Compiled By: Ashwani Kumar Singh

A look into the cases mentioned in Asar Mohammad & Ors. v. State of U.P., Crl. Appeal No 1617/2011 to understand the concept of circumstantial evidence-

In   a   case   based  on   circumstantial   evidence  where  no eye­ witness account is available, there is another principle of   law  which  must  be  kept   in  mind.  The  principle   is  that when an incriminating circumstance is put to the accused and the said accused either offers no explanation or offers an explanation which is found to be untrue, then the same becomes an additional link in the chain of circumstances to make   it   complete.

Mulakh  Raj  &  Ors.  v.   Satish  Kumar  &  Ors.[1]

In a case founded on circumstantial evidence, the prosecution must prove all the circumstances connecting  unbroken  chain  of links leading to   only   one   inference   that   the   accused   committed   the crime. If any other reasonable hypothesis of the innocence of   the   accused   can   be   inferred   from   the   proved circumstances,   the   accused   would   be   entitled   to   the benefit.   What   is   required   is   not   the   quantitative   but qualitative,   reliable   and   probable   circumstances   to complete the chain connecting the accused with the crime.

If   the   conduct   of   the   accused   in   relation   to   the   crime comes into question the previous and subsequent conduct are  also  relevant facts. Therefore, the  absence  of  ordinary course of conduct of the accused and human  probabilities of  the  case  also  would  be  relevant.  The  court  must  weigh the evidence of the cumulative effect of the circumstances and   if   it   reaches   the   conclusion   that   the   accused committed the crime, the charge must be held proved and the conviction and sentence would follow.

Padala Veera Reddy v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Ors.[2]

When   a   case   rests   upon   circumstantial   evidence   such evidence must satisfy the following tests:

  1. the circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn, must be cogently and firmly established;
  2. those circumstances   should   be   of   a   definite tendency unerringly pointing towards guilt of the accused;
  3. the circumstances,   taken   cumulatively,   should form a chain so complete that there is no escape from   the   conclusion   that   within   all   human probability the crime was committed by the accused and none else; and
  4. the circumstantial   evidence   in   order   to   sustain conviction   must   be   complete   and   incapable   of explanation of any other hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused and such evidence should not only be consistent with the guilt of the accused but should   be   inconsistent   with   his

Trimukh Moroti Kirkan v. State of Maharashtra[3]

If an offence takes place inside the privacy of a house and in   such   circumstances   where   the   assailants   have   all   the opportunity to plan and commit the offence at the time and in circumstances of their choice, it will be extremely difficult for the prosecution to lead evidence to establish the guilt of the accused if the strict principle of circumstantial evidence, as noticed above, is insisted upon by the Courts.

Where an offence like murder is committed in secrecy inside   a   house,   the   initial   burden   to   establish   the   case would undoubtedly be upon the prosecution, but the nature and   amount   of   evidence   to   be   led   by   it   to   establish   the charge cannot be of the same degree as is required in other cases of circumstantial evidence. The burden would be of a comparatively lighter character. In view of  Section  106 of the  Evidence  Act there  will be  a  corresponding  burden  on the inmates of the house to give a cogent explanation as to how  the  crime  was  committed.  The   inmates  of  the  house cannot  get  away  by   simply  keeping  quiet  and  offering  no explanation   on   the   supposed   premise   that   the   burden   to establish   its   case   lies   entirely   upon   the   prosecution   and there   is   no   duty   at   all   on   an   accused   to   offer   any explanation.

State  of U.P. v. Dr. Ravindra Prakash Mittal[4]

In this case, the medical evidence disclosed that the wife died of strangulation during late night hours or early morning and her body was set on fire after sprinkling kerosene. The   defence   of   the   husband   was   that   wife   had   committed suicide by burning herself and that he was not at home at that time. The letters written by the wife to her relatives showed that the husband ill-treated her and their relations were strained and further the evidence showed that both of them were in one room in the night. It was held that the chain of circumstances was   complete   and   it   was   the   husband   who   committed   the murder of his wife by strangulation and accordingly the Supreme Court  reversed the judgment of the High Court acquitting the accused and convicted him under Section 302 IPC.

Nika Ram v. State of Himachal Pradesh[5]

It was observed that the fact that the accused alone was with his wife in the house when she was murdered there with ‘khokhri’ and the fact that the relations of the accused with her   were   strained   would,   in   the   absence   of   any   cogent explanation by him, point to his guilt.

State of Tamil Nadu v. Rajendran[6]

The wife was found dead in a hut which had caught fire. The evidence showed that the accused and his wife were seen together in the hut at about 9.00 p.m. and the accused came out in the morning through the roof when the hut had caught fire. His explanation was that it was a case of accidental fire which resulted in the death of his wife and a daughter. The medical evidence showed that the wife died due to asphyxia as a result of strangulation and not on account of burn injuries. It was held that there cannot be any hesitation to come to the conclusion that it was the accused (husband) who was the perpetrator of the crime.

[1] (1992) 3 SCC 43.

[2]  (1989) Supp. (2) SCC 706.

[3] (2006) 10 SCC 681.

[4] (1992) 3 SCC 300; AIR 1992 SC 2045.

[5] (1972) 2 SCC 80

[6] (1999) 8 SCC 679.

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