Criminal Appeal to the Supreme Court
Supreme Court being the Apex Court of India, is also the highest appellate authority in criminal matters. Under certain circumstances, criminal appeal to the Supreme Court can be made as a matter of right and in other an appeal to the Supreme Court is subject to the certificate of High court or special leave of the Supreme Court.
The appeal to Supreme Court in criminal matter can be made in the following ways:
(i) Under Article 132 by obtaining requisite certificate from High Court under Article 134A.
(ii) As constitutional right of appeal under Article 134(1) of the Constitution of India.
(iii) As statutory right of appeal under Section 2 of the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970.
(iv) By way of Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the constitution of India.
(v) Under section 379 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
Criminal Appeal to Supreme Court under Article 132 of the Constitution of India, 1950
An appeal to the Supreme Court under Article 132 can be made in certain civil, criminal or other proceedings against the final order, decree or judgement of the High Court when the High Court under Article 134A certifies that the case involves a substantial question of law which requires interpretation of the constitution. The idea here is that questions relating to he interpretation of Constitution must be decided by the Highest Court. The key word to ponder under Article 132 are ‘final’. Final order here denotes that such puts an end to the proceedings. If the order is not final, then no appeal against it can be made in the Supreme Court as held in the case of Abdul Rehman v. D.K. Cassim and Sons (AIR 1933 PC 58).
Certificate under Article 134A
In order to make an appeal to the Supreme Court against the final order, decree, judgement of the High Court, under Article 132, 133(1) and 134(1)(c), a certificate must be issued by the High Court under Article 134A. Under Article 134A the High Court can issue the certificate if it deems fit so i.e. suo motu or on oral application made to the High Court by the aggrieved party immediately after passing of the final order, sentence, decree or judgement.
Criminal Appeal to Supreme Court under Article 134 of the Constitution of India, 1950
Article 134(1) provides for the appellate jurisdiction of Supreme Court in criminal matters. Under Article 134(1)(a) and (b) an appeal can be made to the Supreme Court again any final order, judgment or sentence of the High Court if the High Court on appeal has overturned the acquittal of an accused and sentenced him to death or has withdrawn a trial before himself from any subordinate court and sentenced the accused to death. Under Article 134(1)(c) an appeal to the Supreme Court can be made if the High Court certifies under Article 134A that the case is fit for appeal to the Supreme Court. As held in the case of Narsingh v. State of U.P (AIR 1954 SC 457) the High Court exercises its discretion in issuing the certificate in accordance to judicial principles. If the case lacks substantial question of law, then the grant of certificate High Court cannot be justified and the Supreme Court may decline such appeal and allow the appellant to apply for Special Leave Petition under Article 136 as held in State of Assam v. Adbul Noor (AIR 1970 SC 1365).
Criminal Appeal under Section 2 of Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act in 1970
Article 134(2) plays a key role in extending the jurisdiction of Supreme Court in criminal matters by empowering the parliament to extend by law, the powers of the supreme court to hear any appeal from final orders, judgement or sentence of High Court in criminal proceedings.
In lieu of this power, the Parliament promulgated the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act in 1970. Section 2 of the Act provides that an appeal in criminal matter can be made to the Supreme Court against the final order, decision or sentence of High Court if:
a) The High Court on appeal has reversed the acquittal of an accused and sentenced him life imprisonment or imprisonment of 10 years or more.
b) The High Court withdrew a trial before it from any subordinate court and sentenced the accused imprisonment for life or imprisonment of 10 years or more
This section does not affect or prejudice the powers conferred on the Supreme Court under Article 134(1) of the Indian Constitution.
Criminal Appeal to Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution of India, 1950
Article 136 endows the Supreme Court with plenary jurisdiction to entertain appeals again any judgement decree order of any court or tribunal in civil, criminal or any other matter by granting Special Leave. Under Article 136, an appeal to the Supreme Court can be made only with the permission or leave of the Supreme Court. However, this Article does not require that the order or judgement of the subordinate court to be final to be fit for appeal. The power to grant special leave is not restricted to the orders or decrees of high court only. Rather an appeal under article 136 can be made against order, judgement decree determination of any court except a court or tribunal established under armed forces as stated by clause (2) of Article 136.
Article 136 does not confer any right to appeal to the parties rather it confers wide discretionary powers to the Supreme Court which the court exercises judicially and only in exceptional cases. As laid down in the case of Pritam Singh v. State (AIR 1950 SC 169) the court shall grant special leave only in cases with special circumstances.
Special Leave to appeal is frequently been granted in criminal matters but the Supreme Court must, while granting special leave ensure that the order, judgement of lower court causes grave injustice or there is error of law or gross miscarriage of justice, as held in case of Mohd. Hussain Umar Kochra v. K.S. Dalipsinghji (AIR 1970 SC 45)
Criminal Appeal under Section 379 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
Section 379 of Criminal Procedure Code,1973 also provides for a procedure to make an appeal to the Supreme Court in criminal matters. It states that if a High court on appeal has overturned the acquittal of an accused and sentenced him to an imprisonment of 10 or more years, life imprisonment or death sentence, then the accused may appeal to the Supreme Court.
Therefore, now it can be said that if the case falls under Article 134(1)(a) and (b) or Section 2 of 1970 Act or Section 379 of Criminal Procedure Code, then the appeal to the Supreme Court lies as a matter of right.
Supreme Courts Power to do Complete Justice (Article 142)
The Constitution by way of Article 142 grants the Supreme Court, the power to do complete justice and prevent the miscarriage of justice by passing any decree or order which is necessary for ensuring complete justice in any matter which is pending before it. However, the Supreme Court is not supposed to unnecessarily interfere with the orders of High Court merely on the ground of errors of law. Supreme Court exercised its power under Article 142 in the case of Bodhisattva Gautam v. Subhra Chakraborty (AIR 1996 SC 922) by ordering the payment of interim compensation to a rape victim in order to complete justice.
Therefore, to sum it up, it can be said that the Constitution of India has conferred limited criminal jurisdiction on the Supreme Court of India under Articles 132,134,136. It is limited in the sense that Supreme Court has power to entertain criminal appeals only in exceptional cases where the interference of Highest Court of the land is required to meet the requirements of justice. Since the Supreme court is considered to be the Highest Court of appeals, no appeal lies against the orders of the Supreme Court. However, an option to file for review is still available to the parties.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Mahua Dutta