New Delhi, March 4: Courts cannot pass “cryptic” orders and must give detailed reasons while refusing to admit appeals against acquittals in criminal cases, the Supreme Court has ruled.
“Reasons introduce clarity in an order.... Reason is the heartbeat of every conclusion and without the same, it becomes lifeless,” the bench of justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.
The bench also argued that any alleged crime is one against society at large and it is the high courts’ duty to ensure the victim receives justice.
“It is the duty of every court to bear in mind that when a crime is committed, though an individual is affected or, on some occasions, a group of individuals become victims of the crime, yet in essentiality, every crime is an offence against the collective as a whole,” the court said.
“It creates a stir in society.... That makes (it) the duty of the high courts to see that justice is done to the sufferer of the crime, which, eventually, mitigates the cause of the collective and satisfies the cry of society against the crime.”
The Supreme Court regretted that despite earlier directions by it, high courts continue to violate “judicial discipline” and pass “cryptic” orders.
It cited its ruling in the State of Orissa vs Dhaniram Luhar (2004) and certain other judgments to say that when a high court declines to admit an appeal against an acquittal, the chance of “a close scrutiny of the order of acquittal... (is) lost once and for all”.
The apex court upheld an appeal filed by the Madhya Pradesh government against the state high court’s refusal to grant leave (permission) to move an appeal against the acquittal of an accused by the Bhind sessions judge.
Giriraj Dubey had been charged with making an obscene gesture at a public place (maximum punishment: jail for three months) and causing a fire/explosion to destroy a public building (maximum punishment: life imprisonment) on the complaint of a neighbourhood couple.
However, on December 2, 2011, the sessions court acquitted Dubey saying there were no independent witnesses and that the couple could not cogently substantiate the complaint.
The state moved the high court, which, on July 4, 2012, declined to entertain the appeal. In a terse order, it said the trial court had rightly held that the prosecution had failed to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt because there was not adequate evidence.
The state then appealed in the apex court arguing that it was obligatory for the high court to give reasons while dismissing the application for leave to appeal.
Agreeing with the state, the apex court said: “We are afraid that such an order cannot be said to be a reasoned order. On the contrary, such an order is, irrefragably, cryptic and clearly shows non-application of mind.”
It added: “On plainest consideration of justice, the high court ought to have set forth its reasons, howsoever brief... indicative of an application of its mind; all the more (so) when its order is amenable to further avenue of challenge. The absence of reasons has rendered the high court order not sustainable.”
The bench set the high court order aside and asked it to consider the state’s appeal afresh.
It, however, clarified that its order did not mean that “all windows remain constantly open for all kinds of cases to be entertained in appeal”.
“But, while closing the windows, there has to be proper delineation and application of mind,” it added.
“We have said so with immense pain and enormous hope that occasions should not arise in future for passing of such cryptic and unreasoned orders. It should be kept in mind that the judgments of this court, being binding on all courts, are required to be followed in letter and spirit. That is the constitutional mandate and that is the judicial discipline.”