of Madhya Pradesh Vs. Sanjay Rai  Insc 199 (25 March 2004)
Raju & Arijit Pasayat. Arijit Pasayat, J.
of Madhya Pradesh calls in question legality of the
judgment rendered by a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court directing
acquittal of the respondent by upsetting judgment of conviction recorded by the
Trial Court. The Trial Court found the respondent (hereinafter referred to as
'the accused') guilty of offences punishable under Section 302 of Indian Penal
Code, 1860 (in short 'the IPC') and sentenced to undergo life imprisonment and
a fine of Rs.200/- in addition to sentence of three years RI imposed for
offence punishable under Section 201 IPC and fine of Rs.200/- with default
stipulation for fines.
version in a nutshell is as follows:
(hereinafter referred to as the 'deceased') was married to the accused on
14.12.1990 at Allahabad (U.P.) whereafter she came to Dhanpuri along with the
accused on 15.12.1990. Anita Bai died on 25.12.1990 at Dhanpuri in her room in
their house. Written report about the incident (Ex.P-14) was lodged by the
accused at P.S. Amlai, District Shahdol on 25.12.1990 at about 11.40 p.m. It was reported in Ex.P-14 by accused Sanjay Rai
that he had gone to the house of one Rajendra Sharma and had returned from
there at about 9.00
p.m. and went to his
room. The room was bolted from inside. On being pushed, the latch fell down and
the door opened. He found that his wife, deceased, was hanging from the bolt of
the almirah, upon which he caught hold of her by the waist and called his
father, who cut the piece of cloth by which she was hanging. Thereafter, Dr. Gautam
(PW- 1) and Dr. Pathak (PW-2) were called, who advised them to take Anita to
the hospital where she was declared dead. On the basis of the above report, FIR
(Ex.P-15) was recorded.
report was made and dead body was sent for post- mortem examination which was
conducted by two doctors (PW-6 and PW-12). Four injuries were found on the dead
body of the deceased.
investigating officer made a query from the doctor as to whether in case of
hanging, ligature marks may be absent. The doctor gave opinion that even in
case of hanging ligature marks may be absent and the presence of ligature marks
would depend upon the nature of ligature and the time for hanging. It was also
found that asphyxia could have resulted even if the body was hanging by a piece
of cloth which was cut immediately after the hanging. During investigation, it
came to light that the respondent-accused and his parents who also faced trial
with the accused were treating the deceased with cruelty on account of
unfulfilled demand of dowry. Initially, the investigation started on the
background of offence relatable to Section 306 read with Section 34 IPC. On
completion of investigation, charge sheet was placed and the respondent-accused
and his parents faced trial. They pleaded innocence.
accused persons faced trial for alleged commission of offences punishable under
Sections 302, 304B and 201 IPC.
the three accused persons including respondent were found not guilty of
offences relatable to Sections 302 and 201 IPC. The parents of the respondent
were also found to be not guilty of offence relatable to Section 302 IPC. So
far as respondent is concerned, the conviction was made, as afore-noted and
appeal was preferred by the State before the High Court which by the impugned
judgment held the respondent- accused to be not guilty. It was found that the
case was based merely on circumstantial evidence and there was no clinching
material to substantiate all or any of the continuous link of incriminating
circumstances and show that the respondent was guilty of the alleged offences.
Several factors were taken note of. Firstly, the respondent-accused and his
father immediately after the occurrence called the doctors PW-1 and PW-2. There
was no motive for killing as the alleged demand of dowry was not established
and for that reason the Trial Court itself had directed acquittal of the accused
persons from the allegations relatable to Section 304B. The High Court also
noted that there was no evidence of any strangulation, as was held to have been
done by the respondent-accused. The Trial Court wile discarding the evidence of
the doctor referred to some authorities to discard the evidence of the doctor.
