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Friday, January 11, 2013

Sections 378(1) and 378(4) of the Code and the relevant provisions of the PFA.- whether in a complaint case, an appeal from an order of acquittal of the Magistrate would lie to the Sessions Court under Section 378(1) (a) of the Code or to the High Court under Section 378(4) of the Code.=In view of the above, we conclude that a complainant can file an application for special leave to appeal against an order of acquittal of any kind only to the High Court. He cannot file such appeal in the Sessions Court. In the instant case the complaint alleging offences punishable under Section 16(1)(1A) read with Section 7 of the PFA Act and the Rules is filed by complainant Shri Jaiswal, Local Health Authority through Delhi Administration. The appellant was acquitted by the Metropolitan Magistrate, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi. The complainant can challenge the order of acquittal by filing an application for special leave to appeal in the Delhi High Court and not in the Sessions Court. Therefore, the impugned order holding that this case is not governed by Section 378(4) of the Code is quashed and set aside. In the circumstances the appeal is allowed.


                                                                  REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 50  OF 2013
       [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.6937 of 2011]


SUBHASH CHAND                     …            APPELLANT


           Vs.

STATE  (DELHI ADMINISTRATION).    …            RESPONDENTS


                                  JUDGMENT


(SMT.) RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI, J.

1.    Leave granted.

2.    This appeal, by special leave, is directed against judgment and  order
dated 07/01/2011 passed by the High Court of Delhi in  Criminal  Misc.  Case
No.427 of 2009 whereby the High Court dismissed the petition  filed  by  the
appellant holding that an appeal filed by the  State  against  an  order  of
acquittal shall lie to the Sessions Court under Section 378(1) of  the  Code
of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short, “the Code”) and  not  under  Section
378(4) of the Code to the High Court.


3.     The appellant is the supplier-cum-manufacturer of  the  food  article
namely Sweetened Carbonated Water.
 He is carrying on business in  the  name
and style of M/s. Subhash Soda Water Factory. 
 On  6/6/1989  at  about  4.15
p.m., one P.N. Khatri, Food  Inspector,  purchased  a  sample  of  sweetened
carbonated  water  for  analysis  from  one  Daya  Chand  Jain,  Vendor-cum-
Contractor of Canteen at Suraj Cinema, Dhansa Road, Najafgarh, Delhi.  
After
following the necessary  procedure,  the  sample  was  sent  to  the  Public
Analyst for analysis. 
On  analysis,  the  Public  Analyst  opined  that  the
sample does not conform to the prescribed  standard.  
After  conclusion  of
the investigation, the respondent–State through its Local  Health  Authority
- P.K.  Jaiswal  filed  a  Complaint  bearing  No.64  of  1991  against  the
appellant and Daya Chand in the Court of the  Metropolitan  Magistrate,  New
Delhi alleging that the appellant and the said Daya Chand had  violated  
the
provisions of Sections 2(ia), (a), (b), (f), (h), (l),  (m),  Section  2(ix)(j), (k) and Section 24 of the Prevention of  Food  Adulteration  Act,  1954(for short, “PFA Act”) and Rule 32, Rule 42 (zzz)(i)  and  Rule  47  of  the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955 (for  short,  “the  Rules”)  and
committed an offence punishable under Section 16(1)(1A) read with Section  7 of the PFA Act and the Rules.
Since Daya Chand died during the pendency  of
the case, the case abated as against  him.   
The  appellant  was  tried  and
acquitted by learned Magistrate by order dated 27/2/2007.

4.    Being aggrieved by the said order  dated  27/2/2007,  the  respondent-
State preferred Criminal Appeal No.13 of 2008 in the  Sessions  Court  under
Section 378(1)(a) of the Code. The appellant raised a preliminary  objection
in regard to the maintainability of the  said  Appeal  before  the  Sessions
Court in view of Section 378(4) of the Code.  He contended  that
an  appeal
arising from an order of acquittal in a complaint  case  shall  lie  to  the High Court.   
The said objection was  rejected  by  the  Sessions  Court  by
order dated 4/2/2009.
5.    Aggrieved by the said order dated 4/2/2009,  the  appellant  preferred
Criminal Misc. Case No.427 of 2009 before the High Court.   By  order  dated
9/7/2009,
the High Court held that the Sessions Court  has  no  jurisdiction
to entertain an appeal filed in a  complaint  case  and  directed  that  the
appeal be transferred to it.  
Accordingly, Criminal  Appeal  No.13  of  2008
pending before the Sessions Court was transferred to the High Court and  re-
numbered as Criminal Appeal No.642 of 2009.

