SC recognises victims right to appeal in criminal cases

SC recognises victims right to appeal in criminal cases

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a victim of a criminal offence can file an appeal in superior courts challenging acquittal or lesser sentence awarded to the accused.

The top court, in a landmark judgement, held that besides the state, a victim can also file an appeal under Section 372 of the Criminal Procedure Code without prior approval of the appellate court.

Notably, Section 372 of the CrPC has been amended by Parliament on December 30, 2009, stating 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.

The issue arose before the top court after the Karnataka HC dismissed an appeal filed by legal representatives of Mallikarjun Kodagali, now dead as not maintainable. The HC had upheld a judgement, acquitting a then MLA and others in a case of attack on Kodagali registered on February 6, 2009 in Bagalkot. The HC also noted that the incident had taken place prior to the amendment to the law that had given the victims' a right to appeal.

Deciding the issue by a 2:1 majority judgement, a three-judge bench presided over by Justice M B Lokur said that Section 372 of CrPC (which deals with provision of appeals in criminal cases) has to be given "realistic, liberal, progressive" interpretation to benefit the victim of an offence.

Justice Lokur, who wrote the judgement for himself and Justice S Abdul Nazeer, said "there is no doubt that the proviso to Section 372 of the CrPC must be given life, to benefit the victim of an offence" and also referred to the United Nation's General Assembly's resolution to hold that besides the State, the victims are also entitled to appeal against the acquittal of the accused.

Third judge Justice Deepak Gupta dissented with the majority on sole issue as to whether victims can file the appeal without the prior leave or sanction from the appellate courts and took note of the rights of the accused in this regard."I am unable to agree with my learned brother that a victim can file an appeal in the High Court without seeking leave to appeal in terms of Section 378(3) of CrPC," Justice Gupta said.