S 397(2) CrPC – Meaning Of ‘Interlocutory Order’

Section 397 CrPC deals with Revision Powers of High Court/Sessions Court. Sub-section (2) reads as follows: The powers of revision conferred by sub-section (1) shall not be exercised in relation to any interlocutory order passed in any appeal, inquiry, trial or other proceeding.

The old code of 1898 did not contain such a provision. The Statement of Objects and Reasons accompanying the 1973 Code stated that “the, powers of revision against interlocutory orders are being taken away, as it has been found to be one of the main contributing factors in the delay of disposal of criminal cases.”

The controversy regarding the scope of the word ‘interlocutory’ reached the Supreme Court in  Amar Nath v. State of Haryana (1977) 4 SCC 137 within a few years of enactment of the 1973 Code. In this case, the order of a judicial Magistrate summoning the accused was assailed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court which dismissed it. It was held by the High Court that this summoning order is an ‘interlocutory’ order and therefore Revision Petition is not maintainable. Allowing the appeal, the Apex Court bench observed: The term “interlocutory order” is a term of well-known legal significance which has been used in various statutes. Decided cases have laid down that interlocutory orders to be appealable must be those which decide the rights and liabilities of the parties concerning a particular aspect. The term “interlocutory order” in s. 397(2) has, been used in a restricted sense and not in any broad and artistic sense. It merely denotes orders of a purely interim or temporary nature which do not decide or touch the important rights or liabilities of the parties. Any order which substantially affects the right of the accused, or decides certain rights of the parties cannot be said to be an interlocutory order so as to bar a revision to the High Court against that order, because that would be against the very object which formed the basis for insertion of this provision in s. 397 of the Code. For instance, orders summoning witnesses, adjourning cases, passing orders for bail, calling for reports and such other steps in aid of the pending proceeding, may no doubt amount to interlocutory orders against which no revision would lie under s. 397(2) of the Code. But orders which are matters of moment and which affect or adjudicate the rights of the accused or a particular aspect of the trial cannot be said to be interlocutory orders so as to be outside the purview of the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court.

In Madhu Limaye vs State of Maharashtra AIR 1978 SC 47, this principle laid down in Amar Nath was reiterated as follows: The strict test for interpreting the. words ‘Interlocutory Order’ cannot be applied while interpreting it as appearing in section 397(2).. The interpretation that what is not a final order must be an interlocutory order is neither warranted nor justified. If it were so, it would render almost nugatory the revisional power of the Sessions Court or High Court conferred by section 397(1). Although the words occurring in a Particular statute are plain and unambiguous they have to be interpreted in a ‘manner which would fit in the context of the other provisions of the Statute and bring about the real intention of the legislature. There may be an order passed during the course of a proceeding which may be not final but yet it may not be interlocutory order pure or simple. Some kinds of orders may fall in between the two. The bar of section 397(2) is not meant to be attracted to such kind of intermediate orders.

These judgments in Amar Nath and Madhu Limaye was followed in K.K. Patel vs State of Gujarat, (2000) 6 SCC 195 In this case, a revision petition was filed challenging the taking of cognizance and issuance of a process. ““It is now well-nigh settled that in deciding whether an order challenged is interlocutory or not as for Section 397(2) of the Code, the sole test is not whether such order was passed during the interim stage. The feasible test is whether by upholding the objections raised by a party, it would result in culminating the proceedings, if so any order passed on such objections would not be merely interlocutory in nature as envisaged in Section 397(2) of the Code. In the present case, if the objection raised by the appellants were upheld by the Court the entire prosecution proceedings would have been terminated. Hence, as per the said standard, the order was revisable.”

All these principles laid down in the above judgments were taken note of by the Supreme Court in Girish Kumar Suneja vs CBI (2017) 14 SCC 809 wherein it was observed: We may note that in different cases, different expressions are used for the same category of orders – sometimes it is called an intermediate order, sometimes a quasi-final order and sometimes it is called an order that is a matter of moment. Our preference is for the expression ‘intermediate order’ since that brings out the nature of the order more explicitly.

Leave a Comment