Holding the evidence to be not sufficient to fasten the guilt on the accused,
acquittal was directed.
support of the appeal, learned counsel for the appellant-State submitted that
the Trial Court had analysed the evidence in its proper perspective and had
held the accused to be guilty. The High Court was not justified in holding that
the circumstances were not sufficient to establish guilt of the accused. The
circumstances presented unerringly pointed out at the guilt of the accused.
response, Mr. Sushil Kumar, learned senior advocate for the respondent
submitted that the Trial Court had proceeded on surmises and conjectures and,
therefore, the High Court was justified in directing acquittal.
been consistently laid down by this Court that where a case rests squarely on
circumstantial evidence, the inference of guilt can be justified only when all
the incriminating facts and circumstances are found to be incompatible with the
innocence of the accused or the guilt of any other person. (See Hukam Singh v.
State of Rajasthan AIR (1977 SC 1063); Eradu and Ors.
v. State of Hyderabad (AIR 1956 SC 316); Earabhadrappa v.
State of Karnataka (AIR 1983 SC 446); State of U.P. v.
Sukhbasi and Ors. (AIR 1985 SC 1224); Balwinder Singh v. State of Punjab (AIR 1987 SC 350); Ashok Kumar Chatterjee
v. State of M.P. (AIR 1989 SC 1890). The
circumstances from which an inference as to the guilt of the accused is drawn
have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and have to be shown to be closely
connected with the principal fact sought to be inferred from those
circumstances. In Bhagat Ram v. State of Punjab (AIR 1954 SC 621), it was laid down that where the case depends upon
the conclusion drawn from circumstances the cumulative effect of the
circumstances must be such as to negative the innocence of the accused and
bring the offences home beyond any reasonable doubt.
also make a reference to a decision of this Court in C. Chenga Reddy and Ors. v.
State of A.P. (1996 (10) SCC 193), wherein it has
been observed thus:
a case based on circumstantial evidence, the settled law is that the
circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is drawn should be fully
proved and such circumstances must be conclusive in nature. Moreover, all the
circumstances should be complete and there should be no gap left in the chain
of evidence. Further the proved circumstances must be consistent only with the
hypothesis of the guilt of the accused and totally inconsistent with his
Veera Reddy v. State of A.P. and Ors. (AIR 1990 SC 79), it was
laid down that when a case rests upon circumstantial evidence, such evidence
must satisfy the following tests:
circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn, must be
cogently and firmly established;
circumstances should be of a definite tendency unerringly pointing towards
guilt of the accused;
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
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 innocence.
State of U.P. v. Ashok Kumar Srivastava, (1992 Crl.
L.J. 1104), it was pointed out that great care must be taken in evaluating
circumstantial evidence and if the evidence relied on is reasonably capable of
two inferences, the one in favour of the accused must be accepted. It was also
pointed out that the circumstances relied upon must be found to have been fully
established and the cumulative effect of all the facts so established must be
consistent only with the hypothesis of guilt.
Alfred Wills in his admirable book "Wills' Circumstantial Evidence"
(Chapter VI) lays down the following rules specially to be observed in the case
of circumstantial evidence:
facts alleged as the basis of any legal inference must be clearly proved and
beyond reasonable doubt connected with the factum probandum;
burden of proof is always on the party who asserts the existence of any fact,
which infers legal accountability;
all cases, whether of direct or circumstantial evidence the best evidence must
be adduced which the nature of the case admits;
order to justify the inference of guilt, the inculpatory facts must be
incompatible with the innocence of the accused and incapable of explanation,
upon any other reasonable hypothesis than that of his guilt,
there be any reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused, he is entitled as of
right to be acquitted".
is no doubt that conviction can be based solely on circumstantial evidence but
it should be tested by the touch-stone of law relating to circumstantial
evidence laid down by the this Court as far back as in 1952.
