Order Taking Cognizance & Issuing Summons Is Appealable Under S.14A SC/ST Act Because It Is An “Intermediate Order,” Not An “Interlocutory Order”: High Court of Orissa

In the case of Smrutikant Rath & Ors. v. State of Odisha & Anr.(Case No.: CRLA No. 408 of 2022 Order,Dated: 20th June 2022), according to the Orissa High Court, a summons order and decision taking cognizance of alleged violations of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989) are “appealable orders” under the Act’s Section 14-A(1). Justice Aditya Kumar Mohapatra’s single-judge bench further ruled that while the order meets the criteria for a “intermediate order,” it cannot be categorized as a “intermediate order.” Notably, Section 14-A(1) of the Act states that “any judgement, sentence, or order, not being an interlocutory order, of a Special Court or the Exclusive Special Court, shall be appealable to the High Court both on facts and on law, notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974”).

Facts: The Special Court took cognizance of offences punishable under Sections 376(2)(n)/294/34, IPC read with Section 3(1)(r)(s)/3(2)(va) of the SC & ST Act and issued summonses to the accused, according to an appeal filed by the appellant under Section 14 A of the SC & ST Act on April 12, 2021. Whether the order issued by the Special Court taking cognizance under the provisions of the SC & ST (POA) Act and issuing summonses therein is a “interlocutory” order and, as a result, not appealable to the High Court under Section 14 A(1) of the Act, was the question that needed to be decided by the Court.

Judgement: The Supreme Court has issued numerous judgments that address various aspects of the character of the order passed in the current case, including whether it is interlocutory or not, the Court stated. It then continued to depend on the Supreme Court’s subsequent views made in Girish Kunar Suneja v. CBI, wherein it noted the ruling in Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra on the matter. In Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra, the idea of an intermediate order was further clarified by contrasting a final order and an interlocutory order. According to this ruling, an intermediate order is one that is interlocutory in character but, if reversed, has the effect of ending the proceedings and producing a final order. An order taking cognizance of an offence and summoning an accused person, as well as an order establishing charges, are two such intermediate orders that quickly come to mind. These orders are initially interlocutory in nature, but if an order taking cognizance and calling an accused is overturned, the proceedings against that person are terminated, culminating in a final order in that person’s favour. Similar to that, if a charge-framing order is overturned, the accused individual is released and the ultimate ruling is in his or her favour. Therefore, an intermediate order is one that, if passed in a particular way, would cause the proceedings to come to an end, but, if passed in a different way, would cause them to continue. Given the aforementioned precedents, the Court determined that the order taking cognizance and summoning the accused person is an intermediate order rather than an interlocutory order. In light of the clauses in Section 14 A(1) of the Act, the same is therefore appealable. The appeal was therefore recognised as being maintainable.

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