Analyse the powers of Revision and Appeal

Article 21 of the Constitution states that, “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law." [1] 

Thus every person deserves the right to at least one appeal so that justice is meted out fairly in any legal procedure, natural justice prevails and the right to life and liberty may be preserved. The power given to citizens, of revision and appeal, hold jurisprudential, philosophical and practical significance. This right may be used by anyone, the accused or acquitted as well as the one alleging the crimes. In this project, the powers of revision and appeal granted to the victims of crime will be analysed and understood in detail.

For this purpose an understanding of the meanings of terms such as ‘appeal’, ‘revision’, and a distinction between the two will be made.

The term ‘appeal’ has not been specifically defined in the Criminal Procedure Code. The dictionary though defines it as, “ask a higher court of law to reverse the decision of a lower court." [2] Thus it is meant to bring to the concern of the higher courts if there is discontentment in any of the parties to a suit regarding a judgement or verdict given by any lower court. Sections 372 to 394 of the Code deals with appeals.

Sections 395 to 405 deals with ‘revision’ and revisional jurisdiction of certain courts the sections empower Sessions judges and High Courts to exercise revisional jurisdiction by calling for and examining the record of an inferior court for the purpose of satisfying as to the legality or propriety of any finding, sentence or order recorded, imposed or passed by such inferior court.


To understand the powers of victims of crime to revision and appeal of a case, the distinction between the two must be established.

An appeal must be heard as a matter of right, but in a revision application the applicant has no such right. If a case does not fall under Sections 397 0r 401(2) of the Code, a claim of hearing cannot be made as a matter of right.

An Appeal is a petition to a higher court and can only succeed on the basis of an error of law or perversity arising out of the decision by the lower court. If the Appeal succeeds, the appeal ruling takes precedence over the lower judgement.

A revision does not involve a higher court and is undertaken by the same court that gave the decision. It is not a substitute for an Appeal and therefore cannot invite the court to change its mind. Appeal is a request to court against the judgement of lower court. This is a matter of right of the parties. Revision is a new outlook towards a legal resolution.

A right of appeal means that the rehearing will be made as on fact as well as law, revision on the other hand is supervisory and discretionary in nature.

Revisional power may be ordered by a court on its own, but an appeal requires a petition to be made.

Most importantly, in a case of appeal, if the High Court decides to overrule the previous judgement given by the lower court, it has full jurisdiction to do so, but in a case of revision the High Court does not have this power, though it may order a retrial but cannot impose a fresh verdict on the case.

Thus it is clear that between the two, appeals are more effective in redressing a wronged judgement, or may be more fruitful if the appellant wants the case to be reheard and the verdict changed.

There are broadly two kinds of appeals available to victims of crime, appeals against acquittal of the accused and appeal for enhancement of sentence of the criminal. The next chapter will deal with each separately.


Appeal against acquittal is provided for in Section 378 of the code. Thus if an accused has been acquitted by the court of an alleged crime, the victim of such crime has a right to appeal, so that the sentence maybe reconsidered in court and fair justice may be meted out.

The right of appeal against acquittal is available to the District Magistrate, the State and Central Government and private parties in cases instituted upon a complaint when special leave is granted by the High Court, though if this application for special leave if not granted by the High Court, no appeal from an order of acquittal will lie at the instance of the government.

The reason for this limiting right of appeal is to ensure that an appeal against acquittal is only filed when a grave mistake of law has occurred, and not to encourage people to take out their personal vendettas against people. Appeal should be used as a tool only if there has been a mistake of law during the previous trial.

There have been several landmark cases which have shown that appeal against acquittal have been extremely useful to the victims of crime. In the case Prandas v. State [3] , the accused was acquitted at first by the trial court and in appeal convicted by the High Court because eyewitness evidence was found. Thus it was held in this case that the High Court had independent judgement in cases was appeal and was not obliged by the decision of any other lower court which may have a differing judgement.

The case Chandrappa v. State of Karnataka, specifically laid down general guiding principles that the appellate courts dealing with appeals against acquittals must bear in mind to aid the cause of the victims of crime, while keeping in mind the position of the accused as well.

In this discussion the principles that a high court must bear in mind when the facts of a certain case under scrutiny is wrong are as follows:

1. Facts are clearly wrong and involves a miscarriage of justice, the case in question being Bhagirath, 35 CR LJ 1367 .

2. When the trial judge has erred in failing to draw the clear unquestionable and irresistible inference from the facts. An example of this principle being Raothula 40 CR LJ 458.

3. When the trial courts appreciation of evidence is vitiated by failure to take note of a very important fact bearing a consequence on the ultimate decision of the case. This principle was upheld in Dharnadas, A1960 SC 734.

4. When the facts of the case were found based on erroneous rejection of evidence by the Court where the procedure is being tried, as held in , Dhulaji, A 1963G 234.

