Reference and Revision

A Judge may make some error as Judge is also a human.  No human is perfect, this is applied to Judges or Magistrates as well. The provisions such as Appeal, Review, Reference and Revision are to avoid any injustice or if any human has grievance about the given decree or Judgment and it is an attempt to reduce the errors, which has been done by Judges and Magistrates.

For the same purpose, the Code of Civil procedure has introduced the concepts called Review, Reference and Revision under Sections 114, 113 & 115 respectively. An application for Review, Reference and Revision can be filed in the concerned courts as provided by the Code and the proceedings under these applications do not deal with merits (facts or evidence) of the case. They are solely based on technical grounds.

Reference and Revision

What is reference under criminal procedure code?

Meaning of Reference under Criminal Procedure Code: – The reference is simply an application made by the trial court to the High Court for the interpretation (explanation) of a matter relating to an Act, Legislation, and Regulation. Reference can be defined as the terms to consult a various information from the trial Court which is to make an application for the explanation of the Legislation, Act or regulation pertaining to the case. Reference power is vested with the Court.

High Court empowers the reference power where the cases are transferred by the Subordinate Courts. Reference can be done to the High Court as per the Section 395, for which the case is pending and it has involved in any question pertaining to any of the Act or Regulation or Ordinance or any Provision, which is necessary to determine to dispose a case.

As such, there will be an in-depth examination of the laws to ascertain whether there is a misunderstanding or misapplication of the law or a re-evaluation of the facts of the case with the application of the laws.  Reference Chapter XXX specifically falls under Sections (395-396) Criminal Procedure Code.

Section 395 of Criminal Procedure Code

A reference arises when a case is before a trial court and such a case includes a question relating to the validity of any regulation, ordinance or act or any provision of the act, which is necessary for the determination of a criminal case. Such an act, regulation or ordinance may be inoperative or invalid but the Higher Court like Supreme Court or High Court has not declared it.

As such, the lower court or trial court shall refer to the High Court for its cause or opinion. Such opinions or reasons may form the basis of the court’s decision. In such cases, the accused may be sent to the jail or released on the bail, as there is pending of revert of opinion from the higher court.

Section 396 of Criminal Procedure Code: – Disposal of case according to the decision of the High Court

When the question has been so referred, the High court shall pass such an order that it thinks fit and also can send a copy of such an order to the lower court which shall dispose off the case comfortably to the said order. The high court may also direct the cost of such reference which has to be paid.

What is revision under criminal procedure code?

Meaning of Revision under Criminal Procedure Code: – A revision or modification is a rule that is to correct or change a decision already made. Both revision and appeal are under the review procedures of Criminal Procedure Code. Superior Courts have the power to suspend or execute the sentence. That is, a Court’s decision can be modified by Sessions court or higher or Supreme Court. The main objective of both sides is to modify, change, correct the decision already made by the trial court. The Revision power can be exercised by Superior Court.

Usually the High Court has power to re-examine the case which has been dealt by the lower courts; this power is not like appeal; High Court can determine whether to examine a case or not. The purpose of a revision is to re-assure the legal procedures which were exercised by the lower court is without any errors while delivering the verdict. Revision in Higher Court falls under Revisional Jurisdiction.

Chapter XXX of CrPC with the sections 397 to 402 deals with the provisions of revision. Revision can be done by Higher Courts. It is mentioned in the code to serve as a check and also to ensure that the High Court has the power to see that justice is served in accordance with the rules and laws. The amendment ensures that the Court does not abuse its powers or exceed its jurisdiction as provided by the Code.

Section 362 of the Criminal Procedure Code

Provides that no court has the authority to review or change its final judgment or order or decision, which is signed. The only exception is to correct clerical, arithmetic or grammatical errors. Therefore, the power to review may vest in the superior court but the power to revise rests with the lower court. The power of review, reference and revision cannot be exercised in the case in which the appeal is pending in the High Court.

