SC’s Recent Verdict on Admissibility of Circumstantial Evidence and Extra-Judicial Confession

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January 16, 2019

In this recent case, the Three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court deliberated on the factors to be considered in a criminal case where case of prosecution rests on circumstantial evidence.

Case name: Devi Lal v. State of Rajasthan

The Appellants in the case have challenged their conviction under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. In the present case, the case of prosecution was primarily based on circumstantial evidence and extra-judicial confession and on the basis of same the High Court affirmed the appellants’ conviction.

Bench’s Verdict

While deciding the case at hand, the Supreme Court noticed that case of the prosecution is based on circumstantial evidence and extra-judicial confession and deliberated on the law pertaining to circumstantial evidence to establish guilt of the accused.

Extra-Judicial Confession- In relation to admissibility of extra-judicial confession, the Supreme Court observed that an extra judicial confession is used against its maker but as a matter of caution, advisable for the Court to look for a corroboration with the other evidence on record. In this context, reference was made to Apex Court’s verdict in the case of Gopal Sah v. State of Bihar[1], wherein the Court while dealing with extra judicial confession held that extra judicial confession is, on the face of it, a weak evidence and the Court is reluctant, in the absence of a chain of cogent circumstances, to rely on it, for the purpose of recording a conviction.

With reference to the facts of the present case, the Court noted that there were no additional cogent circumstances on record to rely on it.

Circumstantial Evidence- The Supreme Court Bench in the case also took the opportunity to throw some light on the law pertaining to circumstantial evidence, its relevance and decisiveness, as a proof of charge of a criminal offence. The Bench accordingly made reference to it’s decision in the case of Sharad Birdhichand Sarda Vs. State of Maharashtra[2], wherein the Court outlined the following conditions to be fulfilled before a case against an accused can be said to be fully established:

  • the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully established.
  • the facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, that is to say, they should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty;
  • the circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency,
  • they should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved, and
  • there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused.

In view of the aforesaid observations and facts and circumstances of the case, the Apex Court was of the view that the circumstantial evidence relied upon by the prosecution and noticed by the High Court in the impugned judgment, to prove the charge is visibly incomplete and incoherent to permit conviction of the appellants.

The entire case can be accessed here.

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[1] 2008(17) SCC 128

[2] 1984(4) SCC 116