showing the Court the merits of his/her case.
56. If the victim was required to take leave to appeal an acquittal only, why would the legislature not provide for such requirement expressly ? This question would be more acute since the legislature has provided expressly for the requirement of leave by the State as well as the private complainant both of whom have prosecuted the crime and have failed. If that was so, the legislature could have provided for the additional appeal by a victim by incorporating another sub-para in Section 378 itself in the same terms as Section 378 (4). But the legislature added a proviso setting out an exception to the whole chapter of appeals in conferring the right to the victim to appeal instead. There are no consequential amendments to Section 378. The procedural requirement about the application and grant of the leave of the High Court has remained unchanged. It would apply with all force in case of State appeals as also appeals by complainant in private complaints, but none else. Reading into such a proviso away from the other provisions of leave in Section 378, a mandate for leave would be to re-write the legislation and to go against its implicit intention. That would do injustice to the amendment and the mischief that it sought to remedy. That would also lead to anomaly and absurdity not be contemplated by the (25) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
legislature. Since the particular procedural requirement is not provided, it must be taken to be intended to be excluded or exempted upon reading the statute as a whole.
57. The question whether a private complainant would take recourse to the provision to Section 372 is not threatening. A complainant in a private complaint, even if he/she has been the victim of the offence, would not fall under the said proviso as a victim since the appeal to be filed by him has been separately contemplated under the specific provision being Section 378(4). Hence though describing him as a victim, which inclusive definition came to be incorporated in the Criminal Procedure Code only alongside the incorporation of the proviso to Section 372, it would apply only to those who fall within the proviso. The complainant in a private complaint would not be able to avoid the scrutiny of the Court for being granted the leave contemplated in Section 378(4) which provision stands.
58. The argument that the action under Section 390 of the Criminal Procedure Code would not be taken in an appeal filed by the victim would be as much true if it is filed after leave of the Court. The provisions with regard to the arrest of the accused or otherwise procuring the presence of the accused would be in the discretion of the Court and be guided under the directions of the Court to that end. The provisions of Section 437-A would suffice.
Modification of the regular practice and procedure of the Appeal Court as required upon a new provision coming into effect setting out the new right of a person would not in any manner require curtailment, restriction or modification of that right itself.
59. The situation that there would be plurality of appeals must also not deter in the true construction of the provisio. The case of Zahira Sheikh (26) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
(supra) is a telling demonstrative reflection of this position. There is, therefore, no anomaly in the fact that even if leave is refused to the State the victim could be able prosecute the appeal. That is the ultimate justice that the victim could avail to herself/himself by his own effort, endevour and exercise. In fact it is reflective of the present situation in which the victim must bear the brunt of refusal of appeal of the prosecution without having a say in it. The fact that in a given case leave may be refused to the State, but the victims would be heard in appeal is the contemplated check. If such an appeal ultimately results in reversal of acquittal it would be the ultimate test of the melody and the remedy for such melody.
The plurality of appeals against the accused cannot be stated not to have been contemplated. It is upon the specific social scenario that the amendment came to be expressly made. The accused would, therefore, have to stand the appeal by the State and/or the victim since both the appeals are expressly contemplated under the Criminal Procedure Code.
60. Similarly the refrain that victim is to be put on a higher pedestal than the State itself, which prosecutes the crime on behalf of the victim is not to empathize with his/her plight in the Criminal Justice System. The provisions relating to appeal against acquittal by the State were introduced in 1974 requiring all appeals by the State to be filed only in the High Court even from orders of acquittal of Magistrate upon obtaining leave of the High Court. This was as the legislature was abreast of the fact that they were unmerited acquittals which had to be corrected by a higher Court. Though it is true that in western democracies there is no right of appeal to the prosecution at all, the legislature accepted and conceded that in our country such a right must be given to the State precisely to undo any miscarriage of justice by an undeserved acquittal. Experience has shown, and of which judicial notice is required to be taken, that filing of appeals by the State (27) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
would be dependent upon the view taken by the officer of the State who is not a victim himself but would only want a judicial adjudication by a higher Court. The filing of the appeal as also its prosecution would, therefore, be a rather impersonal act critiqued as being exercised rather arbitrarily. The grant of leave to the victim would, therefore, be a major step in the checks and balances upon an act of the State. The victim is not shown to be competing with the State at all; the victim is shown to substitute for or supplement the State. Even if the State does not appeal, the victim can. Even if the State appeals, the victim separately can. Of course, both the appeals, which would be in the same Court where appeals against the order of conviction would lie as per the express mandate in the proviso to Section 372 itself, they would be heard together as an expedient Court management practice. There would be no strain as judicial time. Each may show its own point of view to the Appeal Court to correct an error of the trial Court.
