A Special Judge deciding a case not involving offence under SC/ST Act would simply be acting as Sessions Court

Rajasthan High Court: A revision petition was filed against the judgment passed by the learned Special Judge, SC/ST Act, Pali whereby, the appellate court had allowed the appeal, preferred by the respondent. The learned CJM had convicted the respondent Sajid Khan for offences under Section 452, 323 and 326 IPC. The appellate court allowed the appeal and acquitted the respondent from all the charges.

Initially the complainant had preferred a revision against the impugned judgment but thereafter, moved an application for treating the revision to be an appeal under Section 14-A(2) of the Scheduled Castes and the Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (the SC/ST Act) because the judgment under challenge was passed by the Special Judge, SC/ST Act Cases, Pali.

The High Court was of the opinion that though on a plain reading of Section 14-A of the SC/ST Act, it would appear that any order passed by the Special Court or an Exclusive Special Court would be appealable under Section 14-A of the Act, yet, it has to be considered whether the appeal would lie even if the order comes to be passed by a Special Judge in the capacity of an Additional Sessions Judge in a case that did not involve the offence under the SC/ST Act.

The Court further discussed that ex facie, the provisions of the SC/ST Act were introduced to govern cases registered for the offences under the SC/ST Act and essentially the Sessions Judge or the Additional Sessions Judge, as the case may be, acts as Presiding Officer of Special Court for trying the offences under the SC/ST Act. At the same time, the Special Judge who is essentially an officer in the Higher Judicial Services may also be assigned duties of deciding cases under other laws as well and therefore, when the Special Judge decides cases wherein an offence under the SC/ST Act is not involved, he would simply be acting as a Sessions Court or an Additional Sessions Court and hence, procedure of the SC/ST Act would not apply to such cases and they would continue to be governed by general laws i.e. the Code of Criminal Procedure or any other law, as the case may be.

The Court, rejecting the application for treating the revision petition as an appeal under Section 14-A of the SC/ST Act, held, “Since the order under challenge was passed by the learned Special Judge while deciding a regular criminal appeal in the capacity of a Sessions Judge in a case involving offences under the Indian Penal Code only, obviously such order cannot be construed to be an order passed under any provision of the SC/ST Act so as to require filing of an appeal under Section 14-A of the SC/ST Act for challenging the same.” [Abdul Salim v. Sazid Khan,  2017 SCC OnLine Raj 2654, decided on 24.10.2017]

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