Govind Nargundkar and Anr. V. State of Madhya Pradesh, (AIR 1952 SC 343), wherein it was observed thus:
is well to remember that in cases where the evidence is of a circumstantial
nature, the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn
should be in the first instance be fully established and all the facts so
established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the
accused. Again, the circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency
and they should be such as to exclude every hypothesis but the one proposed to
be proved. In other words, there must be a chain of evidence so far complete as
not to leave any reasonable ground for a conclusion consistent with the
innocence of the accused and it must be such as to show that within all human
probability the act must have been done by the accused." A reference may
be made to a later decision in Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, (AIR 1984 SC 1622). Therein, while
dealing with circumstantial evidence, it has been held that onus was on the
prosecution to prove that the chain is complete and the infirmity of lacuna in
prosecution cannot merely be cured by false defence or plea.
conditions precedent in the words of this Court, before conviction could be
based on circumstantial evidence, must be fully established. They are:
circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully
established. The circumstances concerned must or should and not may be
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;
circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency;
should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved; and
must be a chain of evidence so compete 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.
only circumstance which the Trial Court relied upon to hold guilt was by
referring to some text books on medical jurisprudence. With reference to them
it was held that case of strangulation was clearly made out.
cannot be said that the opinions of these authors were given in regard to
circumstances exactly similar to those which arose in the case now before us
nor is this a satisfactory way of dealing with or disposing of the evidence of
an expert examined in this case unless the passages which are sought to be
relied to discredit his opinion are put to him. This Court in Sunderlal v. The
State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1954 SC 28), disapproved of
Judges drawing conclusions adverse to the accused by relying upon such passages
in the absence of their being put to medical witnesses. Similar view was
expressed in Bhagwan Das and another v. State of Rajasthan (AIR 1957 SC 589). Though opinions expressed in text books
by specialist authors may be of considerable assistance and importance for the
Court in arriving at the truth, cannot always be treated or viewed to be either
conclusive or final as to what such author says to deprive even a Court of law
to come to an appropriate conclusion of its own on the peculiar facts proved in
a given case. In substance, though such views may have persuasive value cannot
always be considered to be authoritatively binding, even to dispense with the
actual proof otherwise reasonably required of the guilt of the accused in a
given case. Such opinions cannot be elevated to or placed on higher pedestal
than the opinion of an expert examined in Court and the weight ordinarily to
which it may be entitled to or deserves to be given.
from that, even if on the hypothetical basis it is held that doubt could arise
on the basis of strangulation, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever to
connect the respondent-accused with the act of strangulation, the conclusions
of the Trial Court could not have been maintained and the High Court which is
entitled to re-appreciate the evidence could and has rightly discarded it.
is no embargo on the Appellate Court reviewing the evidence upon which an order
of acquittal is based.
the order of acquittal shall not be interfered with because the presumption of
innocence of the accused is further strengthened by acquittal. The golden
thread which runs through the web of administration of justice in criminal
cases is that if two views are possible on the evidence adduced in the case,
one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the
view which is favourable to the accused should be adopted. The paramount
consideration of the Court is to ensure that miscarriage of justice is
prevented. No doubt a miscarriage of justice which may arise from acquittal of
the guilty is no less than from the conviction of an innocent. In a case where
admissible evidence is ignored, a duty is cast upon the appellate Court to
re-appreciate the evidence where the accused has been acquitted, for the
purpose of ascertaining as to whether any of the accused really committed any
offence or not. [See Bhagwan Singh and Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh (2002 (2) Supreme 567). The
principle to be followed by Appellate Court considering the appeal against the
judgment of acquittal is to interfere only when there are compelling and
substantial reasons for doing so in order to prevent miscarriage of justice
resulting therefrom. If the impugned judgment is clearly unreasonable and
relevant and convincing materials have been unjustifiably eliminated in the
process, it would be a compelling reason for interference. These aspects were
highlighted by this Court in Shivaji Sahebrao Bobade and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1973 SC 2622), Ramesh Babulal Doshi
v. State of Gujarat (1996 (4) Supreme 167), Jaswant
Singh v. State of Haryana (2000 (3) Supreme 320), Raj Kishore
Jha v. State of Bihar and Ors. (2003 (7) Supreme 152),
State of Punjab v. Karnail Singh (2003 (5) Supreme
508), State of Punjab v. Pohla Singh and Anr. (2003 (7)
Supreme 17) and Suchand Pal v. Phani Pal and Anr. (JT 2003 (9) SC 17). In our
view no such error can be said to have been committed by the High Court, nor
any other infirmity to undermine the legality and propriety of the findings of
the High Court, warranting our interference has been substantiated, in this
inevitable result of this appeal is dismissal, which we direct.