Orders of acquittals in criminal cases can be reversed by High Courts only if there are substantial and compelling reasons and when the trial court judgment is found to be perverse, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Interfering routinely where the other view is possible is contrary to the settled legal position crystallised by various Supreme Court judgments, said a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and B.S. Chauhan.

“The appellate court would not be justified in setting aside the trial court judgment, unless it arrives at a clear finding on marshalling the entire evidence on record that the judgment is either perverse or wholly unsustainable in law.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Bhandari said: “An appellate court must bear in mind that in case of acquittal, there is double presumption in favour of the accused. Firstly, the presumption of innocence is available to him under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, the accused having secured his acquittal, the presumption of his innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court.”

In the instant case, a sessions judge in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district acquitted Arulvelu and his father, Krishnasamy, in a case of dowry death of Mangayarkarasi, wife of Arulvelu. However, the Madras High Court reversed the order and found them guilty of offences under Sections 304-B and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. It sentenced them to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment.

Allowing the appeal against this judgment and setting the duo at liberty, the Bench said the fact that the deceased hanged herself was undisputed. “The judgment of the trial court cannot be termed perverse. The High Court ought not to have substituted the same with its own possible view.”

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