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Chhattisgarh High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Gautam Chourdiya, JJ.,  dismissed an application for “condonation of delay in filing acquittal appeal” on finding no satisfactory explanation for a delay of almost thirteen and a half years.

The present application was filed for condonation of delay in filing the acquittal appeal. The appeal was against the acquittal of respondents 2 to 14 from the charge under Sections 302, 147, 148/149, 452, 325, 323 and 427 of Penal Code, 1860 rendered by Additional Sessions Judge vide its judgment is barred by a delay of 5010 days – more than thirteen and a half years.

Appellant in the present matter is the wife of the deceased who was done to death by 16 accused persons including respondents 2 to 14. Trial Court acquitted the present 13 respondents and convicted only 3 of them.

Counsel for the appellant, Ashok Varma submitted that no period of limitations is prescribed for filing appeal under Section 372 of CrPC, therefore, family members of the victim/deceased are entitled to file an appeal at any point of time. Further added that, the appellant had valid and sufficient reasons for not preferring the appeal within a reasonable time as after the date of the incident, the accused persons were threatening the appellant and other members of the family to leave the village otherwise they will meet the same fate like deceased.

Counsel for the appellant to support his contention relied on the case of Mithilesh Yadav v. State of Chhattisgarh, ACQA No. 96 of 2012 & Dineshbhai Makwana v. State of Gujarat, 2013 Cri.L.J. 4225.

Learned Panel Lawyer, Avinash Choubey representing the State, Counsel Anjinesh Shukla, representing the respondents 2 to 14 vehemently opposed the prayer fro condonation of delay. They contended that the appellant has suddenly decided to file an appeal for no reason, therefore, the present is a case where the appeal deserves to dismissed either as barred by limitation or on the ground of delay and laches.

Held

The High Court, in view of the stated facts and submissions, stated that three accused who have been found to be the real perpetrators were convicted by the trial court, therefore, there does not appeal to be any real or tangible threat to the appellant or her family members. Moreover, no complaint or report was annexed with the application in support of the submission that there was threat extended to the appellant or her family members.

Taking in reference to the case relied upon the counsel for the appellant, i.e. Mithilesh Yadav v. State of Chhattisgarh, ACQA No. 96 of 2012, it was stated that

“Even if no period of limitation is prescribed under Section 372 CrPC an appeal against acquittal has to be preferred with reasonable time from the date of knowledge.”

Court noted that, counsel for appellant fairly submitted that the appellant was aware of the judgment soon after its delivery as respondents 2 to 14 started threatening the appellant soon after the judgment.

Thus, the Court in view of the above submitted that the appeal should have been filed within 90 days after the impugned judgment. The present is a case where the delay is not of a few months, but the delay is of almost more than 13 and a half years. Court added to their decision that, there is no satisfactory explanation for causing such enormous delay in filing the acquittal appeal.

Hence, the instant acquittal appeal on grounds of unexplained delay and laches is dismissed.[Anand Mati Yadav v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 92, decided on 03-09-2019]