Judgments On Criminal Law dealing with Principles Governing Circumstantial Evidence

Criminal Law

Judgments On Criminal Law dealing with Principles Governing Circumstantial Evidence, its Test and Authenticity

Circumstantial Evidence

Information and testimony presented by a party in a civil or criminal action that permit conclusions that indirectly establish the existence or nonexistence of a fact or event that the party seeks to prove.

Circumstantial Evidence is also known as indirect evidence. It is distinguished from direct evidence, which, if believed, proves the existence of a particular fact without any inference or presumption required. Circumstantial evidence relates to a series of facts other than the particular fact sought to be proved. The party offering circumstantial evidence argues that this series of facts, by reason and experience, is so closely associated with the fact to be proved that the fact to be proved may be inferred simply from the existence of the circumstantial evidence.

 

Here we present important principles governing Circumstantial Evidence as propounded by Apex Court & other Courts

Apex Court in Gagan    Kanojia and another Vs. State of Punjab (2006)

  1. Apex Court in Gagan    Kanojia and another Vs. State of Punjab (2006) 13 Supreme Court Cases 516 have held that the Court should use the yardstick of probability and appreciate the intrinsic value of the evidence brought on record and analyse and assess the same objectively. Their Lordships have held as under:

The prosecution case is based on circumstantial evidence. Indisputably, charges can be proved on the basis of the circumstantial evidence, when direct evidence is not available. It is well-settled that in a case based on a circumstantial evidence, the prosecution must prove that within all human probabilities, the act must have been done by the accused. It is, however, necessary for the courts to remember that there is a long gap between may be true and must be true. Prosecution case is required to be covered by leading cogent, believable and credible evidence. Whereas the court must raise a presumption that the accused is innocent and in the event two views are possible, one indicating to his guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the defence available to the accused should be accepted, but at the same time, the court must not reject the evidence of the prosecution, proceeding on the basis that they are false, not trustworthy, unreliable and made on flimsy grounds or only on the basis of surmises and conjectures. The prosecution case, thus, must be judged in its entirety having regard to the totality of the circumstances. The approach of the court should be an integrated one and not truncated or isolated. The court should use the yardstick of probability and appreciate the intrinsic value of the evidence brought on records and analyze and assess the same objectively.

Ujjagar Singh Vs. State of Punjab(2007)

2. Their Lordships of the Honble Supreme Court in Ujjagar Singh Vs. State of Punjab(2007) 13 Supreme Court Cases have held that while evaluating circumstantial evidence, whether a chain of evidence is complete or not would depend on the facts of each case emanating from the evidence and no universal yardstick should ever be attempted.

Mahmood v. State of U.P.(1976)

3. In Mahmood v. State of U.P.(1976) 1 SCC 542 it has been observed that in a case dependent wholly on circumstantial evidence the court must be satisfied

(a)that the circumstances from which the inference of guilt is to be drawn, have been fully established by unimpeachable evidence beyond a shadow of doubt;

 

(b)that the circumstances are of a determinative tendency unerringly pointing towards the guilt of the accused; and

 

(c)that the circumstances, taken collectively, are incapable of explanation on any reasonable hypothesis save that of the guilt sought to be proved against him.

 

In this case this Court held that the omission of the prosecution, inter-alia, to have the finger prints found on the alleged murder weapon was fatal to the prosecution story.

