Vs. State of Bihar  INSC 540 (22 July 2010)
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 1165
of 2009 Mannu Sao ... Petitioner Versus State of Bihar ...Respondent
On 14th December, 1985 at about 11.00 A.M. a fardbeyan was
recorded by Sub-Inspector of the Police Station, Nalanda at the behest of Manu
Sao who informed that he is living with his wife Bimla Devi in his cabin at his
agricultural lands in village Mohanpur. He was carrying on agricultural
activity as he was possessed of agricultural land. On that very date at about
9.00 A.M., he had gone over to Nalanda for some personal work and after he
returned to his cabin at about 10.00 A.M., he found his wife Bimla Devi lying
in burnt condition in amidst chilly plantation in front of his cabin. There
were serious burn injuries on her body, however, Manu Sau found her somewhat
alive at that time and he asked one Bhola Babu for help to take her to a doctor
for treatment. By the time, she could be lifted to be taken for treatment, she
died. In these circumstances, while he was planning to go to the police
station, the Sub-Inspector Hirdya Narain Singh came there who was subsequently
examined as PW4. The Investigating Officer 2 started the inquest proceedings
and the dead body was sent for postmortem to Sadar Hospital, Biharsharif. The
postmortem was conducted and the report Ex.4 was prepared on 14th December,
1985. It was noticed that she had suffered from burn injuries, both her eyes
were closed and the tongue was protruding. Keeping in view the postmortem
report, the Investigating Officer had a suspicion in mind and thereafter an FIR
was recorded with reference to the postmortem report, it was found that Bimla
Devi had died on account of throttling and ante-mortem injuries and, with an
intention to cause disappearance of evidence, the body was burnt. The F.I.R.
was Ext.5 and a case under Section 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code (herein
after referred to as `IPC') was registered. The suspect of commission of this
crime was found to be Mannu Sao himself, the appellant herein. The
Investigating Officer recorded the statement of the witnesses including that of
the doctor and presented the charge-sheet before the Court of competent
jurisdiction. The appellant was charged with both the afore-stated offences. He
pleaded innocence and was subjected to trial. The prosecution only examined
four witnesses PW1 and PW2 co-villagers, PW3 Dr. Bidhu Bhushan Singh and PW4
Hirdya Narain Singh, Investigating Officer. The learned Trial Court, vide its
judgment dated 21st December, 1987, convicted the accused for both the offences
and awarded the punishment rigorous imprisonment for life under Section 302,
IPC and three years rigorous imprisonment under Section 3 201 IPC. Both the
sentences were ordered to run concurrently.
judgment of the Trial Court was challenged before the High Court of Patna,
though unsuccessfully. The High Court concurred with the finding of facts
recorded by the Court and it sustained the finding of guilt as well as order of
sentence awarded by the Trail Court. Vide judgment of the High Court dated 11th
September, 2008 thus giving rise to the present appeal.
While impugning the judgment under appeal, the contention raised
before us is that the case being that of circumstantial evidence, the
prosecution has not established complete chain of events and circumstances
leading to the commission of the crime and involvement of the appellant. It was
further contended that there was no motive as to why the appellant should have
committed the crime and lastly, that it was a clear case of suicide by the
deceased and there was no material evidence on record to arrive at the
conclusion stated in the judgments under appeal.
There cannot be any dispute to the fact that it is a case of
circumstantial evidence as there was no eye witness to the occurrence. It is a
settled principle of law that an accused can be punished if he is found guilty
even in cases of circumstantial evidence, provided, the prosecution is able to
prove beyond reasonable doubt, complete chain of events and circumstances which
definitely points towards the involvement 4 and guilt of the suspect or
accused, as the case may be. The accused will not be entitled to acquittal
merely because there is no eye-witness to the case. It is also equally true
that an accused can be convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence
subject to satisfaction of accepted principles in that regard.
Three Judge Bench in the case of Sharad v. State of Maharashtra,
[AIR 1984 SC 1622] held as under:
Before discussing the cases relied upon by the High Court we would like to cite
a few decisions on the nature, character and essential proof required in a
criminal case which rests on circumstantial evidence alone. The most
fundamental and basic decision of this Court is Hanumant v.
Madhya Pradesh1. This case has been uniformly followed and applied by this
Court in a large number of later decisions up-to-date, for instance, the cases
of Tufail (alias) Simmi v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Ramgopal v. State of
Maharashtra. It may be useful to extract what Mahajan, J.
down in Hanumant case:
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 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
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."
close analysis of this decision would show that the following conditions must
be fulfilled before a case against an accused can be said to be fully
circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully
It may be
noted here that this Court indicated that the 5 circumstances concerned
"must or should" and not "may be" established. There is not
only a grammatical but a legal distinction between "may be proved"
and "must be or should be proved" as was held by this Court in
Shivaji Sahabrao Bobade v. State of Maharashtra where the observations were
made: [SCC para 19, p. 807: SCC (Cri) p. 1047] "Certainly, it is a primary
principle that the accused must be and not merely may be guilty before a court
can convict and the mental distance between `may be' and `must be' is long and
divides vague conjectures from sure conclusions."
