CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana high court has held that a trial court decision to acquit an accused person is generally based on the presumption of innocence, and the appellate court should not interfere with the acquittal order when “the view taken by the trial court is not unreasonable or perverse”.
“The appellate court can reverse the order of acquittal if the view taken by the trial court is palpably erroneous, could not have been taken by the court of competent jurisdiction and is taken against well-settled canons of criminal jurisprudence. Merely because the appellate court, on re-appreciation and re-evaluation of the evidence, is inclined to take a different view, interference with the judgment of acquittal is not justified,” a division bench comprising justices Anupinder Singh Grewal and Lalit Batra said.
The bench made the observations while upholding the acquittal of two persons, Hem Raj and Hemraj, in a drug case. The Punjab government had challenged the order passed by a special court in Ludhiana acquittal on November 23, 2001.
The duo was booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act on August 19, 2000, for possessing a high quantity of poppy husk. The trial court acquitted them as the prosecution failed to prove the case.
In its appeal, the state said the trial court had placed reliance on discrepancies in the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, which, with the passage of time, were bound to occur, as human memory is fallible. It was also submitted that the accused had kept huge quantities of poppy husk and that too without any permit or licence.
The HC dismissed the state’s plea, observing that the accused have been acquitted as the prosecution had not been able to substantiate its allegations against them.
“If the order of acquittal is to be reversed, the appellate court must examine and discuss the grounds given by the trial court to acquit the accused, and must give cogent reasons to overturn the findings,” the bench said.