6.    The respondent-State carried the said order  dated  9/7/2009  to  this
court by Special Leave Petition (Crl.)  No.9880  of  2009  (Criminal  Appeal
No.1514 of 2010).  By order dated 13/8/2010, this court remanded the  matter
to the High Court and directed that  the  matter  be  decided  afresh  after
taking into consideration Sections 378(1) and 378(4) of  the  Code  and  the
relevant provisions of the PFA.   On  remand,  the  High  Court  passed  the
impugned judgment and order dated 7/1/2011.

7.    The short point which arises  for  consideration  in  this  appeal  is
whether in a complaint case, an appeal from an order  of  acquittal  of  the Magistrate would lie to the Sessions Court under Section 378(1) (a)  of  the Code or to the High Court under Section 378(4) of the Code.

8.    At our request, Mr.  Sidharth  Luthra,  learned  Additional  Solicitor
General has assisted us as  Amicus  Curiae.  We  have  heard  Ms.  Meenakshi
Lekhi, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner and Mr.  P.P.  Malhotra,
learned Additional Solicitor  General  appearing  for  the  State.   Written
submissions have been filed by the counsel which we have carefully  perused.
Mr. Luthra took  us  through  the  relevant  excerpts  of  Law  Commission’s
reports.  He took us through the  Code  of  Criminal  Procedure  (Amendment)
Bill, 1994 ( Bill No. XXXV of 1994). He  also  took  us  through  un-amended
and  amended  Section  378  of  the  Code.  After  analyzing  the   relevant
provisions, Mr. Luthra submitted that no appeal lies  against  an  order  of
acquittal in cases instituted upon a complaint to the Sessions  Court.   Ms.
Lekhi also adopted similar line of reasoning.

9.    Mr. Malhotra learned Additional Solicitor General adopted a  different
line of argument and therefore, it is necessary to note his  submissions  in
detail. Counsel pointed out how the law relating to appeals  against  orders
of acquittal has evolved over the years.  Counsel submitted that  under  the
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1861 no appeal against  an  order  of  acquittal
could be filed.  The Code of Criminal Procedure,  1872  permitted  only  the
State Government to file an appeal against acquittal order.  Section 417  of
the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898  permitted  only  the  State  to  file  an
appeal against acquittal order.  In 1955 it was amended so as to permit  the
complainant to file an appeal against acquittal order.  Under  the  Code  of
Criminal Procedure, 1973,  Section  417  was  substituted  by  Section  378.
Counsel pointed out that under Section 378(4)  a  complainant  could  prefer
appeal against order of acquittal, if special leave was granted by the  High
Court.  However, in all cases the State could present appeal  against  order
of acquittal. Counsel then referred to Section 378 of the  Code  as  amended
by Act No. 25 of 2005 and submitted that the only change in sub-section  (1)
is adding clauses (a) and (b) to  it.   Counsel  described  this  change  as
minor and submitted that the State’s right to file appeal against orders  of
acquittal remains intact and is not  taken  away.   Counsel  relied  on  the
words ‘State Government may, in any case’ and  submitted  that  these  words
preserve the State’s right to file appeal against acquittal  orders  of  all
types.  There is no limitation on this  right  whatsoever.   This  right  is
preserved according to the counsel because the State  is  the  protector  of
people.  Safety and security of the community is its  concern.   Even  if  a
complainant does not file an appeal  against  an  order  of  acquittal,  the
State Government can in public interest file it.  Counsel also addressed  us
on the question of plurality of appeals.  That issue is not before  us.   It
is, therefore, not necessary to refer to that  submission.   In  support  of
his submissions counsel placed  reliance  on  Khemraj  v.  State  of  Madhya
Pradesh[1], State (Delhi Adminsitration) v. Dharampal[2], Akalu Ahir &  Ors.
v. Ramdeo Ram[3], State v. Ram Babu & Ors.[4], Food Inspector v.  Moidoo[5],
Prasannachary v. Chikkapinachari & Anr.[6], State of Maharashtra v.  Limbaji
Sayaji Mhaske, Sarpanch Gram Panchayat[7], State of Punjab & Anr.  v.  Jagan
Nath[8] and  State of Orissa v. Sapneswar Thappa[9].