The victims of crime may also demand an appeal for the enhancement of sentence of the accused. Section 377 provides for this appeal. This section says that the State Government or the Central Government, may direct a public prosecutor to present an appeal to the High Court against a sentence passed by a lower court on the grounds of its inadequacy. The High Court then provides the accused with a fair opportunity of showing cause against such enhancement of sentence and also provides the accused with an opportunity to plead for acquittal or reduction of sentence as well.

This section was enacted keeping in mind the position of the victims of crime, in case the sentence given by the court was extremely inadequate, and quoting the Law Commission to show the object of this section is appropriate, “It may be noticed that although Section 417 permits the State Government to appeal against an order or acquittal, it does not permit any appeal against a conviction when the punishment may be grossly inadequate. Any error in sentencing can be remedied only by the exercise of revisional powers of the High Court. This is somewhat unsatisfactory. There seems no reason why the State Government should not appeal against an inadequate sentence; nor why such an appeal cannot be handled by ordinary Courts of appeal [4] ."

In such a situation, where the sentence is inadequate, another remedy lies to the victims of crime, that being of revision. The High Court can, in exercise of its revisional jurisdiction, call for records of any case it finds inadequately dealt with and enhance the sentence after having had given opportunity to the accused to defend himself.



The reason for granting a power of revision to victims of crime is so that a superior criminal court may wield a sort of supervisory jurisdiction which makes certain that justice is given out correctly and fairly, without any neglect or irregularities of procedures of law, and causing unnecessary burdens upon the victims involved. A limitation on the power of revision would be that it is discretionary in nature and must only be exercised by a higher court in exceptional cases where there has been an evident mistake of law. In the case Pranab Kumar v. State of W. B. [5] the Supreme Court held that revisional powers do not create any right in the litigant, but only conserve the power of the High Court to see that justice is done in accordance with the recognized rules of criminal jurisprudence, and that subordinate criminal courts do not exceed their jurisdiction, or abuse their powers vested in them by the Code [6] .Revision is broader in sense than appeal .

It must be noted that both Revision and Appeals under the Criminal Procedure Code are review procedures. This means that the verdicts of lower courts are scrutinised and corrected by the Superior courts in criminal matters. The lower criminal court which has passed the order can review its order under Section 362 of the Code only to correct clerical or arithmetical orders.

In contrast though, in the Civil Procedure Code, the courts which pass the order or decree has, to a large extent wider power to review its own order as expressed in Section 114 of the Civil Procedure Code. This is distinctly different from the Criminal Procedure Code where under Section 362 it says, “Save as otherwise provided by this Code or by any other law for the time being in force, no court, when it has signed its judgement or final order disposing of a case, shall alter or review the same except to correct a clerical or arithmetical error." [7] 

Another distinct point about revision which must be made is that the power of revision is exercised by a superior court to a court which decides a case, but the power of review is exercised by the same court which passed the decree or order. Power of revision is exercised only when there is no appeal to the High Court. This happens to be one of the main points of difference between revision and appeal.

Here the question of when should the power of revision be exercised becomes important. It is understood that the power of revision is an special power which must be exercised keeping in mind the circumstances of each individual case, as held in Bankatram, 28 B 533, 566. Not every illegal rder or erroneous judgement deserves revision, only in cases where a grossly unfair trial has taken place, for example the accused has been unjustly prejudiced, or the victims of crime have not had a fair trial due to non-observance of material provisions of law, thus only in such cases does the court grant revision of the case.

It is important to note that the High Court even in a revision of a case can change the length of sentence if it finds it to be wrongly given out and enhance the sentence if it is inadequate. This power also lies in appeal but it is important to note that a prisoner’s sentence may be enhanced by the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court even if the appeal has been dismissed.


The powers granted to the victims of crime, that of revision and appeal, are extremely relevant and important so that fair justice may be meted out by the courts. It has been established that every individual, under article 21 of the Constitution of India has a right to life and personal liberty. Thus, this requires fair trial, and since it can be so that a certain verdict or judge may be fallible, that the verdict may be wrong , or inadequate or even unjust, then in such a situation, to ensure that fair trials may be held and justice may be meted out to the victims of crime, provisions for revision and appeal have been provided for in the Criminal Procedure Code. These powers grant the victims involved a fair chance at being heard and presenting their case again, though it should be kept in mind that a persons may even keep appealing then just out of motives of sheer vindication. For this too the Code has created safeguards, an appeal shall not be heard unless the leave of appeal has been granted, and a revision may not be heard in all cases, though the High Court has suo moto powers of revision, a revision in fact may not be heard specifically so where an appeal lies. These safeguards thus are aimed at making the Criminal Procedures an infallible system of justice so that no man is wronged. Of course in practical life this is a different story, because of several backlogs in cases and corruptions, but at least to see that such provisions exist and mean to provide expeditious and fair trials restores faith in the criminal procedures.

Thus it has been seen through this project that these powers granted to victims of crime are all a part of the scheme of fair justice and trials, which the Criminal Procedure Code tries to provide to every victim and accused, and are immensely beneficial for those wronged in justice by law or victims of erroneous decisions.