Does a victim of crime need to seek the high court’s permission to appeal against the acquittal of the accused? A division bench of the Bombay high court, on Wednesday, gave a split verdict over the issue; the matter will now be decided by a third judge or a larger bench of the high court.
The split judgment came in view of two separate cases where one of the division bench judges, justice VM Kanade, held that the victim’s right to appeal against an acquittal is absolute. If the victim is granted the right to appeal, he or she can contest an acquittal or a lesser punishment awarded an accused without depending on the state government — which prosecutes the accused — to appeal.
However, if the court decides against such pleas, the victim will have to file a leave of appeal, whereby the high court may or may not permit him to file an appeal against the acquittal.
However, justice AM Thipsay differed in his view and observed that the legislation had not placed the victim’s right over that of the state government. He also said that in some cases, there may be more than one victim who may file several appeals and these appeals, therefore, cannot be entertained without the scrutiny of the HC.
One of the cases the court was hearing was regarding the attack on lawyer Manohar Shetty, who was shot at by his younger brother Mohan Shetty in 2008. Mohan was acquitted by the sessions court.
Arguing for Manohar, senior counsel Shirish Gupte and Racheeta Dhuru argued that the victim must not be left at the mercy of the state government to contest an acquittal in an offence against him. They argued that the government does not file an appeal in every case of acquittal.
In the other case, senior counsel Ashok Mundargi and Swapna Kode, arguing for Nilesh Harkulkar, whose brother was assaulted and killed by some vendors after a fight, told the court that according to a proviso in section 372 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the victim had an inherent right to appeal against an acquittal.
The case will now be referred to the chief justice to be placed either before a third judge or a larger bench to hear the matter and pass an order.