10.   To understand the controversy, it is  necessary  to  have  a  look  at
Section 378 of the Code prior to  its  amendment  by  Act  25  of  2005  and
Section 378 amended thereby.

11.   Section 378 of the Code prior to its amendment by Act 25 of 2005  read
as under:

      “Appeal in case of acquittal.


      378. Appeal in case of acquittal. (1) Save as otherwise  provided   in
      sub-section (2) and subject to the  provisions  of  sub-sections   (3)
      and  (5),  the State Government may, in any case,  direct  the  Public
       Prosecutor to present an appeal to the High Court  from  an  original
      or  appellate  order  of acquittal passed by any Court other  than   a
      High  Court  2*[or an order  of  acquittal  passed  by  the  Court  of
      Session  in revision.]


              (2) If  such an order of acquittal is passed in  any  case  in
      which  the  offence  has  been  investigated  by  the  Delhi   Special
      Police  Establishment  constituted  under  the  Delhi  Special  Police
      Establishment  Act,  1946  (25  of  1946),  or  by  any  other  agency
      empowered  to  make  investigation  into an offence under any  Central
      Act other  than  this  Code, the Central Government  may  also  direct
      the  Public  Prosecutor   to   present   an  appeal,  subject  to  the
      provisions of sub-section  (3),  to the High Court from the  order  of
      acquittal.


              (3) No  appeal under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2)  shall
       be  entertained except with the leave of the High Court.


            (4) If such  an  order  of  acquittal  is  passed  in  any  case
      instituted  upon complaint and the High Court, on an application  made
      to it by the  complainant  in this behalf,  grants  special  leave  to
      appeal  from  the  order of acquittal,  the  complainant  may  present
      such an appeal to  the  High Court.


              (5) No  application under sub-section (4)  for  the  grant  of
      special   leave  to  appeal  from  an  order  of  acquittal  shall  be
      entertained by the  High Court after the expiry of six  months,  where
      the complainant is  a  public servant, and sixty days in  every  other
      case, computed from  the  date of that order of acquittal.


             (6) If in any case, the application under sub-section  (4)  for
      the   grant   of   special   leave   to  appeal  from  an   order   of
      acquittal  is  refused,  no appeal from that order of acquittal  shall
      lie under  sub-  section (1) or under sub-section (2).”





      Thus, under earlier Section 378(1) of the Code, the  State  Government
could, in any case, direct the Public Prosecutor to  present  an  appeal  to
the High Court from an original or appellate order of  acquittal  passed  by
any court other than a High Court or an order of  acquittal  passed  by  the
Court of Session in revision.  Section 378(2) covered cases where  order  of
acquittal was passed in any case in which the offence had been  investigated
by the Delhi  Special  Police  Establishment  constituted  under  the  Delhi
Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 or by any other agency  empowered  to
make investigation into an offence under any  Central  Act  other  than  the
Code.  In such cases, the Central Government could also  direct  the  Public
Prosecutor to present  an  appeal  to  the  High  Court  from  an  order  of
acquittal.   Section 378(3) stated that appeals under sub-sections  (1)  and
(2) of Section 378 of the Code could not  be  entertained  except  with  the
leave of the High Court.   Sub-section  (4)  of  Section  378  of  the  Code
provided for  orders  of  acquittal  passed  in  any  case  instituted  upon
complaint.  According to this provision, if on an application made to it  by
the complainant, the High Court grants special  leave  to  appeal  from  the
order of acquittal, the complainant could present  such  an  appeal  to  the
High Court.  Sub-section (5) of Section 378  of  the  Code  provided  for  a
period of limitation.  Sub-section (6) of Section 378  of  the  Code  stated
that if in any case, the application under sub-section (4) for the grant  of
special leave to appeal from an order of acquittal  is  refused,  no  appeal
from that order of acquittal  shall  lie  under  sub-sections  (1)  or  (2).
Thus, if the High Court refused to grant special  leave  to  appeal  to  the
complainant, no appeal from that order of acquittal could be  filed  by  the
State or the agency contemplated in Section 378(2).  It is clear from  these
provisions that earlier an appeal against an order of acquittal  could  only
lie to the High Court.  Sub-section (4) was aimed at giving finality to  the
orders of acquittal.





