Court rejects plea of three convicted of dishonouring cheques
The right to appeal against a conviction is not an inherent right of an accused, the Bombay High Court observed in a recent judgment. This was in the context of a challenge made to a provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which restricts the right to appeal in petty cases where the punishment is less than a stipulated period of imprisonment or amount of money.
In its order, a division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Sadhana Jadhav said, “There is no inherent right of appeal. If the statute creates a right of appeal, any act which prevents the accused from preferring an appeal...may be in violation of Article 21 (protection of life and liberty) of the Constitution of India. But a legislation cannot be struck down on the ground that there is a violation of Article 21 as a result of failure to provide for an appeal against a particular category of orders of conviction.” The judges went on to reject the challenge raised in the petition.
The petition challenging the provisions — Section 376 (b) and 376 (c) of the CrPC — was filed by three persons who were convicted by a metropolitan magistrate for dishonouring cheques. The value of the cheques amounted to Rs 14,35,000. The magistrate sentenced them to a minor period of imprisonment till the rising of the court. The three persons were also directed to pay a compensation of Rs 15,00,000 to the complainant in the case, and in default to undergo simple imprisonment for six months. They later approached the Sessions Court, which dismissed the appeal citing the restriction laid down in the code.
Counsel for the petitioners Ashutosh Kumbhakoni contended that the restriction puts unreasonable and discriminatory conditions, questioning why it makes a distinction between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. He also pointed out that a conviction casts a stigma on the accused, and disqualifies him from public posts. He added that various international treaties have laid down that a convict should have the right of at least one challenge to his conviction on facts.
However, Additional Solicitor General Kevic Setalvad argued that it is for the legislature to decide whether the right to appeal should be conditional or unconditional. He added that metropolitan magistrates have historically always been treated as a separate class from judicial magistrates of the first class. Agreeing