Appellate Jurisdiction of Supreme Court in Criminal matters

By Meher Sunil Dabrai


The Constitution lays the foundation of the entire legal framework in India. It is the root from which all the laws in the country derive their authority and force. The concept of appeals or appellate jurisdiction of Courts arises from the constitution and are of great significance in the Indian judicial system.

Under appellate jurisdiction, the Court has the power to review, amend and overrule the decisions of a lower Court. This is especially significant in criminal matters to avoid grave injustices like wrongful convictions or the guilty getting away without a punishment.

In India, the appellate jurisdiction can be invoked in the High Court as well as the Supreme Court under the purview of different provisions in the Constitution.

Appeals under the Constitution of India

Article 132 states that any judgement, decree or order of the High Court can be appealed against in the Supreme Court if the High Court certifies under Article 134A that the case involves a substantial question of law related to the interpretation of the Constitution. A party may appeal to the Supreme Court if they feel that such an aforementioned question has been wrongly decided.

Article 133 provides that an appeal may be filed in the Supreme Court from any judgement, decree or final order in a civil proceeding of a High Court if the High Court certifies that the case involves a substantial question of law and in its opinion the said question needs to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Article 134 of the Constitution provides for the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in regard to criminal matters wherein any final order or sentence in a criminal proceeding in the High court may be appealed against under the following circumstances:

  • If it has on appeal reversed an order of acquittal of an accused person and sentenced him to death or;
  • Has withdrawn for trial before itself any case from any court subordinate to it and has in such trial convicted the accused or sentenced him to death or;
  • Certifies that the case is one that is fit to be appealed against in the Supreme Court.

Certificate Appeals to the Supreme Court in Criminal Matters

According to Article 134 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to hear matters which may or may not be granted a certificate under Article 134 by the High Court.

  • Without the certificate under Article 134(a)(b):

An appeal can be made without the certificate if the High Court has reversed an acquittal order that was passed for the accused in the lower Courts and punished him with the death sentence or life imprisonment or imprisonment for a period of 10 years or more;

When the High Court has withdrawn any case from before itself by any subordinate Court and has convicted the accused person and has sentenced him to death on the trial.

  • With certificate under Article 134(c):

If the High court feels that a particular criminal case is fit for appeals in the Supreme Court of India.

Limitation Period for filing a criminal appeal in the Supreme Court

The limitation period for filing an appeal against conviction in a criminal case depends upon a variety of factors. There is no limitation period for filing appeals under the Criminal Procedure Code 1973 (CrP.C) although it does laydown the limitation period for taking cognizance of an offence.

The Limitation period for filing an appeal against a conviction is laid down in the Limitation Act 1963. Article 115 of the Limitation Act lays down the provisions in regard to the same:

  • Appeal against a death sentence:

The limitation period for an appeal to be filed against a conviction resulting in death sentence passed by a session’s court or a High Court while exercising its original jurisdiction is 30 days.

  • Appeal from any other sentence or order (not acquittal) when such appeal is filed in the High Court:

The limitation period or any other sentence or order (which is not an order of acquittal) when such an appeal is to be filed in any other court (apart from the High Court) the limitation period is 30 days.

For example, if the judgement against which an appeal is to be filed was pronounced on 10th July 2019, that day has to be excluded which means that the period of limitation will start from the next date i.e. 11th July 2019. Further, if an application for a certified copy of the judgement is made on 14th July and the certified copy is delivered on 17th July then that period is also considered to be excluded while considering the limitation period.

Power to criticize the lower Courts

While exercising the appellate powers, the Courts have to be very careful while making disparaging remarks against any people or authorities that are not present or represented in the court to be able to explain and defend themselves and against whom enough evidence is not on record or those whose conduct does not need to be commented upon for deciding the particular case.

The pronouncements made by the court need to be judicial n nature and should not normally depart from sobriety, moderation and reserve.

Case Laws

  • Ram Kumar versus State of Madhya Praadesh[1]


The accused was charged under Section 307 of the Indian Penal code with respect to one person and under Section 302 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code for having caused death of another along with another accused. The trial court only convicted him under Section 324 of the Indian Penal Code and acquitted him of the other charges.