12.   Before we proceed to analyze the amended Section 378 of the  Code,  it
is necessary to quote the relevant clause in the 154th  Report  of  the  Law
Commission of India, which led to the amendment of Section 378 by Act 25  of
2005.  It reads thus:

      “6.12. Clause 37: In order to guard against the arbitrary exercise  of
      power and to reduce reckless acquittals, Section 378 is sought  to  be
      amended providing an appeal against an order of acquittal passed by  a
      Magistrate in respect of cognizable and non-bailable offence filed  on
      a police report to the Court of Session as directed  by  the  District
      Magistrate.  In respect of all other cases filed on a  police  report,
      an appeal shall lie to the High Court against an  order  of  acquittal
      passed by any other court other than the High Court,  as  directed  by
      the State Government.  The power to  recommend  appeal  in  the  first
      category is sought to be vested in the  District  Magistrate  and  the
      power in respect of second category  would  continue  with  the  State
      Government.”

      The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill,  1994  has  the  same
note on Clause 37.

13.   Though, the Law Commission’s 154th report indicated that  Section  378
was being amended to provide that an appeal against an  order  of  acquittal
passed by a Magistrate in respect of a cognizable and  non-bailable  offence
filed on a police report would lie to  the  court  of  Sessions,  the  words
“police report” were not included  in  the  amended  Section  378.  In  this
connection, it is necessary to refer to the relevant extract  from  the  Law
Commission’s 221st report of April, 2009.  After noting  amendment  made  to
Section 378 the Law Commission stated as under:
      “2.9  All appeals against orders of acquittal  passed  by  Magistrates
      were being filed in High Court prior to amendment of  Section  378  by
      Act 25 of 2005.  Now, with effect  from  23.06.2006,  appeals  against
      orders of acquittal passed by Magistrates in respect of cognizable and
      non-bailable offences in cases filed on police report are being  filed
      in the Sessions Court, vide clause (a) of sub-section (1) of the  said
      section.  But, appeal against order of acquittal passed  in  any  case
      instituted upon complaint continues to be filed in the High Court,  if
      special leave is granted by it on an application made  to  it  by  the
      complainant, vide sub-section (4) of the said section.


      2.10  Section 378 needs change with a view to enable filing of appeals
      in complaint cases also in the Sessions Court, of course,  subject  to
      the grant of special leave by it.”


      These two extracts of the Law Commission’s report make it  clear  that
though the words ‘police report’ are not mentioned in  Section  378(1)  (a),
the Law Commission noted that the effect  of  the  amendment  was  that  all
appeals against an order of acquittal passed by a Magistrate in  respect  of
a cognizable and non-bailable offence in cases filed on  police  report  are
being filed in the Sessions Court.  The Law Commission lamented  that  there
is no provision  enabling  filing  of  appeal  in  complaint  cases  in  the
Sessions Court subject to the grant of special leave by it.  Thus,  the  Law
Commission acknowledged that there is no provision in the Code  under  which
appeals in complaint cases could be filed in the Sessions Court.   We  agree
with this opinion for reasons which we shall now state.


14.   Having analysed un-amended Section 378 it is necessary to have a  look
at Section 378 of the Code, as amended by Act  25  of  2005.   It  reads  as
under:


      “378. Appeal in case of acquittal.

      [(1) Save as otherwise provided in sub-section (2) and subject to  the
      provisions of subsections (3) and (5), -
     
           (a) the District Magistrate may, in any case, direct the  Public
      Prosecutor to present an appeal to the Court of Session from an  order
      of acquittal passed by a Magistrate in respect of a cognizable and non-
      bailable offence;
     
           (b) the State Government may, in any  case,  direct  the  Public
      Prosecutor to present an appeal to the High Court from an original  or
      appellate order of acquittal passed by any court  other  than  a  High
      Court [not being an order under clause (a)] [or an order of  acquittal
      passed by the Court of Session in revision].
     
