New Delhi (PTI): The Supreme Court has ruled that the High Court dealing with an appeal has full powers to re-appreciate, review and reconsider the evidence against an acquittal order passed by the trial court.
"When such an appeal is filed, the High Court has full power to re-appreciate, review and reconsider the evidence at large, the material on which the order of acquittal is founded and to reach its own conclusions on such evidence," a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Mukundakam Sharma observed.
The apex court said that both questions of fact and of law are open to scrutiny by the High Court in an appeal against an order of acquittal.
"It cannot, however, be forgotten that in case of acquittal, there is a double presumption in favour of the accused," the bench said.
It explained that firstly the presumption of innocence is available to him/her under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person should be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved to be guilty by a competent court of law.
"Secondly, the accused having secured an acquittal, the presumption of his innocence is certainly not weakened but reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court," the bench said.
The bench passed the ruling and observations while dismissing the appeal by Murgan and another accused in an attempt to murder case.
On October 3, 1989 the accused attempted to murder Ramaiah in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district with a lethal weapon resulting in grievous injuries to the victim.
The trial court, however, disbelieved the evidence of the prosecution and acquitted the accused, but the High Court on an appeal from the Tamil Nadu government reversed the acquittal and convicted the accused to four years RI.
Aggrieved by the conviction, the accused moved the apex court by way of a criminal appeal.
The apex court while dismissing the appeal said that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) does not put any limitation, restriction or condition on exercise of such power and an appellate court on the evidence before it may reach its own conclusions.
"A person has, no doubt, a profound right not to be convicted of an offence which is not established by the evidential standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. Though this standard is a higher standard there is, however, no absolute standard.
"What degree of probability amounts to 'proof' is an exercise particular to each case," the bench observed.
In the present case, the apex court said that the high court was right in passing the impugned judgement.
Accordingly it directed the accused who are on bail to forthwith surrender and serve the remainder of the sentence.