Article 136 and Criminal Appeals I

“It is essential to address the issue of propriety and the conceptual parameters or conceptions based on well-accepted norms and paradigms to exercise the power of this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution.

In Arunachalam v. P.S.R. Sadhanatha, (1979) 2 SCC 297 it has been expressed thus: “The power is plenary in the sense that there are no words in Article 136 itself qualifying that power. But, the very nature of the power has led the Court to set limits to itself within which to exercise such power. It is now the well-established practice of this Court to permit the invocation of the power under Article 136 only in very exceptional circumstances, as when a question of law of general public importance arises or a decision shocks the conscience of the Court. But, within the restrictions imposed by itself, this Court has the undoubted power to interfere even with findings of fact, making no distinction between judgments of acquittal and conviction, if the High Court, in arriving at those findings, has acted perversely or otherwise improperly.”

In State of U.P. v. Babul Nath, (1994) 6 SCC 29, a two Judge Bench has laid down thus: “At the very outset we may mention that in an appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution this Court does not normally reappraise the evidence by itself and go into the question of credibility of the witnesses and the assessment of the evidence by the High Court is accepted by the Supreme Court as final unless, of course, the appreciation of evidence and finding is vitiated by any error of law of procedure or found contrary to the principles of natural justice, errors of record and misreading of the evidence, or where the conclusions of the High Court are manifestly perverse and unsupportable from the evidence on record.”

In Ganga Kumar Srivastava v. State of Bihar, (2005) 6 SCC 211, the Court after referring to series of decisions on exercise of the power of this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution culled out following principles:

  • The powers of this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution are very wide but in criminal appeals this Court does not interfere with the concurrent findings of fact save in exceptional circumstances.
  • It is open to this Court to interfere with the findings of fact given by the High Court, if the High Court has acted perversely or otherwise improperly.
  • It is open to this Court to invoke the power under Article 136 only in very exceptional circumstances as and when a question of law of general public importance arises or a decision shocks the conscience of the Court.
  • When the evidence adduced by the prosecution fell short of the test of reliability and acceptability and as such it is highly unsafe to act upon it.
  • Where the appreciation of evidence and finding is vitiated by any error of law of procedure or found contrary to the principles of natural justice, errors of record and misreading of the evidence, or where the conclusions of the High Court are manifestly perverse and unsupportable from the evidence on record.

In Alamelu v. State, Represented by Inspector of Police, (2011) 2 SCC 385, it has been stated that even though the powers of this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution are very wide, but in criminal appeals, this Court would not interfere with the concurrent findings of fact save in very exceptional cases. In an appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution, this Court does not normally appreciate the evidence by itself and go into the question of credibility of witness. Elaborating further, the Court has opined that the assessment of the evidence by the High Court is accepted as final except where the conclusions recorded by the High Court are manifestly perverse and unsupportable by the evidence on record.

Keeping the aforesaid principles in view, we shall proceed to scrutinize the materials on record, for we are convinced that the conclusions arrived at by the High Court are totally unsupportable on the basis of the evidence on record.

Hon’ble Justice Dipak Misra, Md. Ali v. State of U.P., [Criminal Appeal No. 425 of 2015].

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