      (2) If such an order of acquittal is passed in any case in  which  the
      offence  has  been  investigated   by   the   Delhi   Special   Police
      Establishment constituted under the Delhi Special Police Establishment
      Act, 1946 (25 of 1946) or  by  any  other  agency  empowered  to  make
      investigation into an offence under any Central Act  other  than  this
      Code. [the Central Government may, subject to the provisions  of  sub-
      section (3), also direct the Public Prosecutor to present an appeal-
     
           (a) to the Court of Session, from an order of  acquittal  passed
      by a Magistrate in respect of a cognizable and non-bailable offence;
     
           (b) to the High Court from an original or appellate order of  an
      acquittal passed by any Court other than a High Court  [not  being  an
      order under clause (a)] or an order of acquittal] passed by the  Court
      of Session in revision.]
     
      (3)[No appeal to the High Court] under subsection  (1)  or  subsection
      (2) shall be entertained except with the leave of the High Court.
     
      (4) If such an order of' acquittal is passed in  any  case  instituted
      upon Complaint and the High Court, on an application made to it by the
      complainant in this behalf, grants, special leave to appeal  from  the
      order of acquittal, the complainant may present such an appeal to  the
      High Court.
     
      (5) No application under subsection (4) for the grant of special leave
      to appeal from an order of acquittal shall be entertained by the  High
      Court after the expiry of six  months,  where  the  complainant  is  a
      public servant, and sixty days in every other case, computed from  the
      date of that order of acquittal.
     
      (6) If in any case, the application  under  sub-section  (4)  for  the
      grant of special leave  to  appeal  from  an  order  of  acquittal  is
      refused, no appeal from that order of acquittal shall lie  under  sub-
      section (1) or under subsection (2).”


15.   At the outset, it must be noted that as  per  Section  378(3)  appeals
against orders of acquittal which have to be filed in the High  Court  under
Section 378(1)(b) and 378(2)(b) of the Code  cannot  be  entertained  except
with the leave of the High Court. Section 378(1)(a) provides  that,  in  any
case, if an order of acquittal is passed by a Magistrate  in  respect  of  a
cognizable and non-bailable offence the District Magistrate may  direct  the
Public Prosecutor to present an appeal  to  the  court  of  Sessions.   Sub-
Section (1)(b) of  Section  378  provides  that,  in  any  case,  the  State
Government may direct the Public Prosecutor to file an appeal  to  the  High
Court from an original or appellate order of acquittal passed by  any  court
other than a High Court not being an order under clause (a) or an  order  of
acquittal passed by  the Court of Session in revision.    Sub-Section(2)  of
Section 378 refers to orders of acquittal passed in  any  case  investigated
by the Delhi  Special  Police  Establishment  constituted  under  the  Delhi
Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 or by any other agency  empowered  to
make investigation into an offence under any  Central  Act  other  than  the
Code.  This provision is similar to  sub-section(1)  except  that  here  the
words ‘State Government’ are substituted by the words ‘Central  Government’.


16.   If we analyse Section 378(1)(a) & (b), it  is  clear  that  the  State
Government cannot direct the Public Prosecutor to file an appeal against  an
order of acquittal passed by a Magistrate  in respect of  a  cognizable  and
non-bailable offence because of  the  categorical  bar  created  by  Section
378(1)(b).  Such appeals,  that  is  appeals  against  orders  of  acquittal
passed by a Magistrate in respect of a cognizable and  non-bailable  offence
can only be filed in the Sessions  Court  at  the  instance  of  the  Public
Prosecutor as directed by the District Magistrate.  Section  378(1)(b)  uses
the words “in any case” but leaves out  orders  of  acquittal  passed  by  a
Magistrate in respect of a cognizable  and  non-bailable  offence  from  the
control of the State  Government.   Therefore,  in  all  other  cases  where
orders  of  acquittal  are  passed  appeals  can  be  filed  by  the  Public
Prosecutor as directed by the State Government to the High Court.