61. The victims' rights are considered alongside and on par with that of the accused. Whereas the accused appeals from an order of conviction, the victim appeals from an order of acquittal, lesser offence or inadequate compensation. Since the right of the accused to appeal is absolute, (though denoted by the word 'may') so has been made the right of the victim (in fact, denoted by the word 'shall'.) Both would be equally prejudiced from an order of acquittal or an order of conviction as the case may be. Both are the parties who have been harmed or prejudiced by the order of the trial Court. They prosecute their personal rights as human beings. Their's are, therefore, human rights which are to be considered. The power balancing which is required to be done by the State has been done albeit at only the appellate stage. Consequently a victim of crime is not left to the arbitrariness or the vagaries of the State officials and not left to accept any verdict in which he/she does not play an effective part for its (28) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
final determination at least in the appeal.
Stating, as in the Judgment of Bhikabai (supra), that the right of the victim required to be balanced indeed requires the power balancing to be done. Such power balancing is not to treat equals equally - The State and the victim - but to treat unequals equally - the victim and the accused, a situation brought about by the social position that prevailed at the time and well before the amendment was made when it was rife.
62. The later part of the proviso to Section 372 further reflects the comparative position of the victim with the accused. It requires appeals of the victim (of all the 3 types mentioned in the further part of the proviso) to be filed in the Court in which the appeals against convictions (by the accused) would be filed. This provision of the Code shows that the victim is put on par with the accused and not the State. The power balancing is done with the accused and not the State. The comparison of the rights of the victim would also, therefore, be with the accused and not the State. The victim and the State, who were meant to complement one another, would go hand in hand if all is well. But if not, the victim's rights which had hitherto been jeopardized or at least prejudiced are sought to be recognized and granted.
63. The debate as to with whom the right of the victim could be equated is, therefore, set at rest. The victim is given a special place in an appellate jurisdiction. He/she can neither be equated with the State whose work for prosecuting the crime has been bypassed by the victim's self-help, hitherto unaccepted, or with a private complainant who may present an appeal subject to special leave of the Court. He/She shall stand tall - shoulder to shoulder with the accused.
64. The plain meaning implicit in the substantive right granted by (29) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
the legislature to the victim is to grant the victim the right which was otherwise not available. It demonstrates the fact that the right of appeal given to the State was not sufficient, adequate and enough for the victim's rights and notwithstanding the fact that the State had a right to appeal from an order of acquittal, the victim was also granted the right to appeal from the order of acquittal, lesser offence or inadequate compensation.
65. A proviso shows an exception to the Section that may qualify the main enactment. Ergo, the proviso to Section 372 of the Code of Criminal Procedure shows that no matter what is the position in the Code of Criminal Procedure, the right of appeal is given to the victim and that is not only as provided in the Code. It is an unqualified right and could be exercised not only as provided in the Code (i.e. not only with leave of the Court). It is a right untremmelled by other procedural provisions and requirements - to cite - the leave of the Court. It is, therefore, improper to be shackled by the position of the past in which a victim plays no role at all in the criminal justice system and to say that the victim cannot claim to be on higher pedestal in a criminal prosecution than the State and that such can never been the intention of the legislature. The intention of the legislature is writ large in the proviso which gives the substantive right to prefer three types of appeals only to the victim, no matter what else is provided in the Code.