Revision is defined under Chapter XXX, Sections (397–402) of the Criminal Procedure Code

  1. Section 397: – The court has the power to call for the record of the proceedings of its court or any inferior courts.
  1. Section 398: – Upon examining the record of proceedings, the judge has the right to order an inquiry into the decision of a case.
  1. Sections (399 – 400): – The Sessions Judge has the power to revise any decision and may call additional Sessions Judges to revise the decision.
  1. Section 401: – The High Court has the power to modify cases before it or before the lower or inferior courts.
  1. Section 402: – The High Court is also empowered to transfer or withdraw the revision cases.

Difference between an Appeal, Reference and Revision

It is defined under Chapter XXIX of the Criminal Procedure Code.It is defined under Chapter XXX of the Criminal Procedure Code.It is defined under Chapter XXX of the Criminal Procedure Code.
It is defined from Section 372- 394 of the Criminal Procedure Code .It is defined from Section 395-396 of the Criminal Procedure Code .It is defined from Section 397-402 of the Criminal Procedure Code .
An appeal is made to the higher court on the points of the fact and laws.Reference is made to the higher court on the points of the law.Revision is made to both higher and lower court on the already adjudicated matters.
The Appeal begins on the determination of the case.The Reference occurs while the case is still pending in the court.The revision begins under the final judgment or final order or final decision of the court.
An appeal or petition is to be filed against the decision passed by the lower court.Reference is to consult the High Court on insolvency or invalid law, act, regulation or ordinance related to the case at hand.Revision is to review, change or amend any grammatical, clerical or arithmetic error by a trial court or high court.
In some cases, an appeal can be filed with leave of the court by an aggrieved person or accused.Reference is made by the trial court to the High Court.The revision can be initiated by the trial court suo moto or the High Court.

Case laws under Reference and Revision

  1. Chandrappa vs. the State of Karnataka
    1. The appellate court laid down the guiding principles for appeals against acquittals (proven innocent). The principles are as follows: –
      1. Where the fact of the case is clearly wrong and warrants a miscarriage of justice. In this instance, an acquittal can be appealed. This doctrine was established in Bhagirath, 35 Cr LJ 1367.
      2. In an instance where the trial court failed to make a clear distinction between an indisputable conclusion from the facts of the case. Example, Routhula 40 Cr LJ 458.
      3. Where the trial court overlooked the material evidence in the decision of the case which resulted in wrong judgment or miscarriage of justice. Example, Dharnadas, A 1960 SC 734.
      4. When the facts of the case presented were wrongly dismissed as evidence by the trial court. An example is Dhulaji, A1963G 234.
  1. Hari Shankar vs. Rao Ghari Chowdhury
    • In this case, the Supreme Court highlighted the difference between revision and appeal.
    • The court held that difference between revision and appeal is real. The right of appeal comes with a right of re-hearing on laws as well as facts, unless the statute confers some limitations on the right to appeal in some way.
    • The power of revision is generally given to supreme court so that it may satisfy itself that the judgement given in the particular case is in accordance to the laws.
  1. Mohd. Afzal vs. Noor Nisha Begum on 5 February, 1997
    • In this case, the court held that it is mandatory for the Sessions Judge and it is established law that when the power of revision is exercised, the accused or the said person should be given an opportunity of being heard.
  1. Amit Kapoor vs. Ramesh Chander & Anr
    • In this case, the court held that the jurisdiction conferred on the Court under section 397 may be exercised to inquire into the legality, correctness or propriety of an order or judgment passed by the lower court or any lower court. This section does not specifically use the words “to prevent abuse of process of court and to secure justice” and the jurisdiction under this section is very limited. Jurisdiction can be exercised where there is error, if there is no compliance with the provisions of law or if the judgment is wrong in nature or judicial discretion is exercised arbitrarily.


Reference and revision are different in terms of law but all serves the same purpose to ensure that justice is served. Reference is for consulting the higher courts of law pertaining to the pending cases. Revision is to review or to alter any error made after the deliverance of final judgment. The Jurisdiction for revisional of the High Court is quiet extensive.  It has inherent powers to deal the cases of revision which is applicable for substantive as well as procedural matters but it does not have power to re-examine any of the evidence.

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