Supreme Court on Appeal against Acquittal

72. The following principles emerge from the cases above:

1. The appellate court may review the evidence in appeals against acquittal under sections 378 and 386 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Its power of reviewing evidence is wide and the appellate court can reappreciate the entire evidence on record. It can review the trial court’s conclusion with respect to both facts and law.

2. The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.The accused possessed this presumption when he was before the trial court. The trial court’s acquittal bolsters the presumption that he is innocent.

3. Due or proper weight and consideration must be given to the trial court’s decision. This is especially true when a witness’ credibility is at issue. It is not enough for the High Court to take a different view of the evidence. There must also be substantial and compelling reasons for holding that trial court was wrong.

73. In light of the above, the High Court and other appellate courts should follow the well settled principles crystallized by number of judgments if it is going to overrule or otherwise disturb the trial court’s acquittal:

1. The appellate court may only overrule or otherwise disturb the trial court’s acquittal if it has “very substantial and compelling reasons” for doing so. A number of instances arise in which the appellate court would have “very substantial and compelling reasons” to discard the trial court’s decision. “Very substantial and compelling reasons” exist when:

i) The trial court’s conclusion with regard to the facts is palpably wrong;

ii) The trial court’s decision was based on an erroneous view of law;

iii) The trial court’s judgment is likely to result in “grave miscarriage of justice”;

iv) The entire approach of the trial court in dealing with the evidence was patently illegal;

v) The trial court’s judgment was manifestly unjust and unreasonable;

vi) The trial court has ignored the evidence or misread the material evidence or has ignored material documents like dying declarations/ report of the Ballistic expert, etc.

vii) This list is intended to be illustrative, not exhaustive.

2. The Appellate Court must always give proper weight and consideration to the findings of the trial court.

3. If two reasonable views can be reached – one that leads to acquittal, the other to conviction – the High Courts/appellate courts must rule in favour of the accused.

See Surajpal Singh & Others v. State, AIR 1952 SC 52, Tulsiram Kanu vs. The State, AIR 1954 SC 1, Madan Moha Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1954 SC 637, Atley v. State of U.P AIR 1955 SC 807, Aher Raja Khima v. State of Saurashtra AIR 1956 SC 217, M.G. Aggarwal vs. State of Maharashtra AIR 1963 SC 200, Noor Khan v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1964 SC 286, Khedu Mohton & Others v. State of Bihar (1970) 2 SCC 450, Shivaji Sahabro Bobade & Another v. State of Maharashtra (1973) 2 SCC 793, Lekha Yadav v. State of Bihar (1973) 2 SCC 424, Khem Karan & Others v. State of U.P. & Another AIR 1974 SC 1567, Bishan Singh & Others v. The State of Punjab (1974) 3 SCC 288, Umedbhai Jadavbhai v. The State of Gujrat (1978) 1 SCC 228, B.N. Mutto & Another v. Dr. T.K. Nandi (1979) 1 SCC 361, Tota Singh & Another v. State of Punjab (1987) 2 SCC 529, Ram Kumar v. State of Haryana 1995 supp. (1) SCC 248, Madan Lal v. State of J&K, (1997) 7 SCC 677, Sambasivan & Others v. State of Kerala (1998) 5 SCC 412, Bhagwan Singh & Ors. v. State of M.P. (2002) 4 SCC 85, Harijana Thirupala & Others v. Public Prosecutor High Court of A.P. Hyderabad (2002) 6 SCC 470, C. Antony v. K.G. Raghavan Nair (2003) 1 SCC 1, State of Karnataka v. K. Gopalkrishan, (2005) 9 SCC 291, The State of Goa v. Sanjay Thakran (2007) 3 SCC 755, State of Rajasthan v. Raja Ram (2003) 8 SCC 180 & Chandrappa & Others v. State of Karnataka (2007) 4 SCC 415.

Supreme Court
Ghurey Lal Vs. State of U.P, (2008) 10 SCC 450