17.   Sub-Section (4) of Section 378 makes provision for appeal  against  an
order of acquittal passed in case  instituted  upon  complaint.   It  states
that in such case if the complainant makes an application to the High  Court
and the High Court grants special  leave  to  appeal,  the  complainant  may
present such an appeal to  the  High  Court.   This  sub-section  speaks  of
‘special leave’ as against sub-section (3) relating to other  appeals  which
speaks  of  ‘leave’.   Thus,  complainant’s  appeal  against  an  order   of
acquittal is a category by itself.   The  complainant  could  be  a  private
person or a public servant.  This is  evident  from  sub-section  (5)  which
refers to application filed for  ‘special  leave’  by  the  complainant.  It
grants six months period of limitation to a  complainant  who  is  a  public
servant and sixty days in every other  case  for  filing  application.  Sub-
Section (6) is important.  It states  that  if  in  any  case  complainant’s
application for ‘special leave’ under sub-Section (4) is refused  no  appeal
from order of acquittal shall  lie  under  sub-section  (1)  or  under  sub-
section (2).  Thus, if ‘special leave’ is not granted to the complainant  to
appeal against an order of acquittal the matter  must  end  there.   Neither
the District Magistrate not the State Government  can  appeal  against  that
order of acquittal. The idea appears to be to accord quietus to the case  in
such a situation.

18.   Since the words ‘police report’ are dropped from  Section  378(1)  (a)
despite the Law Commission’s recommendation, it is not  necessary  to  dwell
on it. A police report is defined under Section 2(r) of the Code to  mean  a
report forwarded by a police officer to a Magistrate under  sub-section  (2)
of Section 173 of the Code.  It is a culmination  of  investigation  by  the
police into an offence after receiving information of a cognizable or a non-
cognizable  offence.   Section  2(d)  defines  a  complaint  to   mean   any
allegation made orally or in writing to a Magistrate  with  a  view  to  his
taking action under the Code, that some person,  whether  known  or  unknown
has  committed  an  offence,  but  does  not  include   a   police   report.
Explanation to Section 2(d) states that a report made by  a  police  officer
in a case which discloses after investigation,  the  commission  of  a  non-
cognizable offence shall be  deemed  to  be  a  complaint,  and  the  police
officer by whom such report is made shall be deemed to be  the  complainant.
Sometimes investigation into cognizable offence conducted under Section  154
of the Code may culminate into a complaint case (cases  under  the  Drugs  &
Cosmetics Act, 1940).  Under the PFA Act, cases are instituted on filing  of
a complaint before the Court of  Metropolitan  Magistrate  as  specified  in
Section 20 of  the  PFA  Act  and  offences  under  the  PFA  Act  are  both
cognizable and non-cognizable.  Thus, whether a case is  a  case  instituted
on a complaint depends on the  legal  provisions  relating  to  the  offence
involved therein.  But once it is a case instituted on a  complaint  and  an
order of acquittal is passed,  whether  the  offence  be  bailable  or  non-
bailable,  cognizable  or  non-cognizable,  the  complainant  can  file   an
application under Section 378(4) for special leave to appeal against  it  in
the High Court.  Section 378(4) places no restriction  on  the  complainant.
So far as the State is concerned, as per Section 378(1)(b), it  can  in  any
case, that is even in a case instituted on a complaint,  direct  the  Public
Prosecutor to file  an  appeal  to  the  High  Court  from  an  original  or
appellate order of acquittal passed by any  court  other  than  High  Court.
But there is,  as  stated  by  us  hereinabove,  an  important  inbuilt  and
categorical restriction on the State’s power.  It cannot direct  the  Public
Prosecutor to present an appeal from an  order  of  acquittal  passed  by  a
Magistrate in respect of a cognizable and non-cognizable offence.   In  such
a case the District  Magistrate  may  under  Section  378(1)(a)  direct  the
Public Prosecutor to file an appeal to the Session Court.  This  appears  to
be the right approach and correct  interpretation  of  Section  378  of  the
Code.