Tulshiram Sahadu Suryawanshi and another Vs. State of Maharashtra(2012)

4. Their Lordships of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Tulshiram Sahadu Suryawanshi and another Vs. State of Maharashtra(2012) 10 Supreme Court Cases 373 have held that a fact otherwise doubtful may be inferred from certain other proved facts. When inferring the existence of a fact from other set of proved facts, the Court exercises a process of reasoning and reaches a logical conclusion as to the most probable position. The principles embodied in Section 106 of the Evidence Act can also be utilized. Where the prosecution has succeeded in proving facts from which a reasonable inference can be drawn regarding the existence of certain other facts, unless the accused by virtue of his special knowledge regarding such facts, has offered an explanation which might drive the Court to draw a different inference. Their Lordships have held as under: It is settled law that presumption of fact is a rule in law of evidence that a fact otherwise doubtful may be inferred from certain other proved facts. When inferring the existence of a fact from other set of proved facts, the Court exercises a process of reasoning and reaches a logical conclusion as the most probable position. The above position is strengthened in view of Section 114 of the Evidence Act, 1872. It empowers the Court to presume the existence of any fact which it thinks likely to have happened. In that process, the Courts shall have regard to the common course of natural events, human conduct etc in addition to the facts of the case. In these circumstances, the principles embodied in Section 106 of the Evidence Act can also be utilized. We make it clear that this Section is not intended to relieve the prosecution of its burden to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, but it would apply to cases where the prosecution has succeeded in proving facts from which a reasonable inference can be drawn regarding the existence of certain other facts, unless the accused by virtue of his special knowledge regarding such 15 Page 16 facts, failed to offer any explanation which might drive the Court to draw a different inference.

 

It is useful to quote the following observation in State of West Bengal vs. Mir Mohammed Omar,(2000) 8 SCC 382: &201C;38. Vivian Bose, J., had observed that Section 106 of the Evidence Act is designed to meet certain exceptional cases in which it would be impossible for the prosecution to establish certain facts which are particularly within the knowledge of the accused. In Shambhu Nath Mehra v. State of Ajmer the learned Judge has stated the legal principle thus: &201C;This lays down the general rule that in a criminal case the burden of proof is on the prosecution and Section 106 is certainly not intended to relieve it of that duty. On the contrary, it is designed to meet certain exceptional cases in which it would be impossible, or at any rate disproportionately difficult for the prosecution to establish facts which are especially within the knowledge of the accused and which he could prove without difficulty or inconvenience. The word especially stresses that. It means facts that are pre-eminently or exceptionally within his knowledge

Arvind Kumar Anupalal Poddar Vs. State of Maharashtra(2012)

5. Their Lordships of the Apex Court in Arvind Kumar Anupalal Poddar Vs. State of Maharashtra(2012) 11 Supreme Court Cases 172 have held that if a fact is especially in knowledge of any person, then burden of proving that fact is upon him. Their Lordships have held as under:

 

We are in full agreement with the above conclusions of the High Court and we find no good grounds to interfere with the same. As rightly argued by learned counsel for the respondent the appellant did not dispute the identity of the body at any point of time, that he did not state anything in the course of 313 questioning about the running away of his wife and that there was no missing link in the chain of circumstances demonstrated before the Courts below. If according to the appellant the deceased ran away from the matrimonial home he should have established the said fact to the satisfaction of the Court as it was within his special knowledge.

State of Rajasthan Vs. Thakur Singh (2014)

6. Their Lordships of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan Vs. Thakur Singh (2014) 12 Supreme Court Cases 211 have held that in a case of unnatural death of wife of accused in a room occupied only by both of them, when there was no evidence of anybody else entering the room and the accused has not explained the circumstances about unnatural death of his wife, the principle under Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872 was clearly applicable. Their Lordships have held as under:

 

We find that the High Court has not at all considered the provisions of Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872. This section provides, inter alia, that when any fact is especially within the knowledge of any person the burden of proving that fact is upon him.