The High Court appeal was allowed and the High court convicted the appellant under Sections 302 and 34 of the IPC thereby sentencing him to imprisonment for life. Later, a Supreme Court appeal was also allowed.


An appeal to the Supreme Court made by the accused in a case where an acquittal by the lower Courts is converted into a conviction by the High Court and a sentence of life imprisonment has been imposed on him, is a matter of right under the Indian Constitution as well as under the Supreme Court Act and in such a case, no certificate of the High Court is necessary for an appeal to be made in the Supreme Court.

  • Sita Ram and others versus State of Uttar Pradesh[2]


The appellants in the appeal were acquitted by the Sessions court were later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court under Sections 302 read with 149 of the Indian Penal Code. Their appeal made under the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act 1970 was listed for its primary hearing it was contended that the said provision empowering the court to dismiss the appeal summarily ultra vires of the Enlargement Act.

The second contention was that an appeal under the Enlargement Act cannot be dismissed summarily without calling for records or ordering notice to the State and without giving reasons.


Article 134(c) mentions the certificate as a measure to gauge the seriousness of a matter because the High Court which has heard the case certifies that it involves cases of such moment that the Supreme Court itself does not resolve them.

To dispose off such a matter the preliminary healing should be to reflect on the High Court’s capacity to understand the seriousness of the need for such certification to appeal.

  • Chandra Mohan Tiwari and another versus State of Madhya Pradesh[4]


The Appellants were alleged to have kidnapped, wrongfully confined and raped the victim and they were prosecuted under Sections 363, 366 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code. After the examination of the witness and the leading of evidence in the matter, the appellants were prosecuted for murder and acquitted from all other charges by the Sessions court. The State preferred an appeal in the High Court.

The High Court allowed the appeal and set aside the acquittal order and convicted the first appellant under Section 302 and the second under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced each of them to undergo imprisonment for life.


As per the organic synthesis of events, the circumstances that the facts of the case lead to one conclusion that the prosecution had satisfactorily proved beyond doubt that the accused was guilty and consequently, the judgement of the High Court did not call for any interference by the Supreme court.

  • State Bank of India and another versus SBI employees union and another[5]


The employees of the State Bank of India filed a writ petition in the High Court questioning the right of the management to fic the working hours and of recess and its right to stagger the recess period and other consequential reliefs.

The High Court allowed the petition and further also granted a fitness certificate under Article 134A of the constitution to file n appeal in the Supreme Court to challenge the order of the division bench granting a certificate in respect of those decisions.


The certificate under Article 134A of the Constitution can only be a certificate which is referred to in clause (1) of Article 132 or in clause (1) of the Article 133 or in sub-clause(c) of clause (1) of Article 134 of the constitution. Article 134A does not constitute an independent provision under which a certificate can be issued.

The High Court has the power to issue the certificate only if the conditions under Article 132, Article 133 and Article 134 as the case may be satisfied. The Supreme Court held that the appeal would have to be filed and treated as a Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the constitution before being posted for preliminary hearing.


The concept of “appeals” or the “appellate jurisdiction of the court” is an essential aspect of the right to justice under the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court being the Apex court in the country harbors a position of great responsibility especially when it comes to administering justice in regard to criminal matters in the country.

In recent times, despite being in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the judicial system in the country is still functioning and the Supreme Court along with the other Appellate courts in the country have been trying their best to conduct the proceedings online as effectively as possible to avoid any delay in the administration of justice to the people of the nation.


  1. Ram Kumar versus State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1975) SC 1026
  2. Sita Ram and others versus State of UP AIR 1979 SCC (3) 656
  3. Rajendra Singh Yadav versus Chandra Sen and Others AIR 1979 SC 882
  4. Chandra Mohan Tiwari and Another versus State of Madhya Pradesh AIR (1992) 891
  5. State Bank of India and another versus SBI employees union and another 1987 AIR 2203

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