19.   Mr. Malhotra is right in submitting that it is only when  Section  417
of  the  Criminal  Procedure  Code,  1898  was  amended  in  1955  that  the
complainant was given a right to seek special leave from the High  Court  to
file an appeal to challenge an acquittal order.  Section  417  was  replaced
by Section 378 in the Code.  It  contained  similar  provision.   But,  Act
No.25 of 2005 brought about a major amendment in the  Code.   It  introduced
Section 378(1)(a) which permitted the District Magistrate, in any  case,  to
direct the Public Prosecutor to present an appeal to the  Court  of  Session
from an  order  of  acquittal  passed  by  a  Magistrate  in  respect  of  a
cognizable and non-bailable offence.  For the first  time  a  provision  was
introduced whereunder an appeal against  an  order  of  acquittal  could  be
filed in the Sessions Court.  Such appeals were restricted to orders  passed
by a Magistrate in cognizable and non-bailable offences.  Section  378(1)(b)
specifically and in clear words placed a restriction on  the  State’s  right
to file such appeals.  It states that  the  State  Government  may,  in  any
case, direct the Public Prosecutor to present an appeal to  the  High  Court
from an original or appellate order of acquittal passed by any  court  other
than a High Court not being an  order  under  clause  (a)  or  an  order  of
acquittal passed by  the  Sessions  Court  in  revision.   Thus,  the  State
Government cannot present an appeal against an order of acquittal passed  by
a Magistrate in respect of a cognizable and non-bailable offence.   We  have
already noted Clause 37 of the 154th Report of the Law Commission  of  India
and Clause 37 of the Code  of  Criminal  Procedure  (Amendment)  Bill,  1994
which state that in order to guard against the arbitrary exercise  of  power
and to reduce reckless acquittals Section 378 was sought to  be  amended  to
provide appeal against an order of  acquittal  passed  by  a  Magistrate  in
respect of cognizable and non-bailable offence.  Thus, this  step  is  taken
by the legislature to check arbitrary and reckless acquittals.   It  appears
that being conscious of rise in unmerited acquittals,  in  case  of  certain
acquittals, the legislature has enabled the District  Magistrate  to  direct
the Public Prosecutor to present an appeal to the  Sessions  Court,  thereby
avoiding the tedious and time consuming procedure of approaching  the  State
with a proposal, getting it sanctioned and then filing an appeal.

20.   It is true that the State has an overall  control  over  the  law  and
order and public order of the area under  its  jurisdiction.
Till  Section
378 was amended by Act 25 of 2005 the State  could  prefer  appeals  against
all acquittal orders.
But the major amendment made in Section  378  by  Act
25 of 2005 cannot be ignored.  It has a purpose.   
It  does  not  throw  the
concern of security of the community  to  the  winds.   
In  fact,  it  makes
filing of appeals against certain types of  acquittal  orders  described  in
Section 378(1)(a) easier, less cumbersome  and  less  time  consuming.  
 The
judgments cited by Mr. Malhotra pertain  to  Section  417  of  the  Criminal
Procedure Code, 1898 and Section 378 prior to its amendment  by  Act  25  of
2005 and will, therefore, have no relevance to the present case.

21.   In view of the above, we conclude  that  a  complainant  can  file  an
application for special leave to appeal against an  order  of  acquittal  of any kind only to the  High  Court.   He  cannot  file  such  appeal  in  the Sessions Court.   
In  the  instant  case  the  complaint  alleging  offences
punishable under Section 16(1)(1A) read with Section 7 of the  PFA  Act  and
the Rules is filed by  complainant  Shri  Jaiswal,  Local  Health  Authority
through  Delhi  Administration.   
The  appellant  was   acquitted   by   the
Metropolitan Magistrate, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi.   
The  complainant
can challenge the order of acquittal by filing an  application  for  special
leave to appeal in the Delhi High Court  and  not  in  the  Sessions  Court.
Therefore, the impugned order holding that this  case  is  not  governed  by
Section 378(4) of the Code is quashed and set aside.  In  the  circumstances
the appeal is allowed.

                                                       ……………………………………………..J.
                                         (AFTAB ALAM)



                                                       ……………………………………………..J.
                             (RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI)


NEW DELHI,
JANUARY 8, 2013.

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[1]    1976 (1) SCC 385
[2]    2001(10) SCC 372
[3]    1973(2) SCC 583
[4]    1970 AWR 288
[5]    1988 (2) KLT 205
[6]    1959 AIR (Kant) 106
[7]    1976 (Mah.) LJ 475
[8]    1986 (90) PLR 466
[9]    1987 Cri.L.J. 612

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