Honourable Acquittal

“The Judge’s role when interpreting the statue is like that of an artist drawing a picture. The frame of the picture and the artist’s tools must always be drawn from the text of the statute, it’s structure and the history, but there must also be some measure of the artist’s own vision and understanding”- Fali Nariman.

It is only because of the judicial interpretation of the terms like “Acquittal” or “Honorable Acquittal” over the period of time which helps us to have proper understanding of the same. The term “Acquittal” and “Honorable Acquittal” have not been precisely defined under the Cr.P.C. and to add on even the term “Benefit of doubt” does not have an exhaustive definition. It is only upon the role played by the Hon’ble court and the judges, by the application of various principles that these terms been given proper understanding.

The courts by its decisions and by application of the principles of innocence and the burden of prosecution to prove, have now been able to recognize the principle of benefit of doubt. Giving a precise definition to these terms would be a herculean task for the court as each case is to be judged based upon its respective facts.

Before we go into the understanding of the concept of honorable acquittal, it would be beneficial to first understand what is that thin line of difference between “Acquittal by extending benefit of doubt” and “Honorable Acquittal”?

ACQUITTAL BY EXTENDING BENEFIT OF DOUBT

The term “benefit of doubt” or “beyond reasonable doubt” has not been precisely defined under the Indian Evidence Act. It is reasonably presumed that the onus to prove the guilt of the accused shall lie on the prosecution, and if he fails to prove the charges leveled, or if there was no evidence against the accused or because some technicalities have not been complied, the court shall have the authority to acquit the accused extending a benefit of doubt in his favor as the prosecution failed to prove the charges leveled beyond reasonable doubt.

HONOURABLE ACQUITTAL

Where the accused is acquitted as a result of failure of the prosecution, its witnesses and after considering all the evidences, it would amount to honorable acquittal, where the court does not mention that the accused has been acquitted by extending a benefit of doubt in favor of the accused.

The very basis of criminal jurisprudence is that the onus of establishing the guilt of the accused is on the prosecution and it fails to establish the guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the accused is assumed to be innocent and thereby acquitted1.

FACTUM OF HONOURABLE ACQUITTAL

It is important to understand that the mere distinction between “Acquittal by extended benefit of doubt” and “Honourable Acquittal” does not change the very basis that an acquittal is an acquittal and that once the accused has been acquitted; all the charges leveled against him are also wiped off.

This distinction between the above-mentioned two terms has been dealt by the division bench of the Madras High court wherein it went on to say that where the court finds that no case is being made out even after full consideration of the evidences by the prosecution it would amount to honorable acquittal, while on the other hand if the prosecution is not able to comply with the technicalities or that there is no concrete evidence against the accused it shall be presumed that the accused is acquitted by extending benefit of doubt.

Further the Supreme Court went on to discuss the term honorable acquittal in brief in the case of Deputy Inspector of Police & Ors v. S Samuthiram2.

Therefore, the conclusion extracted after what has been inferred by the courts is that if an accused is acquitted after considering all the evidence then in such case the acquittal is an honorable acquittal and not otherwise.

REMEDIES AVAILABLE WHEN PERSON ARE ENTITLED TO BE HONORABLY ACQUITTED, BUT ARE NOT

It is a settled law that a person accused of an offence does not cease to be a human being and certainly not curtailed to avail his moral rights against an order which is contrary to his interest.

Here the first question that strikes our minds when we read “aggrieved by the order passed” is that if a person is aggrieved against an order, he should file an appeal or file a revision or review. But what is more important to know here is that what are the remedies available if the person has been acquitted by the court by extended benefit of doubt even when he was entitled to be honorably acquitted? Can the person aggrieved by such an order file an appeal to change the “Acquittal by extended benefit of doubt” to “Honorable Acquittal”?

This issue has been put to rest by the Madras high court through its decisions which trailed as “the accused cannot file an appeal to change the acquittal by extended benefit of doubt to honorable acquittal”. This is a remedy which is available to the prosecution or the victims.

So now the question is that if not appeal what is the remedy available for the accused against an order contrary to his interest?

The answer of the same lies in reference to section 401 of the Cr.P.C., which says that no right of revision shall be availed when there is a right to appeal, so here it is to be presumed that when there is no right to appeal there exists a right to revision provided it falls within the ambit of the section 397 of the Cr.P.C.

Now the question here would be, what court shall be approached first, as the sessions court and the high court have concurrent jurisdiction under section 397 read with 401 and does this remedy bar the jurisdiction of the high court under section 482 of the Cr.P.C?

JUDICIAL PERSPECTIVES WITH REFERENCE TO THE SAME

In CBI v. State of Gujarat3, the court held that there is no statutory limitation as to which court to go first under section 397 read with section 401.

Madhu limaye v. State of Maharashtra4, court held that the bar laid down under section 397(3) to entertain revision application from interlocutory orders cannot be said to be a bar under section 482 as it is independent of section 397(3). Dhariwal Tobacco Product Ltd v. State of Maharashtra5, the court held that even though the remedy is available under section 397-401 one could still approach the high court under section 482.

Krishnan & Anr v. Krishnaveni & Anr6, the court held that the object of section 482 and the purpose behind conferring the revisional power under section 397-401, is to invest continuous supervisory jurisdiction, so as to prevent miscarriage of justice.

CONCLUSION

Therefore all I would like to say that, when I refer to these terms “Honorable Acquittal” or “Acquittal by extended benefit of doubt” it does not change the very base that an acquittal is an acquittal, meaning thereby that if the court acquits a person by extending benefit of doubt, it does not mean that the person was involved in the case, but just because it could not be proved by the prosecution he is acquitted, reason being, the word “benefit of doubt” cannot be construed as a proven interest of a person in a criminal act. However, it does not change the fact that it does not stand on the same footing as that of “Honorable acquittal”.

1 Air 1964 sc 787
2 2013 1 SCC 598
3 AIR 2007 SC 2522
4 (1978) 1 SCR 749
5 AIR 2009 SC 1032
6 (1997) 4 SCC 241

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