NEW DELHI: The anguish of appellate courts over the "brazen" act of absconding of a convict can be understood but it is no ground to dismiss his appeal against the conviction without adverting to merits, the Supreme Court on Thursday held.
The top court's verdict came on a plea challenging the summary dismissal of an appeal of a person, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in a murder case, by the Patna High Court on the sole ground that he fled from justice.
Setting aside the verdict, a bench of justices Abhay S Oka and M M Sundresh remanded the appeal of one Dhananjay Rai alias Guddu Rai to the High Court for hearing afresh in accordance with the law and sought its disposal within six months.
The top court dealt with the legal issue of whether an appeal of the accused against conviction under the provision of the CrPC can be dismissed on the ground that the accused is absconding.
It said, "In the impugned judgment, the Division Bench of the Patna High Court has itself recorded that it is deviating from the settled position of law. Such an approach cannot be countenanced."
Referring to apex court judgements, Justice Oka, writing the verdict, said the law clearly expects the appellate court to dispose of the appeal on merits, not merely by perusing the reasoning of the trial court in the judgement, but by cross-checking the reasoning with the evidence on record with a view to satisfying itself that the reasoning and findings recorded by the trial court are consistent with the material on record.
"The anguish expressed by the Division Bench about the brazen action of the appellant of absconding and defeating the administration of justice can be well understood. However, that is no ground to dismiss an appeal against conviction, which was already admitted for final hearing, for non-prosecution without adverting to merits," it said while setting aside the judgement and asking the high court to consider the appeal on merits.
Rai was convicted in 2009 for the offences punishable under sections 302 (murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and had filed an appeal in the high court which admitted it in 2009 for a hearing on merits.
Later, the high court got irked when the convict fled and dismissed his appeal without adverting to the merits.
Now the accused are in jail serving the sentence.