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Realistic, Liberal and Prospective Approach-Mallikarjun Kodagali v. State of Karnataka

Indian criminal justice system has grossly neglected victim’s rights. The identity of victims was being reduced to mere witnesses. As the state is the prosecutor, the victim becomes mere theatrical props in a larger scheme. He is neither a participant in the proceeding launched against the offender nor a guiding element in any stage of prosecution.

Right to appeal was provided for the first time to the victims of the crime under the provision to Section 372 of the Criminal Procedure Code which was added through an amendment in 2008. But, Section 378 of the Code was not amended; which led to the doubt as to “whether a leave of the High Court is required or not in case of an appeal by the victim against the acquittal of the accused.”

The apex court’s judgment in the case of Malikarjun Kodagali is a major step taken towards the advancement of the victim’s jurisprudence in our country. It has cleared various doubts regarding the right to appeal by victims of the crime.



Facts of the case:

The appellant who was the victim of a crime lodged an F.I.R with the police and after the investigation was being done, the case was taken before the District and Session Judge who acquitted the accused. The appellant being aggrieved by the order of the court filed an appeal under the provision to Section 372 of the Code. However, the appeal was dismissed by the High Court as not maintainable because the incident happened after the provision was added to the Code through an amendment. Then the appellate filed another appeal under Section 378(4) of the Code to the High Court. The High Court held the appeal as not maintainable since it was not filed in a case which was instituted upon a complaint before a Magistrate.


Key issues involved in this case:

  1. Whether the appeal filed by the appellant under the provision to Section 372 of the Code was maintainable or not as the offence happened before the said provision was added to the Code?

  2. Whether ‘victim’ as defined under Section 2(wa) of the Code requires to leave to appeal from the High Court against the order of acquittal of the accused given by the trial court?

Supreme Court Ruling in this case:

The apex court by a majority of 2:1 held “that the date of alleged offence has no relevance to the right of appeal. The relevant date is the date of order of acquittal passed by the trial court”. The court said, “the language of the provision is quite clear and we should not read nuances which are not there in the proviso”.

The majority judgment authored by Justice Lokur J. on behalf of him and Justice Nazeer J. referred to “Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power” and said that “the proviso to Section 372 should be given realistic, liberal and prospective approach”. The declaration to which India is also a signatory has also been referred as Magna Carta for victim’s rights. The declaration among many other rights includes “Right to access to justice for the victim of an offence through various justice delivery mechanisms; both formal and informal”. The court said that “the mechanism of delivering justice in India should also include the right to file an appeal against an order of acquittal. The proviso to Section 372 must be given life so as to benefit the victim of an offence.”

Court further held that “the language of the proviso to Section 372 when contradicted with Section 378(4) is quite clear, as the latter is confined only to an order of acquittal for a case which has been instituted upon a complaint”. Moreover, the word ‘complaint’ which is defined under Section 2(d) of the Code refers to “any allegation made to a magistrate orally or in writing” and has nothing to do with the registration of an F.I.R. Therefore, a victim should have a right to file an appeal against the order of acquittal before the Court to which an appeal would ordinarily lie if the order is of conviction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Riddhi Khandelwal is currently studying law from National Law University, Odisha.

you can contact them: https://www.linkedin.com/in/riddhi-khandelwal-a22720170

Edited by: Swati Tolambia

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