66. True it is that the requirement of leave is a sifting provision, it sifts the frivolous and vexatious appeals from the meritorious ones. It, therefore, separates the grain from the chaff. The aspect of leave is akin to an admission of the appeal. The appeal itself could be dismissed upon following the procedure under Section 384 of the Criminal Procedure Code if no merit is shown by the victim. However that would be the final dismissal of the appeal on merits and not only analogous to an appeal being (30) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
not admitted as prima facie not reflecting merit. The material aspect to consider is that a victim having had his/her human rights violated is entitled to a full and unfettered hearing without the permission of the judicial authority that is obligated to hear him/her but as a matter of right that is a writ large in the proviso "................ the victim shall have the right to prefer an appeal...........", no matter that the provisions of the Code provided for any other restrictions.
67. The effect of Heyden's rule/mischief rule in the criminal jurisprudence would not be more striking and poignant as in this amendment. It is the mischief that is done by the State in either not investigating the case properly or in not prosecuting the case efficiently that the right has been given to the victim and remains unparalleled, albeit yet only in appeal. It is a harbinger for other rights which would be expected to flow from this source for all citizens.
68. It is almost cliche to state the Rule in Heyden's Case 1584 3 Co. Rep.7a, but it shows 4 aspects to be discerned and considered to interpret statutes, the last of which would be of particular relevance and importance in view of the fact that the provision of leave, not expressly made, is sought to be read into the proviso to Section 372 of the Cr.P.C. The 4 things set out in Maxwell's interpretation of statutes while setting out Heyden's Rule are :
(1st). What was the common law before the making of the Act. (2nd). What was the mischief and defect for which the common law did not provide. (3rd). What remedy the Parliament hath resolved and appointed to cure the disease of the commonwealth. And, (4th). The true reason of the remedy; and then the office of all the Judges is always to make such construction as shall suppress the mischief, and advance the remedy, and to suppress subtle inventions and evasions for continuance of the mischief, and pro privato commodo, and to add force and life to the cure and remedy, according to the true intent of the makers of the Act, pro bono (31) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
69. The subtle invention, by addition of the requirement of leave, sought to be made is, therefore, to "suppress" the remedy by construing the proviso such not to read into it what is not written into it allowing it also to remain in the domain of literal interpretation, without more. The further interpretation would rest on the noble principle that the interpretation of any statute must be such as would advance justice and not frustrate it. That would take us further in the direction of doing justice, long overdue, to the victims of crime. Reading into the proviso the requirement of obtaining leave would take the victims further behind on their long road to justice which they have just begun to trod. It would consume time in the procedural requirement whilst the accused who has been acquitted may abscond before he is brought to justice. Even if the procedural requirement of taking out the application for leave is undertaken, it would consume time to obtain leave on merits before which the appeal of the victim would not even be registered and no legal process may issue thereupon. The victim would be put on par with the State which has to undertake this exercise. Hence, the only difference of roles would be that the State would not even come to prosecute the appeal and the victim would have to take upon himself/herself the entire burden, substantive and procedural to right the wrong due to him/her by the State in the trial Court without any corresponding benefit or right as a separate, distinct entity in the Appeal Court. The much recommended and desired change would thus dwindle down to nothing.
These are the "subtle inventions" which the Court must suppress which construing the proviso in its true spirit.
In Re Newspaper Proprietors Agreement 1964 1 WLR 31 H.L. the House (32) Cr. Appeals 991, 992, 331 & 854/11
of Lords accepted the dissenting judgment inter alia of Lord Denning MR to hold that the Register of Agreements required to be maintained by the Registrar under Section 1(2) of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956, for contracts entered into applied to terminated contracts as well for then alone would the mischief that the Act sought to curtail would be curtailed. The beneficial interpretation would "suppress subtle inventions" of parties trying to wriggle out of the provisions of registration by terminating those contracts.
In our case, the right to bring before the Appeal Court the merits of the matter would be denuded and diluted by the various road blocks that leave would necessitate when the legislature specifically refrained from putting the victim on par with the State or the private complainant in the Section relating to appeals - Section 378 of the Cr.P.C. - and put them in the head section excepting them from the rigours of the procedure relating to appeals. There is, therefore, no need or requirement to read into the proviso any procedural act which would denude it if its effectiveness or the read down the express statutory right.
70. In the result, I hold that the victim is not required to apply for or obtain leave of the Court to file any of the appeals under the proviso to section 372. Appeals to be placed before the appropriate Court for hearing.
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