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‘Appeals against acquittals in cheque bounce case only before HC’

A full Bench of the Madras High Court comprising Justice MM Sundresh, Justice Bharathidasan and Justice Anand Venkatesh held that appeals against acquittals by Magistrate Courts in cheque bounce cases under Negotiable Instrument Act,1881, must be filed only before the HC and not before the Sessions Courts as held by another full bench.

‘Appeals against acquittals in cheque bounce case only before HC’
Madras High Court


The issue had come up over a judgement by a full bench in Madurai bench, which held that the term ‘victim’ also includes a ‘complainant’ and he can also avail remedy under proviso to section 372 of CrPC and file an appeal against an order of acquittal in a Sessions Court. Based on this, hundreds of appeals were sent to Sessions Courts across the State. Following this, Justice PN Prakash made a reference regarding the fallacy in the full court order. This led to Chief Justice AP Sahi referring the matter to another full bench led by Justice Sundresh to answer as to what happens to all the criminal appeals sent to Sessions Courts and still pending, and the effect of those appeals already disposed of by Sessions Courts.

Unwilling to go into the primary issue on the validity of the judgement rendered in S Ganapathy’s case, the full bench held that the court was expected to correct the error resulting in a judgement, which would not have been rendered otherwise.

“As against an order of acquittal passed by a Magistrate on a complaint an appeal will lie only before the HC under Section 378 (4) of CrPC. In such cases, the complainant has to seek for special leave under Section 378 (5) of CrPC. The decision rendered in S Ganapathy case is declared as a judgement per-incuriam since it has been decided without reference to the binding authority in Damodhar’s case,” the bench observed.

“Even on the date of hearing and delivering the judgement in S Ganapathy’s case, the decision of the apex court in Damodhar’s case was holding the field. Perhaps, the present situation would not have arisen had it been brought to the notice of the full bench,” the bench added.

In a concurring judgement, Justice Anand Venkatesh held that 13 High Courts have held that a complainant can file an appeal against acquittal only before the High Court under Section 378(4) of CrPC.

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