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, (3) the circumstances should be
of a conclusive nature and tendency, (4) 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.
These five golden principles, if we may say so, constitute the panchsheel of
the proof of a case based on circumstantial evidence."
In the cases of circumstantial evidence, this Court has even held
accused guilty where the medical evidence did not support the case of the
prosecution. In Anant Lagu v. State of Bombay [AIR 1960 SC 500] where the
deceased died of poisoning, the Court held that as there were various factors
which militate against a successful isolation of the poison and its
recognition. It further noticed that while circumstances often speak with
unerring certainty, the autopsy and the chemical analysis taken by them may be
most misleading. No doubt, due weightage must be given to the negative findings
at such examination which the man of 6 medicine performs and the limitations
under which he works, his failure should not be taken as an end of the case,
for on good and probative circumstances an irresistible inference of guilt can
Similar view was taken by a Bench of this Court in the case of
Dayanidhi Bisoi v. State of Orissa, [AIR 2003 SC 3915], where in a case of
circumstantial evidence the Court even confirmed the death sentence as being
rarest of rare cases. The Court clearly held that it is not a circumstance or
some of the circumstances which by itself, would assist the Court to base a
conviction but all circumstances put forth against the accused once are
established beyond reasonable doubt then conviction must follow and all the
inordinate circumstances would be used for collaborating the case of the
It is of similar significance for the Court to examine whether the
requirements to be established in a case of circumstantial evidence are
satisfied in the case before it or not. The cases of circumstantial evidence
have to be dealt with greater care and by microscopic examination of the
documentary and oral evidence on record. It is then alone that the Court will
be in a position to arrive at a conclusion upon proper analysis of the evidence
in relation to the ingredients of an offence. In the case of circumstantial
evidence, particularly, besides the entire case of the 7 prosecution, even the
statement of the accused made under Section 313 of Cr.P.C. can be of
Let us examine the essential features of this Section 313 Cr.P.C.
and the principles of law as enunciated by judgments, which are the guiding
factors for proper application and consequences which shall flow from the
provisions of Section 313 of the Code. As already noticed, the object of
recording the statement of the accused under Section 313 of the Code is to put
all incriminating evidence against the accused so as to provide him an
opportunity to explain such incriminating circumstances appearing against him
in the evidence of the prosecution. At the same time, also to permit him to put
forward his own version or reasons, if he so chooses, in relation to his
involvement or otherwise in the crime. The Court has been empowered to examine
the accused but only after the prosecution evidence has been concluded. It is a
mandatory obligation upon the Court and besides ensuring the compliance thereof
the Court has to keep in mind that the accused gets a fair chance to explain
his conduct. The option lies with the accused to maintain silence coupled with
simplicitor denial or in the alternative to explain his version and reasons,
for his alleged involvement in the commission of crime. This is the statement
which the accused makes without fear or right of the other party to cross-
examine him. However, if the statements made are false, the Court is entitled
to draw adverse inferences and pass 8 consequential orders, as may be called
for, in accordance with law. The primary purpose is to establish a direct
dialogue between the Court and the accused and to put to the accused every
important incriminating piece of evidence and grant him an opportunity to
answer and explain. Once such a statement is recorded, the next question that
has to be considered by the Court is to what extent and consequences such
statement can be used during the enquiry and the trial. Over the period of
time, the Courts have explained this concept and now it has attained, more or
less, certainty in the field of criminal jurisprudence. The statement of the
accused can be used to test the veracity of the exculpatory of the admission,
if any, made by the accused. It can be taken into consideration in any enquiry
or trial but still it is not strictly evidence in the case. The provisions of
Section 313 (4) explicitly provides that the answers given by the accused may
be taken into consideration in such enquiry or trial and put as evidence
against the accused in any other enquiry or trial for any other offence for
which such answers may tempt to show he has committed. In other words, the use
is permissible as per the provisions of the Code but has its own limitations.