Shambhu Nath Mehra v. State of Ajmer,1956

7. Way back in Shambhu Nath Mehra v. State of Ajmer,1956 SCR 199this Court dealt with the interpretation of Section 106 of the Evidence Act and held that the section is not intended to shift the burden of proof (in respect of a crime) on the accused but to take care of a situation where a fact is known only to the accused and it is well nigh impossible or extremely difficult for the prosecution to prove that fact. It was said: [Section 101˜ lays down the general rule that in a criminal case the burden of proof is on the prosecution and Section 106 is certainly not intended to relieve it of that duty. On the contrary, it is designed to meet certain exceptional cases in which it would be impossible, or at any rate disproportionately difficult, for the prosecution to establish facts which are especially within the knowledge of the accused and which he could prove without difficulty or inconvenience. The word & especially & stresses that. It means facts that are pre-eminently or exceptionally within his knowledge. If the section were to be interpreted otherwise, it would lead to the very startling conclusion that in a murder case the burden lies on the accused to prove that he did not commit the murder because who could know better than he whether he did or did not.

Trimukh Maroti Kirkan v. State of Maharashtra,2006

8. In a specific instance in Trimukh Maroti Kirkan v. State of Maharashtra,2006 10 SCC 681 this Court held that when the wife is injured in the dwelling home where the husband ordinarily resides, and the husband offers no explanation for the injuries to his wife, then the circumstances would indicate that the husband is responsible for the injuries. It was said: Where an accused is alleged to have committed the murder of his wife and the prosecution succeeds in leading evidence to show that shortly before the commission of crime they were seen together or the offence takes place in the dwelling home where the husband also normally resided, it has been consistently held that if the accused does not offer any explanation how the wife received injuries or offers an explanation which is found to be false, it is a strong circumstance which indicates that he is responsible for commission of the crime.

Ganeshlal Vs. . State of Maharashtra, 1992

9. In Ganeshlal Vs. . State of Maharashtra, 1992 3 SCC 106 in which case the appellant was prosecuted for the murder of his wife inside his house. Since the death had occurred in his custody, it was held that the appellant was under an obligation to give an explanation for the cause of death in his statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. A denial of the prosecution case coupled with absence of any explanation was held to be inconsistent with the innocence of the accused, but consistent with the hypothesis that the appellant was a prime accused in the commission of murder of his wife

Dnyaneshwar v. State of Maharashtra,2007

10. In Dnyaneshwar v. State of Maharashtra,2007 10 SCC 445 Court observed that since the deceased was murdered in her matrimonial home and the appellant had not set up a case that the offence was committed by somebody else or that there was a possibility of an outsider committing the offence, it was for the husband to explain the grounds for the unnatural death of his wife.

Jagdish v. State of Madhya Pradesh,2009

11. In Jagdish v. State of Madhya Pradesh,2009 9 SCC 495 Court observed as follows:

It bears repetition that the appellant and the deceased family members were the only occupants of the room and it was therefore incumbent on the appellant to have tendered some explanation in order to avoid any suspicion as to his guilt.

Gian Chand v. State of Haryana,2013 14

12. In Gian Chand v. State of Haryana,2013 14 SCC 420 a large number of decisions of this Court were referred to and the interpretation given to Section 106 of the Evidence Act in Shambhu Nath Mehra was reiterated. One of the decisions cited in Gian Chand is that of State of West Bengal v. Mir Mohammad Omar,2000 8 SCC 382which gives a rather telling example explaining the principle behind Section 106 of the Evidence Act in the following words:

  1. During arguments we put a question to learned Senior Counsel for the respondents based on a hypothetical illustration. If a boy is kidnapped from the lawful custody of his guardian in the sight of his people and the kidnappers disappeared with the prey, what would be the normal inference if the mangled dead body of the boy is recovered within a couple of hours from elsewhere. The query was made whether upon proof of the above facts an inference could be drawn that the kidnappers would have killed the boy. Learned Senior Counsel finally conceded that in such a case the inference is reasonably certain that the boy was killed by the kidnappers unless they explain otherwise The law, therefore, is quite well settled that the burden of proving the guilt of an accused is on the prosecution, but there may be certain facts pertaining to a crime that can be known only to the accused, or are virtually impossible for the prosecution to prove. These facts need to be explained by the accused and if he does not do so, then it is a strong circumstance pointing to his guilt based on those facts.

 

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