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Findings of fact recorded by court can be held perverse if it arrived by ignoring material fact: SC

Raveen Kumar v State of Himachal Pradesh

CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 2187-88 of 2011

October 26, 2020.

The present case was decided by the Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hrishikesh Roy. The appellant in the present case was charged under Section 20 of the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (“NDPS Act”) for being in possession of charas and the same was seized. However, the trial court has acquitted the accused on the ground that the possession of it was not proved beyond reasonable doubt. The respondent- state has appealed before the High Court whereby the High Court held that the reasoning of the trial court was fallacious and reversed the acquittal and imposed a sentence of two years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs.50,000/-. The appellant has filed an appeal against the judgment of High Court before the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court analyzed the following questions of law:

(1) What is the scope and essence of the High Court’s appellate jurisdiction against a judgment of acquittal?

(2) What is the extent of reliance upon a document with which the other side was not confronted with during cross examination? and

(3) Whether non examination of independent witnesses vitiates the prosecution case?

(4) Considering that the question of sentencing arose for the first time before the High Court, the possibility of taking a lenient view in the present circumstances also requires consideration?

In answering the first question as to the scope of appeal in cases of acquittal, the court has referred to the State of UP v. Banne, (2009) 4 SCC 271, Babu v. State of Kerala, (2010) 9 SCC 189, and Ram Jag v. State of UP, (1974) 4 SCC 201.

The court observed that,

There is, therefore, no legal necessity for us to re-appreciate the entire evidence merely on the premise that the High Court has convicted the appellant for the first time in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. Instead, the scope of the present appeals ought to be restricted to test whether the trial Court’s order was indeed perverse and whether the High Court’s re-appreciation of evidence and consequent conviction was founded on cogent evidence.(Para 14)

Answering the second issue as to placing reliance on prosecution’s reply to bail application, the court referred to its judgment in Sita Ram Bhau Patil v. Ramchandra Nago Patil, (1977) 2 SCC 49. The court has observed that the reply filed in the court proceedings, at best, can be treated as admission and the same must not only be proved but also be confronted to the opposite party during cross examination. As in the present case, the PW5 was not confronted regarding the same no weight can be adduced to it and upheld the note of high court in this regard.

The court also observed that:

This Court has very illustratively, in State of UP v. Banne; (2009) 4 SCC 271, ¶ 28., listed circumstances were interference of an appellate Court against acquittal would be justified. These would include patent errors of law, grave miscarriage of justice, or perverse findings of fact. In turn, Babu v. State of Kerala; (2010) 9 SCC 189, ¶ 20, clarified that “findings of fact recorded by a court can be held to be perverse if the findings have been arrived at by ignoring or excluding relevant material or by taking into consideration irrelevant/inadmissible material” or if they are ‘against the weight of evidence’ or if they suffer from the ‘vice of irrationality’. (Para 12)

Answering the third question, the court observed that PW 1, an independent witness who was later declared as hostile by prosecution admitted in the cross examination that he is literate and has duly perused the contents of the document before signing them. The court has upheld the reasons which were given by the High Court as to how the testimony of the PW1 substantially supports the prosecution case.

The court has answered the fourth question in the following words:

After having given a very generous consideration to the appellant’s age and circumstances, as well as the delay in trial and appeal, we feel that it would serve the interests of justice to simply not disturb the sentence of two years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs.50,000 which has been awarded by the High Court.(Para 23)

Subsequently, appeals were dismissed and respondent-state was directed to take the appellant into custody.

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Lalitha Sarvani. A



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