Revisional Court Cannot Sit As Appellate Court And Start Appreciating Evidence: Supreme Court Calls Out HC For Unnecessary Interference In Corruption Case
The Supreme Court held that the High Court overstepped its jurisdiction by evaluating the defense's evidence and probabilities of the case at the stage of framing charges, which led to the interference being deemed unjust and the trial court's order being reinstated. The respondent in this case was facing proceedings under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
A two judge Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Aravind Kumar held, “The revisional court cannot sit as an appellate court and start appreciating the evidence by finding out inconsistency in the statement of witnesses and it is not legally permissible. The High Courts ought to be cognizant of the fact that trial court was dealing with an application for discharge.”
Respondent filed an application for discharge, arguing that the investigating officer failed to consider his written explanation and supporting documents. The respondent contended that the conclusion of the sanctioning authority, stating he possessed disproportionate assets, was erroneous. The trial court rejected his application, but the High Court allowed his revision petition, concluding that the trial court had made a mistake in dismissing the application. Consequently, the respondent was discharged from the case.
Advocate Swati Ghildiyal appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Shamik Shirishbhai Sanjanwala appeared for the Respondent.
The Supreme Court emphasized that the trial court must assume the prosecution's evidence is true and evaluate whether it establishes the essential elements of the alleged offense. The court's scrutiny should not delve deeply into the probative value of the material. The power to quash criminal proceedings, especially charges framed under Section 228 of the Cr.P.C., should be exercised sparingly and only in exceptional cases where allegations are absurd or inherently improbable. The Court said, “It is trite law that application of judicial mind being necessary to determine whether a case has been made out by the prosecution for proceeding with trial and it would not be necessary to dwell into the pros and cons of the matter by examining the defence of the accused when an application for discharge is filed. At that stage, the trial judge has to merely examine the evidence placed by the prosecution in order to determine whether or not the grounds are sufficient to proceed against the accused on basis of charge sheet material.”
The High Court, however, made the error of considering the defense's arguments, examining the defense evidence, and evaluating the probabilities of the case. This exceeded the permissible limits of revisional jurisdiction. The Court held, “In the afore-stated circumstances we are of the considered view that High Court had committed a serious error in interfering with the well-reasoned order passed by the trial court. Hence, the impugned judgment dated 11.01.2018 passed in Criminal Revision Application No.387 of 2016 setting aside the trial court order dated 13.04.2016 requires to be set aside and accordingly it is set aside and appeal is allowed.”
The trial court was instructed to continue the trial expeditiously, aiming to conclude it within one year.
Cause Title: State of Gujarat v. Dilipsinh Kishorsinh Rao, [2023INSC894]