Section 378 of the code of criminal procedure (CrPC) provides a right of appeal against acquittal. The State is responsible for filing the appeal because it plays the role of the prosecution in the criminal trial. After the amendment in section 372 CrPC, a victim also has the right to file such an appeal.
Appeal against acquittal
You can file an appeal from the order of acquittal. Furthermore, an appeal is not a matter of right. A person can file an appeal only when the law permits. Before the amendment act of 2009, the victim had no right to appeal against acquittal. Now the victim can file such appeal only when the state does not prefer an appeal against the order of acquittal.
When can the victim file an appeal under section 372 crpc?
This is a crucial question because the state (prosecution) has the prerogative to challenge the order of the trial court. In respect of an appeal against acquittal, now the state has no such prerogative. A victim has the concurrent right to prefer an appeal. But this is not an absolute right. He can prefer such appeal only when the state (prosecution) does not file an appeal against the order of acquittal.
Section 372 CrPC is amended and now read as:
“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.”
Before this amendment, the victim had the right to file a revision from the order of acquittal. The revisional court could not amend that order except to remand the case for re-trial. Thus the victim had little scope against the acquittal of the accused. Now he can exercise the right of appeal in these three situations.
- Against acquittal of the accused, or
- When the accused has convicted for a lesser offence, or
- Awarded inadequate compensation to the victim
Leave of the court
Section 372 crpc confers right on the victim to file an appeal but it does not provide the procedure for appeal against acquittal. Section 378 crpc provides the procedure for such an appeal. So the victim has to follow the procedure laid down in Section 378 crpc.
According to subsection 3 of section 378, crpc permission of the High Court is mandatory for appeal against acquittal. This section says that no appeal shall be entertained without leave of the High Court. Some High Courts have held that victims can prefer an appeal under section 372 crpc without prior leave of the court.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has finally settled this issue. In Satya Pal Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh [Criminal Appeal No. 1315 of 2015], the court held that a victim cannot appeal against acquittal without leave of the High Court. Thus you must get leave of the court before filing such an appeal.
The limitation period for appeal against acquittal
Section 372 crpc does not provide any limitation period for such an appeal. Subsection 5 of section 378 provides a period of limitation for appeal against acquittal. A private complainant can move an application for granting special leave to appeal within sixty days from the date of order of acquittal. In Satya Pal Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court made clear that there is a sixty days period of limitation for such leave.
Scope of such an appeal
In the appeal, you will have an opportunity to raise all the objections against the acquittal. The appeal against acquittal has great significance to relate to the victim. You can produce any evidence to prove that the order of acquittal is illegal or unjustified.
In Chandrappa vs State of Karnataka AIR 2007 SC, it is held by the supreme court that the appellate court has vast power in appeal. It can reappreciate or reconsider all the evidence which was produced before the trial court.
Thus, an appeal is the last opportunity for you to re-make your case in the appellate court. But you cannot raise a new fact against the acquittal. You may reproduce those evidence or material which had been ignored or illegally relied by the trial court.
Power of appellate court
The appellate court can reverse the order of the trial court if it finds some impediments in the judgment. An order of acquittal raises a strong presumption of innocence in favour of the accused. Therefore, if the appellate court finds that the accused may or may not be guilty then it shall not interfere in the judgment. The benefit of the doubt always goes in favour of the accused.
The Supreme Court has opined that the appellate court should not disturb the finding of acquittal if two reasonable conclusions are possible from the record of the case.
The supreme court holds that the order of acquittal shall be altered when an appellate court found that some manifest illegality vitiates the approach of the trial court. When a trial court conclusion would not be arrived at by any reasonable person, and the trial court gives the perverse decision.
You should file an appeal within the period of limitation. If the order of acquittal has some illegality then the appellate court may reverse the order of the trial court.