Mula Devi & ANR Vs.
State of Uttarakhand  INSC 1858 (4 November 2008)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1722 OF 2008
(Arising out of SLP(Crl.) No. 3444/2008) Mula Devi & Anr. ..Appellants
Versus State of Uttarakhand ..Respondent
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT,
in this appeal is to the judgment of a Division Bench of the Uttarakhand High
Court upholding the conviction of the appellants for offences punishable under
Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (in short the
`IPC') and Section 201 IPC. However, the appeal of the co-accused Dayal Singh,
who was convicted for offence punishable under Sections 302 and 201 IPC, was
facts in a nutshell are as follows:
(hereinafter referred to as `deceased') daughter of PW 3 Amar Singh was married
to Kamal Singh, son of accused Dayal Singh in Village Jaikot, District Tehri
Garhwal. Accused / appellant Mula Devi is mother-in-law and accused / appellant
Rajmati is sister-in-law of the deceased. Puola Devi, always complained about
the harassment being made to her by the accused/appellants whenever she visited
her parental house.
She often told that
her in-laws used to ask her to give her jewellery to them else they would kill
her. On 30.05.1990, Amar Singh (P.W.3) (father of the deceased), who used to
work in Delhi, received a message there that his daughter Puola Devi has died.
On the next day, at about 5.00 P.M, he proceeded for his home Village Kulpi,
District Tehri Garhwal, and reached there on 01.06.1990. He went to the Patwari
and came to know that dead body of his daughter has already been taken to
Narendra Nagar. It needs to be noted that in the interior hills of Uttarkhand,
certain Revenue Officials are given the police powers. Meanwhile, Lal Singh
(P.W.1), uncle of the deceased, had already lodged the first information report
on 30th of May 1990, after he received information that Puola Devi had died in
her in-laws house. In the first information report (Ext. A-1), , Lal Singh
(P.W.1) had mentioned that Puola Devi was married to son of Dayal Singh in
Village Jaikot, where she used to get harassment at the hands of her in-laws.
He had also stated in his report that whenever Puola Devi used to come to her
parental village she complained of the harassment meted out to her by the
accused / appellants. She had apprehended that she would be killed in her
in-laws house. Lal Singh (P.W.1) at the end of the first information report
expressed suspicion that after committing murder of his niece Puola Devi,
kerosene oil was poured over her body and it was set on fire to conceal the
fact of murder. On the basis of the first information report, Crime No.02 of
1990 was registered against all the three accused persons under Sections 302
and 201 of IPC by Patti Patwari, Baman Gaon. The dead body of the deceased was
taken into possession by Kapur Singh Payal (P.W.5), Patwari, who initially
investigated the crime. He prepared the check report (Ext. A-3) on the basis of
the first information report received from Lal Singh and made necessary entry
in the general diary, copy of extract of which is Ext. A-4. He inspected the
spot, took the dead body in his possession, prepared the inquest report (Ext. A
-2) and other necessary papers including sketch of the dead body (Ext. A -6),
police form No. 13 (Ext. A-7), sample of seal (Ext. A-8). He also prepared the
site plan (Ext. A-5). The dead body was sent for postmortem examination. Dr.
P.P. Raturi (P.W.7) Medical Officer, Narendra Nagar conducted the autopsy on
the dead body of Puola Devi on 01.06.1990, at 10:00 A.M., and prepared the
postmortem examination report (Ext. A-11). The cause of death in the opinion of
the Medical Officer was asphyxia as a result of ante mortem strangulation. He
also found postmortem burn injuries. Subsequently, the investigation was taken
up by, Bachchan Singh (P.W.6), Patwari, who further interrogated the witnesses
and arrested the accused persons. After completion of the investigation, he
submitted charge sheet (Ext.A -10) against all the three accused for their
trial in respect of the offences punishable under Section 302 and 201 IPC.
Since the accused
persons pleaded innocence, trial was held after commitment to the Court of
Sessions. Since the case was based on circumstantial evidence the trial court
referred to various circumstances to
hold the three
accused persons guilty. In appeal, as noted above, appeal of Dayal Singh was
accepted while that of present appellants was dismissed.
counsel for the appellants submitted that the prosecution version was specific
that it was Dayal Singh who was responsible for the homicidal death of the
deceased. The role ascribed to the appellants was that they held the legs of
the deceased. Since the High Court accepted the appeal of the co-accused Dayal
Singh who was supposed to be the main culprit, on the self same evidence, the
appellants could not have been convicted. It is submitted that the
circumstances highlighted by the trial court and concurred with by the High
Court do not make out any case against the appellants.
counsel for the respondent-State on the other hand supported the judgment of
the trial court and the High Court.
is to be noted that the trial court and the High Court have come to abrupt
conclusions about the guilt of the appellants. The circumstances highlighted by
the trial court to fasten the guilt on the appellants were as follows:
established on record that Puola Devi (deceased) was daughter-in-law of Mula
Devi and sister in law of Rajmati and she used to live with them.
is established on record from the statement of P.W. 1, Lal Singh, uncle of the
deceased and P.W.3, Amar Singh, father of the deceased that accused Mula Devi
and Rajmati used to harass puola Devi (deceased), and whenever she visited her
parental house she always expressed apprehension that she mignt be killed on
any day by them.
is established on record from the medical evidence that cause of death of Puola
Devi was asphyxia as a result of ante mortem strangulation.
is established from the oral evidence that there were burn injuries on the body
of the deceased and from the medical evidence it is also established that the
burn injuries were postmortem.
is also established on the record that incident had occurred inside the house
where accused Mula Devi and Rajmati used to live. It is not the case of the
defence that anyone else was there in the house at that juncture.
FIR was lodged regarding death of Puola Devi from the side of the accused.
of the circumstances indicated above really present a complete chain of
circumstances to implicate the accused appellants.
has 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
may 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:
7 "In 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 innocence...."
Padala 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;
2. those circumstances
should be of a definite tendency unerringly pointing towards guilt of the
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 innocence.
State of U.P. v. Ashok Kumar Srivastava, (1992 Crl.LJ 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: (1) the facts alleged as the basis of any legal
inference must be clearly proved and beyond reasonable doubt connected with the
factum probandum; (2) the burden of proof is always on the party who asserts
the existence of any fact, which infers legal accountability; (3) in all cases,
whether of direct or circumstantial evidence the best evidence must be adduced
which the nature of the case admits; (4) in 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, (5) if 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.
Hanumant Govind Nargundkar and Anr. V. State of Madhya Pradesh, (AIR 1952 SC
343), wherein it was observed thus:
"It 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.
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."
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 be cured by
false defence or plea. The conditions precedent in the words of this Court,
before conviction could be based on circumstantial evidence, must be fully
established. They are:
a. the 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' established;
b. 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;
c. the circumstances
should be of a conclusive nature and tendency;
d. they should exclude
every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved; and (5) 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.
aspects were highlighted in State of Rajasthan v. Rajaram (2003 (8) SCC 180),
State of Haryana v. Jagbir Singh and Anr. (2003 (11) SCC 261).
referred to by the trial court and the abrupt conclusions arrived at by the
trial court and the High Court does not justify the conviction of the
appellants. Therefore, conviction cannot be maintained and is set aside. The
appellants be set at liberty forthwith unless required to be in custody in any
(Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)