Analysis of Section 397 & Section 167(2) Of The Criminal Procedure Code




A number of provisions enshrined under the Indian Criminal Procedure Code (‘CrPC’), which is a comprehensive legislation that regulates the administration of the procedural aspects of criminal law, are essentially the pillars of the criminal justice system. Through the present article the author attempts to highlight Sections 397 and 167(2) because of their importance in maintaining legal and judicial supervision and defending the rights of the accused.

Scope & Importance Of Section 397 Of Criminal Procedure Code

The basis of this section can be categorised as a revision provision which is there to revise any serious legal mistake or misconduct. For this section to be applicable the violation must have a well-founded basis as it is not suitable for any court to investigate an order passed by a competent subordinate court which prima facie has a justified application of the law. The application of Section 397 to seek revisional jurisdiction over any order of a competent inferior criminal court is limited to orders which are gravely inaccurate, do not have a proper application of legal provisions, a major piece of evidence has been overlooked or the judgement is passed without a basis on any genuine evidence.

To limit the misuse of this section a number of parameters have been put in place for it to be applicable. The section is limited to only one revision application either in the high court or a sessions court and cannot be filed in the other if it is filed in one. The court which is exercising the powers enshrined under this section cannot apply it to interim or interlocutory orders. Similarly, a court of competent jurisdiction cannot alter an acquittal to a conviction.

Important SC Judgments On Section 397

The case Amar Nath & Ors. v. State of Haryana & Anr. is one of the major cases pertaining to Section 397. The Supreme Court clarified in this case the extent of the revisionary powers under Section 397, informing that this jurisdiction is maintainable only where there is an actual procedural flaw or a legal mistake that might lead to a miscarriage of justice. The ruling made it clear that the revisionary powers should be applied as a supervisory measure to fix patent flaws rather than as a second appellate jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court further elucidated the meaning of Section 397 in Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra, holding that interlocutory orders were not subject to challenge under this section. By averting an overabundance of interlocutory applications to the higher courts, this ruling aims to maintain judicial economy and avoid unwarranted trial process delays. This ruling mainly aimed at avoiding trail process delays by avoiding an excessive flow of interlocutory applications to the higher courts. The Court decided that although though the power of revision is great, it shouldn’t be used to suppress the legal system or unduly impede the trial process.

Significant HC Judgments On Section 397

The jurisprudence pertaining to Section 397 has likewise benefited greatly from the High Courts’ substantial contributions. The Karnataka High Court reiterated in Smt. Nagawwa v. Veeranna Shivalingappa Konjalgi, 1976 that the revisional jurisdiction under Section 397 should be used judiciously and only in situations where there is a clear and obvious legal error. The Supreme Court’s position on avoiding judicial delays and improper use of revisional powers is echoed in this ruling.

The power enshrined under Section 397 was further clarified in the 2006 case of Easwaramurthy v. N. Krishnaswamy in which the court decided that the revisional court did not have to impose the accused’s incarceration in order to suspend the sentence. This decision made it clear that the accused’s rights and freedom should be maintained throughout the revision process by giving the revisional court the freedom to halt the exercise of the sentence without putting the accused in jail.

Importance Of Section 167(2) Of Criminal Procedure Code

The magistrate who either has the jurisdiction or not, in-front of whom the accused is presented shall have the powers to try the case and also put the accused in custody of the police for a maximum of 15 days. The case might be forwarded to a magistrate with competent jurisdiction if the current magistrate who has no jurisdiction over trial believes that the accused should not be further detained and should be tried.

Important SC Judgments On Section 167(2)

Regarding Section 167(2), the ruling in Uday Mohanlal Acharya v. State of Maharashtra, is crucial. According to the Supreme Court, an accused person’s right to ‘default bail’ under Section 167(2) is an unalienable and basic right. Aside from the case’s decision, the accused should be released if they provide bail, according to the court, which also decided that this right would come into effect immediately after the allotted time has passed. This ruling emphasised striking a balance between the preservation of individual liberty and the requirement for an efficient investigation.

In the 1994 case of Sanjay Dutt v. State of Maharashtra through the Central Bureau of Investigation., the apex court clarified the steps to be taken when the time limit under Section 167(2) runs out. Under this the court decided that the accused should be granted bail if the Magistrate did not take timely action to finalise the application for bail under this section.

Significant HC Judgments On Section 167(2)

Several significant rulings interpreting Section 167(2) have been rendered by High Courts throughout India; these rulings have occasionally agreed with and occasionally deviated from the Supreme Court’s findings. The Delhi High Court defined the duration of detention under Section 167(2) for acts punishable with death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for a minimum of 10 years in the case of Rajeev Chaudhary v. State (NCT) of Delhi. The High Court ruled that if the charge sheet is not filed within the allotted 90 days for such heinous acts, the prisoner is eligible for bail. This ruling aligned with the interpretation made by the Supreme Court in the case of Uday Mohanlal Acharya v. State of Maharashtra.

However, there have been cases where High Courts have adopted opposing opinions. The Delhi High Court adopted a strong approach in Sayed Mohd. Ahmed Kazmi v. State, GNCTD & Or’s , refusing ‘default bail’ under Section 167(2) and reading the extension powers under special statutes more narrowly. Later, the Supreme Court went through this ruling and examined it to ensure that the accused’s rights under Section 167(2) are exercised.

Senthil Balaji v. State represented by Deputy Director & Ors., 2023 is a recent case in which the Delhi High Court upheld the Principal District & Sessions Judge’s decision to reject the Magistrate’s order granting the accused default bail. The right to bail under Section 167(2) is a definitive order if the inquiry cannot be finished within the allotted time, as the High Court determined when it held that the statutory bail grant could not be regarded as an interlocutory order.


The provisions of CrPC Sections 397 and 167(2) are essential for preserving the fairness of the legal system and protecting the rights of the accused. Higher courts can ensure that the legal system is fair and just, by using the supervisory powers granted by Section 397 to address judicial errors and prevent miscarriages of justice. Section 167(2)’s right to “default bail” serves as a safeguard for individual liberties and the idea of a fair trial by preventing extended incarceration without charge or trial.
Decisions from the Supreme Court have established precise rules for how these parts should be interpreted and used, highlighting the need to strike a balance between individual rights and efficient investigations. While typically adhering to these norms, high courts have also contributed to the development of jurisprudence by occasionally offering differing interpretations that the supreme court later harmonised. Section 397’s ongoing judicial supervision guarantees that mistakes made in subordinate courts can be swiftly fixed, averting injustices. In addition, Section 167(2) safeguards the accused’s personal freedom by making sure that their incarceration isn’t unnecessarily prolonged because of hold-ups in the enquiry.

A key component of the procedural safeguards in the Indian criminal justice system, these sections emphasise the delicate balance between upholding judicial oversight and defending individual rights through their meticulous judicial interpretation.

Authors: Maisha Chanana & Aditya Ojha


Interns and Paralegals.


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