Right To Appeal in India

In Brief

Moksh Garg

10/18/20235 min read


In India, the right to appeal is a fundamental part of the legal system and is enshrined in the Constitution and various laws. The right to appeal allows individuals who are dissatisfied with the decision of a lower court or tribunal to have their case reviewed by a higher court to ensure justice is served. This principle is vital for upholding the rule of law and ensuring all individuals have access to a fair and impartial judicial process.

Art. 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, and the Supreme Court of India has consistently interpreted this right to include the right to access justice. This interpretation has affirmed the importance of the right to appeal as a fundamental right of every citizen.

In the Indian legal system, there are multiple levels of courts, and the right to appeal generally extends from lower courts to higher courts. For example, in civil matters, an aggrieved party can appeal from a lower court to a higher court, such as a District Court to a High Court, and finally, to the Supreme Court, which is the country's Apex Court. Similarly, in criminal matters, a person convicted by a lower court in India can appeal to a higher court to challenge the verdict.

The right to appeal is not absolute and is subject to certain limitations and conditions prescribed by law. For instance, there are specific time limits within which an appeal must be filed, and the appellant must have sufficient grounds to challenge the lower court's decision. However, the right to appeal is considered a fundamental aspect of due process and ensures that justice is not only done but is seen to be done.

Overall, the right to appeal in India is a crucial safeguard against miscarriage of justice. It allows individuals to seek redressal and review their cases by a higher judicial authority. It enhances the credibility and integrity of the Indian legal system and reinforces the principle of equality before the law for all citizens.

1. Constitutional Provisions: The right to appeal is recognized and protected under the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. The Supreme Court of India has consistently interpreted this right to encompass access to justice, which includes the right to appeal. Additionally, Article 32 and Article 226 of the Constitution allow individuals to directly approach the Supreme Court and High Courts, respectively, for the enforcement of fundamental rights, further reinforcing the right to appeal.

2. Civil Appeals: In civil matters, the right to appeal is governed under order 41 in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC). According to the CPC, any person aggrieved by the decree or order of a civil court can file an appeal to the appropriate higher court. The hierarchy of civil courts in India includes District Courts, which handle civil matters at the district level, and High Courts, which have appellate jurisdiction over lower courts. The Supreme Court is the highest appellate authority for civil matters.

The CPC lays down specific procedures, timelines, and grounds for filing civil appeals. It requires the appellant to prepare a written memorandum of appeal, identifying the errors in the lower court's judgment. The appeal must be filed within the prescribed time limit, generally 30 to 90 days from the date of the decree or order.

3. Criminal Appeals: The right to appeal in criminal matters is governed under sections 372 to 394 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). If an accused person is dissatisfied with a trial court's judgment, they can appeal to the higher court against their conviction or sentence. The hierarchy of criminal courts in India consists of Magistrate, Sessions, and High Courts, with the Supreme Court acting as the highest appellate authority for criminal cases.

Criminal appeals can be categorized into two types: against conviction and acquittal. An accused person can challenge their conviction, seeking to reverse or reduce their sentence. Conversely, the state or the prosecution can appeal against an acquittal if they believe there was a miscarriage of justice.

Like civil appeals, the CrPC sets out specific procedures and timelines for filing criminal appeals. The appeal must be filed within the prescribed time limit, generally 30 to 90 days from the date of the judgment.

4. Special Appeals and Tribunals: Besides civil and criminal appeals, India has several specialized appellate forums and tribunals to handle specific cases. For instance, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) hears appeals related to company law matters, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) deals with income tax-related appeals, and the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) handles appeals related to armed forces personnel.

These specialized forums allow for faster resolution of cases within their domain and provide an avenue for expert adjudication in their respective areas of law.

5. Appellate Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (SC): The Supreme Court (SC) of India is the highest appellate authority in the country and has the power of judicial review. Article 136 of the Constitution grants the Supreme Court the discretionary power to grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, sentence, or order in any matter which was passed or made by any court or tribunal within India.

Under Article 137, the Supreme Court can review its judgments, ensuring that justice is consistently served and errors are corrected.

6. Limitations and Conditions for Appeal: While the right to appeal is essential for ensuring access to justice, it is not absolute and is subject to certain limitations and conditions. For instance, as mentioned earlier, there are strict time limits within which an appeal must be filed. Failure to file within the prescribed period can lead to the appeal being dismissed as time-barred.

Additionally, the appellant must have sufficient grounds for challenging the lower court's decision. Appellate courts generally do not reexamine the evidence presented during the trial. Instead, they focus on legal errors, procedural irregularities, or issues of law that might have affected the lower court's decision.

Moreover, some cases may be barred from appeal if they fall under specific exceptions provided by law. For instance, if a higher court has already decided a case or the appeal is frivolous, vexatious, or abused the judicial process, the court may dismiss the appeal.

7. Public Interest Litigation (PIL): Besides individual appeals, India has a unique mechanism called Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that allows citizens or organizations to seek justice on behalf of the public or a particular group. PIL cases can be filed in the High Courts or the Supreme Court, focusing on issues of public importance or violations of fundamental rights.

PIL has significantly addressed various social and environmental issues, making the judicial process more inclusive and accessible to the broader public.

8. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanisms: While the right to appeal is crucial, the legal system also encourages using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms like mediation, arbitration, and conciliation to resolve disputes outside the traditional court system. ADR can be faster, more cost-effective, and less adversarial than traditional litigation.

Parties involved in a dispute may choose ADR voluntarily or as mandated by law before resorting to formal appeals in court.


The right to appeal is a cornerstone of the Indian legal system, ensuring that justice is accessible to all citizens. By allowing dissatisfied parties to have their cases reviewed by higher courts, the right to appeal upholds the principles of fairness, equality, and due process of law. While limitations and conditions are attached to the right to appeal, it remains a powerful tool for seeking redressal and upholding the rule of law in India. Moreover, specialized tribunals and the discretion of the Supreme Court in granting special leave to appeal further enrich the appellate landscape, catering to the diverse legal needs of the nation. The right to appeal and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms contribute to a robust and inclusive justice delivery system in India.

(Edited & Posted By Lawful Bytes Team)

Moksh Garg


Punjabi University Patiala