The Supreme Court has said that the jurisdiction of high courts in reversing an acquittal after re-appreciating the evidence was “extremely narrow” and could be done only in cases of “miscarriage of justice” during trial.
“…the revisional jurisdiction of the high courts while examining an order of acquittal is extremely narrow and ought to be exercised only in cases where the trial court had committed a manifest error of law or procedure or had overlooked and ignored relevant and material evidence thereby causing miscarriage of justice,” said an apex court bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a judgment delivered Monday.
“Re-appreciation of evidence is an exercise that the high court must refrain from while examining an order of acquittal in the exercise of its revisional jurisdiction under the Code (of Criminal Procedure)”, said Justice Gogoi pronouncing the judgment.
“If within the limited parameters, interference of the high court is justified the only course of action that can be adopted is to order a re-trial after setting aside the acquittal. As the language of Section 401 of the Code makes it amply clear there is no power vested in the high court to convert a finding of acquittal into one of conviction,” the court said.
The court was hearing a case in which a woman, Anusuya, died of burn injuries April 19, 2000.
The prosecution alleged she died after her husband Venkatesan poured kerosene on her and set her on fire. Both Venkatesan and Anusuya were married in 1998.
Venkatesan was acquitted by the trial court. The Madras High Court by its April 27, 2006, verdict while remanding the case for fresh consideration reversed the acquittal verdict, holding that acquittal order suffered from certain inherent flaws.
Anusuya’s mother had moved the high court invoking its revisional jurisdiction.
The apex court while setting aside April 27, 2006, order of the high court held that “the view taken by the trial Court in acquitting the accused cannot be held to be a view impossible of being reached”.
The deficiencies pointed out by the high court when “juxtaposed against the reasoning of the trial court, appear to have been adequately answered by the trial court in the light of the evidence and the material brought before it”.