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Patna HC asks registry to identify appeals pending for more than 6 months

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Observing that effective steps may be taken for getting such matters listed under appropriate heading after obtaining necessary orders from the Chief Justice, the Patna High Court has directed the Registry to identify all such appeals which are pending before the Court and are covered by subsection (4) of Section 374 or sub-section (4) of Section 377 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Division Bench of Justice Chakradhari Sharan Singh and Justice Khatim Reza passed this order while hearing a Criminal Appeal  filed by Guddu Kumar.

The application has been filed seeking suspension of sentence and release of the appellant on bail during the pendency of the appeal under Section 389(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The sole appellant has assailed the judgment and order of the 1st Additional Sessions Judge-cum-Special Judge (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989), Sitamarhi, dated 14.06.2018, whereby the appellant has been convicted of the offences punishable under Sections 363, 366A, 376 of the Indian Penal Code, Section 3(1) (w)(i), 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and under Sections 4, 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, and vide order dated 20.06.2018 sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years and fine of Rs 2000 under Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code, rigorous imprisonment for five years and fine of Rs 2000.00 under Section 366A of the Indian Penal Code, rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and fine of Rs 5000 under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, rigorous imprisonment for one year and fine of Rs 1000 under Section 3(1)(w)(i) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, imprisonment for life and fine of Rs 10000 under Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and rigorous imprisonment for ten years and fine of Rs 5000 under Section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and rigorous imprisonment for two years and fine of Rs 1000 under Section 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

The criminal appeal was filed on 19.07.2018.

It is submitted on behalf of the appellant that there are good grounds for interfering with the order under appeal. It is being additionally submitted that there is no likelihood of the appeal being taken up for final hearing in near future, which is an additional ground for suspending the sentence and release of the appellant on bail under Section 389(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

In view of the submission made on behalf of the appellant, the court consider, at this juncture, apt to notice a significant statutory provision under sub-section (4) of Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which reads as under: –

“(4 ) When an appeal has been filed against a sentence passed under section 376, section 376A, section 376AB, section 376B, section 376C, section 376D, section 376DA, section 376DB or section 376E of the Indian Penal Code, the appeal shall be disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of such appeal.”

The Court noted that,

It is evident on bare reading of sub-section (4) of Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that it mandates disposal of appeals within a period of six months from the date of filing of appeals, if such appeals are filed against against a sentence passed under section 376, section 376A, section 376AB, section 376B, section 376C, section 376D, section 376DA, section 376DB or section 376E of the Indian Penal Code.

The use of the expression ‘shall’ in sub-section (4) of Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be lost sight of as it discloses the legislative intention underlying the said provision for expediting disposal of such appeals within a period prescribed under the said provision.

It is evident from the statement of objects and reasons that considering the necessity of immediate action required to be taken since the Parliament was not in session, Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 was promulgated on 21.04.2018, which stipulated, inter alia, that appeal against the judgment of conviction or acquittal in relation to offences punishable under section 376, section 376A, section 376AB, section 376B, section 376C, section 376D, section 376DA, section 376DB or section 376E of the Indian Penal Code must be disposed of within six months from the date of filing of the appeal.

The Court opined that there is urgent need of expediting final hearing and disposal of such appeals, which are covered by sub-section (4) of Section 374 and sub-section (4) Section 377 of the Code.

The Court directed the Registry to take all necessary measures as may be required to identify all such appeals which are pending before this Court and are covered by subsection (4) of Section 374 or sub-section (4) of Section 377 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, so that effective steps may be taken for getting such matters listed under appropriate heading after obtaining necessary orders from the Chief Justice.

The Court observed that it is in the interest of justice to adhere to the mandatory statutory prescriptions under sub-section (4) of Section 374 or sub-section (4) of Section 377 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

“Special Public Prosecutor (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989) for the State shall, in the meanwhile, inform the Court as to whether the informant has been in fact made known about the pendency of the appeal before the Court,” the order reads.

The Court has fixed the next hearing of the petition on July 19, 2022.

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