appeal reference and revision under crpc

In this article, Pavneeka Parashar discusses Appeal, Reference and Revision under the Code of Criminal Procedure.


The process of criminal justice has some serious consequences on an individual’s life, primarily on the right to life and personal liberty. Each and every institution built by humans is prone to fallibility, therefore, this applies to the decisions rendered by courts as well. Resultantly, there should be specific provisions in place so as to scrutinise the decisions of lower courts in order to obviate the scope of miscarriage of justice. Realizing this aspect, there are certain provisions which have been included in the criminal procedure on appeal against a judgment or order of criminal courts. CrPC contains elaborate provisions on appeals starting from Section 372 to Section 394.

Howbeit, there are certain cases in which there is no right to appeal. The legislators bore this in mind and incorporated the concept of review procedure called revision in the legislature so as to completely avoid any miscarriage of justice for even those cases where the right of appeal has been barred by CrPC. Section 397 to Section 405 include the powers of revision granted to the higher courts, and the procedure to exercise these powers. It must be noted that these powers are extensive as well as discretionary by their very nature.

In a general sense, appeal is a legal right conferred upon parties, however, revision completely depends on the discretion of a criminal court, which means that it is not a right as such. In criminal cases, at least one appeal is granted to an accused by the legislature, whereas there is no such right in instances of revision. In fact, the courts have many times discussed the difference between an appeal and a revision. In the case of Hari Shankar vs Rao Ghari Chowdhury[1], the Supreme Court held that “the distinction between an appeal and a revision is a real one. A right of appeal carries with it a right of rehearing on law as well as fact, unless the statute conferring the right of appeal limits the rehearing in some way as. The power to hear a revision is generally given to a superior Court so that it may satisfy itself that a particular case has been decided according to law.”

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The word “appeal” has not been defined in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (hereinafter CrPC), however, it can be described as the judicial examination of a decision, given by a lower court, by a higher court. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines appeal as “a legal proceeding by which a case is brought before a higher court for review of the decision of a lower court”.[2]
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It needs to be pointed out that except for the statutory provisions laid down by CrPC or any other law which is in force, an appeal cannot lie from any judgment or an order of a criminal court.[3] Thus, there is no vested right to appeal as such as even the first appeal will be subjected to statutory limitations. The justification behind this principle is that the courts which try a case are competent enough with the presumption that the trial has been conducted fairly. However, as per the proviso[4], the victim[5] has a right to appeal against any order passed by the Court under special circumstances comprising of a judgment of acquittal, conviction for lesser offence or inadequate compensation.

In the case of Satya Pal Sigh vs State of Madhya Pradesh[6], the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the father of the deceased has a locus standi to present an appeal to the High Court under the proviso of Section 372, as he falls within the definition of “victim”, to question the correctness of judgment and order of an acquittal of accused.

Generally, same sets of rules and procedures are employed to govern the appeals in the Sessions Courts[7] and High Courts (highest court of appeal in a state and enjoys more powers in matters where appeal is permissible). The highest court of appeal in the country is the Supreme Court and hence, it enjoys the most extensive discretionary and plenary powers in the cases of appeals. Its powers are largely governed by the provisions laid down in CrPC, Indian Constitution, and the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction), 1970.

The law provides a person who has been convicted of a crime to appeal to the Supreme Court or the High Court or the Sessions Court as per the circumstances.[8] In the case of Arun Kumar vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[9], the Honourable Supreme Court held that if the High Court found that the view taken by the Sessions Judge to acquit the appellants was manifestly wrong, moreover, it even led to miscarriage of justice, therefore, the High Court was correct in setting aside this acquittal and convicting them.

The State Government has been empowered to direct the Public Prosecutor to appeal against the sentence on the grounds of inadequacy to either the sessions court or the High Court, however in only those cases where the trial for conviction has not been held by the High Court.[10] This shows that this right to appeal against sentences on the grounds of inadequacy has not been granted to the victims or the complainants or any other person. Moreover, it is mandatory for the Court to give the accused a reasonable opportunity to show cause against any enhancement of the sentence in the interest of justice. The accused has the right to plead for his acquittal or a reduction in the sentence while showing cause.

Similarly, the District Magistrate, and the State Government have the powers to direct the Public Prosecutor to present an appeal in case of an acquittal to Court of Sessions, and the High Court, respectively, subject to certain conditions.[11] A two-Judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court held in the case of Satya Pal Singh vs State of Madhya Pradesh[12] that the victim cannot file an appeal against an order of acquittal without obtaining the leave of the High Court.

The accused has been given the right to appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgment of the High Court if the High Court has reversed an order of his acquittal on appeal by convicting him, thereby, sentencing him to imprisonment for life or for ten years or more, or to death.[13] Understanding the relevance of a criminal appeal being made to the Supreme Court, the same law has also been laid down in Article 134(1) of the Indian Constitution under the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970, has also been passed by the legislature in consonance with Article 134(2) of the Indian Constitution to confer additional powers on the Supreme Court to entertain and hear appeals from the High Court under certain conditions.

A similar right to appeal has been granted to one or all accused persons if more than one persons have been convicted in a trial and such order has been passed by the court.[14]

However, there are certain circumstances under which no appeal shall lie. These provisions have been laid down under Section 265G[15], Section 375[16] and Section 376[17] of the CrPC.

As to the finality of the judgments and orders passed on appeal, CrPC makes them final except in some cases.[18] This shows how paramount importance is given to appeals.


