This matter was listed before the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court.

 Case No.  Crl. A. (MD) No. 347/2017
 Date of Judgment  5th April, 2016
 Bench  V.Ramasubramanian, N.Kirubakaran, S.Vaidyanathan, JJJ.
 Judgment By  V.Ramasubramanian, J.
 Ful Judgment  Click Here

Meaning of the Term “Victim”

Re-iterated and re-confirmed Ramphal v. State & Ors. (Delhi High Court Case)

“ “victim” can possibly also comprehend those who suffer proximate physical or emotional harm such as fiancés, live-in partners, etc. To restate the correct position, there has to be a relationship between the injury and the person who suffered it i.e. the “victim”. Consequently, the injury (to the victim who suffers it has to be proximate; it cannot be remote. At the same time, given the nature of what is “injury” (under Section 44, IPC) the enquiry of proximity would be fact dependent. Courts would assess such issues, based on established principles, and balancing the facts on a case to case basis. To conclude the discussion, it is also emphasized that where the victim is unable (by reason of trauma, shock or other disability) to make a choice of preferring an appeal, those who are in a position to do so on her or his behalf (and who might also have suffered some proximate harm) – such as relatives, foster children, guardians, fiancé or live-in partners etc., can maintain an appeal under the proviso to Section 372.”

Who can be a legal heir to pursue the remedy under Section 372 Cr.P.C?

Again, Madras High Court re-iterated and re-confirmed Ram Phal v. State the Full Bench (Delhi High Court judgment)

The object of the Act being the prevention of distortions of the criminal justice system, it is clear that the state interest is to 51 prevent the subversion of justices in cases where the State chooses not to appeal an acquittal. This does not mean, of course, that the appeal procedure is open to anyone and everyone. The interest of preventing distortions and ensuring justice must be balanced – as has been pointed out – against the longstanding principles of criminal procedure that form the underlying legal context, such as the right of the accused to a fair trial, and the double presumption of innocence. This is the rationale for the class of persons who are competent to maintain an appeal has been restricted to victims, and their guardians and legal heirs. This aim of this limitation is to establish a threshold of proximity, which is used to achieve the balance between competing interests.

The Court holds that developing a case-by case proximity test for the meaning of “victim” and an understanding of “legal heirs” that tracks the relevant personal law, but is not limited to only those legal heirs entitled to succeed the property, achieves an adequate balance between the two interests. So long as the existence of a legal relationship is established between the (deceased) victim and the one who seeks to appeal under the proviso to Section 372, sufficient locus standi has to be conceded…..”

The anxiety of Parliament to confine the right of appeal to a restricted category of cases is evident from the subject-object predicate, i.e. the nexus between the “victim” and “injury” is apparent from the fact that appeals are admitted to only those injured by the crime or offence (“means a person who has suffered any loss or injury caused by reason of the act or omission for which the accused person has been charged”), where “injury” is defined by Section 44 of the IPC, as discussed earlier. In this first sense, the class of persons, i.e victims being those suffering loss or injury, is clear enough; only the actual victim, wherever available, directly affected by the crime or offence (“act or omission”) attributable to the offender (“accused person”) are conferred the right to appeal.

The second part of the definition (the “pull in” if one may use that expression) is the associative part, in that, by way of the expression “includes”, Parliament sought to bring in those persons and individuals 52 who are not per se victims of the crime, but associated with her (or him). This was necessary because if the victims were no longer alive (because of the crime itself, such as murder, homicide, etc.), and the victim who suffered “harm to the mind”, as a loved one of the victims simpliciter, was also unavailable to exercise the right to participate in the trial, then such persons would be considered as suffering “loss” as well as “injury”, and thus would be deemed victims. It is merely in this associative sense that such persons are entitled to appeal against an acquittal, and, therefore, the legal heirs cannot possibly exclude victims who have suffered “injury” that is direct and proximate “harm to the mind”. The structure of the definition in Section 2 (wa), shows that Parliament’s primary concern was to enable only victims who suffered “injury”, be it physical or emotional (in its most direct and proximate sense, as opposed to those who were merely inconvenienced or whose injury or loss was remote), the participative rights within the criminal trial process, only in the absence of whom, the “legal heirs” would be allowed.

Victim’s Right to prefer an appeal

Relied on Satyapal Singh Vs. State of M.P. & Ors. [2015 (4) MLJ (Crl.) 219 (SC)]

The Supreme Court in Satyapal Singh said:~

“The Full Bench of the High Court of Delhi after examining the relevant provisions under Section 2(wa) and proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C., in the light of their legislative history has held that the right to prefer an appeal conferred upon the victim or relatives of the victim by virtue of proviso to Section 372 is an independent statutory right.

Therefore, it has held that there is no need for the victim in terms of definition under Section 2(wa) of Cr.P.C. to seek the leave of the High Court as required under Sub-Section (3) of Section 378 of Cr.P.C. to prefer an appeal under the proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. The said view of the High Court is not legally correct for the reason that the substantive provision of Section 372 of Cr.P.C. clearly provides that no appeal shall lie from any judgment and order of a Criminal Court except as provided for by Cr.P.C. Further, Sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C. provides that for preferring an appeal to the High Court against an order of acquittal it is necessary to obtain its leave.”

“It is abundantly clear that the proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C. must be read along with its main enactment i.e., Section 372 itself and together with Sub-Section (3) to Section 378 of Cr.P.C. otherwise the substantive provision of Section 372 of Cr.P.C. will be rendered nugatory, as it clearly states that no appeal shall lie from any judgment or order of a Criminal Court except as provided by Cr.P.C.”

Conclusion:

(1) A victim of the crime, who has prosecuted an accused by way of a private complaint, has a statutory right of appeal within the limits prescribed under Section 372 of Cr.P.C.

(2) A complainant (in a private complaint), who is not a victim, has a remedy and can file an appeal in the event of acquittal of the accused after obtaining leave to appeal under Section 378(4) of Cr.P.C 60.

(3) In a private complaint, even if the victim is not a complainant, he has a right to appeal under the proviso to Section 372 of Cr.P.C., but he has to seek leave as held by the Supreme Court in Satyapal Singh.

(4) The term “victim” has been correctly interpreted by the Full Bench of the Delhi High Court in Ramphal and this bench of Madras High Court is in agreement with the same.

(5) A victim (as defined under Section 2(wa) of the Cr.P.C does not cease to be a victim merely because he also happens to be a complainant and he can avail all the rights and privileges of a victim also.


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