Section 374 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C.) – Explained!
The section provides three different forums for filing appeals by the accused against the order of conviction. They are as follows:
(1) If the trial is held by the High Court in exercise of its extraordinary original criminal jurisdiction, an appeal would lie to the Supreme Court and not to a large Bench of Judges of that High Court.
(2) If the trial is held by the Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge, or by any other Court in which sentence of imprisonment for more than seven years has been passed, an appeal would lie to the High Court.
(3) If the trial is held by a Metropolitan Magistrate or Assistant Sessions Judge or Magistrate of the first or second class except in cases falling under Sections 325 and 360, an appeal will lie to the Court of Session.
Where several persons have been convicted in a single trial by a Sessions Judge or by the Additional Sessions Judge, all of them can file a joint appeal in the High Court and it is not necessary for them to file separate appeals.
While disposing of appeals from the sentences of the Sessions Court under this Section, the High Court should specify the reasons for rejection of appeal and should not reject it summarily. This will enable the Supreme Court to know the view of the High Court, in case the appellant moves the Supreme Court in appeal.
In the case of State of Kamataka v. Bheemappa, the High Court allowing appeal against conviction in a murder case, acquitted all the accused persons probably influenced by the false accusations against some others, without appreciating the trial court’s reasoning for conviction. The Supreme Court re-appreciated the evidence and set aside the acquittal and restored the conviction of the accused.
For computing the sentence of imprisonment for seven years for the purpose of ascertaining the appellate forum under Section 374 (2), the sentence in default of payment of fine is not to be added to the substantive sentence of imprisonment.
Thus where an accused was sentenced to seven years’ RI with a fine and in default of payment, to suffer simple imprisonment for one month, the appeal filed against it could not be rejected by the Sessions Court on the ground that substantive sentence of imprisonment and default sentence of imprisonment, both added together was more than seven years. The appeal in the case clearly lay to the Sessions Court and not to the High Court.
An appeal or revision filed by the convict from jail must be forwarded by the Jail authorities by providing legal aid to the convict.
While dealing with reference, the High Court should consider the proceedings in all their material aspects and arrive at an independent conclusion on the basis of record different from that concluded by the Sessions Judge. It is the requirement of law that the High Court has to come to its own independent decision.
The Supreme Court in Akhtari Bi v. Bihar, has observed in the context of Sections 374 and 378 as follows:
“The Court has time and again reminded that appeal being a statutory right, the trial Court’s verdict does not attain finality during pendency of the appeal and for that purpose his trial is deemed to be continuing despite conviction. It is incumbent upon the High Courts to find ways and means by taking steps to ensure the disposal of criminal appeals, particularly such appeals where the accused are in jails, that the matters are disposed of within the specified period not exceeding five years in any case…………. and if the appeal is not disposed of within the aforesaid specified period of 5 years, for no fault of the convicts, such convicts may be released on bail on such conditions as may be deemed fit and proper by the Court.”
The Supreme Court in Jagbir Singh v. State of Delhi held that where the accused had made a request only for reduction of sentence, he cannot be permitted to challenge the validity of his conviction in the appellate Court.
The Court further observed that the judgment of a Court being conclusive, if the party (prosecution or defence) does not agree with the findings of the Court, he should bring it to the notice of the Court then and there when the facts are being considered, and if he does not raise any objection when the facts or findings are being recorded by the Court, then the judgment given on the basis of those facts would be conclusive and no appeal can be entertained on the question of facts.
In the instant case, no objection was raised by the accused against his conviction by the Court of Session, therefore the question of justifiability of sentence could not be reconsidered by the appellate Court. Hence, the Supreme Court refused to interfere in the judgment of the Court below.
In Panchi Nath v. State, the question of application of Section 5 of Limitation Act, 1963, for condonation of delay in filing appeal was before consideration of the High Court of Rajasthan. In this case, the accused was convicted under Section 9 of the Wild Life Protection Act. No application for suspension of sentence was moved on his behalf on the same day in trial Court. He was, therefore, sent to judicial custody on the same day.
When his son came to know about it, then he arranged money for expenses to be incurred in filing appeal. The Court held that under these circumstances, a delay of 25 days in filing appeal was liable to be condoned under Section 374 of the Code.