The word “revision” has not been defined in CrPC, however, as per Section 397 of CrPC, the High Court or any Sessions Judge have been empowered to call for and examine the records of any proceeding satisfy oneself:

  1. as to the correctness, legality, or propriety of any finding, sentence or order, whether recorded or passed, and
  2. as to the regularity of any proceedings of an inferior court.

Moreover, they have the powers to direct the execution of any sentence or an order to be suspended. Not just this, but to even direct to release the accused on bail or on his own bond if the accused is in confinement. They may even order an inquiry subject to certain limitations.[19] It is clearly evident that the appellant courts have been granted such powers so as to obviate any failure of justice.

The Honourable Supreme Court of India, in the context of this provision, held in the case of Amit Kapoor vs Ramesh Chander & Anr[20] that “the revisional jurisdiction can be invoked where the decisions under challenge are grossly erroneous, there is no compliance with the provisions of law, the finding recorded is based on no evidence, material evidence is ignored or judicial discretion is exercised arbitrarily or perversely.” The same Court, further explaining this provision, held in the case of State Of Rajasthan vs Fatehkaran Mehdu[21] that “the object of this provision is to set right a patent defect or an error of jurisdiction or law or the perversity which has crept in the proceeding.”

The High Court has the power to take up a revision petition on its own motion i.e. suo moto or on the petition by an aggrieved party or any other party. The Allahabad High Court held in the case of Faruk @ Gaffar vs State Of U.P.[22] that “whenever the matter is brought to the notice of the Court and the Court is satisfied that in the facts and circumstances of the case, a case is made out for exercising the revisional powers suo motu, it can always do so in the interest of justice.”

There are certain statutory limitations that have been imposed on the High Court for exercising its revisional powers as per Section 401 of CrPC, however the only statutory requirement to exercise this power is that the records of the proceedings are presented before it, after which it is solely the discretion of the Court:

  1. An accused is to be given due opportunity to hear him and on order cannot be passed unless this is followed.
  2. In instances where a person has forwarded a revisional application assuming that an appeal did not lie in such a case, the High Court has to treat such application as an appeal in the interests of justice.
  3. An application of revision cannot be proceeded with if it has been filed by a party where the party could have appealed but did not go for it.

The High Court, as well as the Sessions Court, may call for record of any proceeding of any inferior criminal Court situated within its jurisdiction for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the correctness, legality of propriety of any finding, sentence, etc. Thus, the Sessions Judge could examine the question in relation to the inadequacy of sentence in view of the powers conferred on him by Section 397(1) of CrPC.[23]

The difference between the powers of the High Court and the Sessions Court being that the Sessions Judge can only exercise revisional powers which he has called for by himself, whereas the High Court has the power to take up a revisional matter by itself or when it is brought to its knowledge. The powers of a Sessions Court are the same as that of the High Court while dealing with revisional cases. The Madras High Court in the case S. Balasubramaninan vs The State Of Tamil Nadu[24] held that “a Sessions Judge can entertain an application in revision against sentence and enhance the sentence in revision in certain cases.” It has also been previously held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case Alamgir vs State of Bihar[25] that “in respect of enhancement of sentence in revision the enhancement can be made only if the Court is satisfied the sentence imposed by the trial Court is unduly lenient, or that in passing the order of sentence, the trial court has manifestly failed to consider the relevant facts”


It can thus be clearly seen that through the process of appeals, a person gets an opportunity to get any legal, or factual error in an order or judgment corrected. Nevertheless, appeals against any judgment, or order, or sentence of a criminal court can only be preferred when it has been specifically provided in the statutes. Thus, the right to appeal can only be exercised within the limits laid down by CrPC or any other law which is in force and hence, this is a constricted right. As far as the decision to appeal is considered, it is discretionary except in cases when an accused person has been sentenced to death by Sessions Court. Not only this, there are certain cases as well in which appeal is not allowed at all, in fact the judgment, or order, or sentence delivered by the criminal court will attain finality.

Moreover, there is no doubt that the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court is quiet extensive. In fact, it can be said that no form of any judicial injustice can permeate through this power. It has been held in various decisions that the High Court is allowed to exercise it inherent powers when dealing with cases of revision. These inherent powers apply to both substantive as well as procedural matters. However, it cannot re-examine any evidence.


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[1] 1963 AIR 698


[3] Section 372 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[4] Ins. by Act 5 of 2009 in Section 372 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[5] Defined in Section 2(wa) of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as 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 and the expression “victim” includes his or her guardian or legal heir.

[6] Criminal Appeal No. 547 of 2013.

[7] Section 381 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[8] Section 374 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[9] AIR 1989 SC 1445

[10] Section 377 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[11] Section 378 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[12] Criminal Appeal No. 690 of 2017

[13] Section 379 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[14] Section 380 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[15] Finality of the Judgment- Judgement delivered under this section to be final and only special leave petition under Article 136 and writ petition under Articles 226 and 227 allowed.

[16] No appeal in certain cases when accused pleads guilty.

[17] No appeal in petty cases.

[18] Section 393 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[19] Section 398 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[20] (2012) 9 SCC 460

[21] Criminal Appeal No. 216 of 2017

[22] Criminal Misc. Application No. 227273 of 2012

[23] Section 399 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[24] Crl. Revision Nos.8,9 of 2009 and Crl.O.P.No.8025 of 2008

[25] AIR 1959 SC 436



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