The Courts may rely on a portion of the statement of the accused and find him
guilty in consideration of the other evidence against him led by the
prosecution, however, such statements made under this Section should not be
considered in isolation but in conjunction with evidence adduced by the 9
prosecution. Another important caution that Courts have declared in the
pronouncements is that conviction of the accused cannot be based merely on the
statement made under Section 313 of the Code as it cannot be regarded as a
substantive piece of evidence. In the case of Vijendrajit Ayodhya Prasad Goel v
State of Bombay, [AIR 1953 SC 247], the Court held as under:
.......As the appellant admitted that he was in charge of the godown, further
evidence was not led on the point. The Magistrate was in this situation fully
justified in referring to the statement of the accused under Section 342 as
supporting the prosecution case concerning the possession of the godown. The
contention that the Magistrate made use of the inculpatory part of the
accused's statement and excluded the exculpatory part does not seem to be
correct. The statement under Section 342 did not consist of two portions, part
inculpatory and part exculpatory. It concerned itself with two facts. The
accused admitted that he was in charge of the godown, he denied that the
rectified spirit was found in that godown. He alleged that the rectified spirit
was found outside it. This part of his statement was proved untrue by the
prosecution evidence and had no intimate connection with the statement
concerning the possession of the godown."
On similar lines reference can be made in quite a recent judgment
of this Court in the case of Ajay Singh v. State of Maharashtra, [(2007) 12 SCC
341] where the Court held as under:
So far as the prosecution case that kerosene was found on the accused's dress
is concerned, it is to be noted that no question in this regard was put to the
accused while he was examined under Section 313 of the Code.
purpose of Section 313 of the Code is set out in its opening words - "for
the purpose of enabling the accused personally to explain any circumstances
appearing in the evidence against him". In Hate Singh Bhagat Singh v.
State of Madhya Bharat it has been laid down by Bose, J. (AIR p. 469, para 8)
that the statements of the accused persons recorded under Section 313 of the
Code "are among the most important 10 matters to be considered at the
trial". It was pointed out that:
statements of the accused recorded by the committing Magistrates and the
Sessions Judge are intended in India to take the place of what in England and
in America he would be free to state in his own way in the witness box [and
that] they have to be received in evidence and treated as evidence and be duly
considered at the trial."
position remains unaltered even after the insertion of Section 315 in the Code
and any statement under Section 313 has to be considered in the same way as if
Section 315 is not there.
object of examination under this section is to give the accused an opportunity
to explain the case made against him. This statement can be taken into
consideration in judging his innocence or guilt. Where there is an onus on the
accused to discharge, it depends on the facts and circumstances of the case if
such statement discharges the onus."
The statement made by the accused is capable of being used in the
trial though to a limited extent. But the law also places an obligation upon
the Court to take into consideration the stand of the accused in his statement
and consider the same objectively and in its entirety. This principle of law
has been stated by this Court in the case of Hate Singh Bhagat Singh v. State
of Madhya Bharat [AIR 1953 SC 468].
Let us now examine the relevant part of the statement made by the
accused under Section 313 of the Code as it would to some extent narrow the
controversy before the Court. The appellant had clearly and in unambiguous
terms admitted that the deceased was his wife and she died of burn injuries.
The questions put to the accused were very few and the two 11 important
questions which were put to the accused by the Court and his answers read as
It is the case of the prosecution that after committing murder you in order to
disappear the evidence of the murder set the dead body on fire and also tried
to disappear the same to screen yourself from punishment.
You had stated in the information that your wife Bimla Devi had died being
burnt due to fire. In postmortem examination it has been found that her death
has been caused by throttling her neck. What have you to say? Ans:- I had given
information to the police regarding burning. She has not been murdered. Her
death has been caused due to throttling her neck is wrong."
As already noticed from the above answers, it is clear that the
appellant does not dispute the factum of the deceased being his wife and had
died because of burn injuries.
his version is that she committed a suicide by pouring kerosene on her and
burning herself. While according to the prosecution primarily relying upon the
statement of PW3, it was a case of causing death of the deceased by
strangulating and then burning the body of the deceased. Even the learned Trial
Court had noticed and discussed these facts and as well as noticed the
admission and argument of the learned Counsel appearing for the accused before
be useful to refer to those findings in paragraph 8 and 9 of the Trial Court
Judgment:- "8. This case is based on circumstantial evidence as there is
no eye witness of the occurrence, which had taken place in the cabin belonging
to the accused. So far the occurrence is concerned, the stand of the accused
had been in the beginning that his wife Bimla Devi had committed suicide during
his 12 absence by sprinkling K.Oil. Before I proceed to discuss the evidence
brought on the record by the prosecution as well as the circumstances, I find
it necessary in the outset to mention some of the facts which are not denied
nor disputed in this case. The learned defence counsel has not disputed the
fact that the deceased, Bimla Devi was the wife (concubine) of the accused,
Manu Sao, and that the accused was living with her in his cabin at village
Mohanpur. It is also not disputed that the woman had died and had burnt injury
on her person.
on the statement of Manu Sao as informant, was institute which was converted
into a case under section 302/301 I.P.C. on the written report of the
officer-in-charge on the receipt of the post-mortem report (Ext.2) on the dead
body of Bimla Devi.
Ext.6, it appears that the officer-in-charge, P.W.4, had gone to the place of
occurrence on hearing rumour after making station diary entry regarding a woman
lying burnt at village Mohanpur near the cabin of the accused. P.W.4 Hirdya
Narain Singh, the officer-in-charge, who had gone to the place of occurrence
had found the dead body of a woman lying in a chilly field near the cabin of
the informant and she had burnt injury. Manu Sao, accused, had maintained that
till 9.30 A.M.
he returned at 10.30 A.M. he found his wife Bimla Devi lying burnt in a chili
field near his cabin and had also seen trace of K. oil. extending from well
near the cabin up to the door of the cabin........"
In light of the above undisputed position, now let us proceed to
examine whether complete chain of events has been established by the
prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.
This aspect of the case was also squarely dealt with by the
learned Trial Court which had the benefit of recording the entire evidence
noticed the demur and conduct of the witnesses as well as the expert witnesses
satisfactorily. In para 19 and 20, these circumstances have been noticed by the
Trial Court in an appropriate manner. We may refer to them:
It is true that there is no eye witness account but there are circumstances
which prove beyond doubt that the accused had killed his wife and in order to
escape punishment and in order to disappear the evidence of death set fire to
the dead body and gave out that his wife committed suicide by burning 13 in
between 9 A.M. to 10.30 A.M. on 14.12.1985.
following circumstances clearly show that the accused committed the crime:
was found in the cabin with his wife when the throttling was done. The evidence
of throttling according to P.W.3 taken place in the right (sic) of
accused furnished false information in his fardbeyan propounding a case of
suicide of his wife by setting fire, on the basis of which an U.D. case was
deceased Bimla Devi had died due to throttling which can be attributed to the
accused and not due to burn injury which was post-mortem.
accused did not give any information to the police about the occurrence and
police on its own information had gone to the place of occurrence where Manu
Sao (accused) gave out that his wife has committed suicide.
be so, then he ought to have immediately informed the police. The fact that he
had informed one Bhola Paswan about it also cannot be believed because he has
not been examined to prove this part of the defence version.
the inquest report as well as from the evidence of the doctor, P.W. 3 it is
clear that tongue of the deceased was found protruding and swollen. There was
fracture of right parietal skull bone and the Larynx and treachea congested.
There was no possibility of pressing of neck by the deceased herself as P.W. 3
has negatived such a situation.
motive for the occurrence is also not far to seek.
It is in
the evidence that the castmen of the accused were against the keeping of Bimla
Devi by the accused.
urged by the learned counsel for the defence that the possibility of the hand
of the father of the deceased woman and his family member cannot be ruled out.
There is nothing on the record to show that there was at any time protest by
the father of the deceased rather there is evidence on record to show that the
accused conduct was constantly opposed by his own castmen.
the woman had burnt herself for which evidence created by the husband (accused)
then how could she inflict injury on her person and how there could be trolling
(sic) which the doctor had found during the post-mortem examination.
The learned defence counsel urged that the fard-beyan of the accused recorded
by police inadmissible and this cannot be used against him as this statement
was made to a police officer. This case has not been instituted on the basis of
the fardbeyan of the accused rather on the statement and written information of
the P.W. 4. The written report of the U.D. case and the information given by
Manu Sao cannot be equated with first information of confession by the accused.
I his (sic) statement was made by him when he was not accused rather an
informant. Therefore, I find no substance in the above argument. Moreover,
accused has also not denied his earlier statement and has even in this
statement under section 313 Cr.P.C. admitted to have given information
regarding suicide by his wife by setting fire."
These findings of facts and appreciation of evidence by the Trial
Court was not interfered by the High Court and in fact, it recorded its
occurrence by reiterating these findings.
Some emphasis was placed on the fact that PW2 a co- villager, in
his evidence, had said that he did not know about the occurrence and he had
signed on the report Ext.1/1 at the behest of the Investigating Officer. The
accused can hardly derive any advantage from this because this witness was to
primarily prove the death of the deceased after she had been burnt. Even
according to the prosecution he was not an eye- witness and there was nothing
much which he would contradict, as the prosecution had mainly relied upon the
statement of PW3 and PW4. The most important witness of the present case was
PW3 Dr. Bidhu Bhushan Singh who had performed the postmortem upon the
deceased's body and had written that she had been 15 killed by throttling or
strangulating and thereafter she suffered the burn injuries. In the
cross-examination of this witness, nothing material could be pointed out which
would help the case of the accused. The accused has admitted the deceased was
his wife and was living with him in the cabin.
basis of the record, the High Court has also noticed the fact that deceased had
separated from her earlier husband and was living with the accused who was also
staying away from his family. The villagers had objected to the accused living
with the deceased in that manner. In these circumstances, the onus to explain
the cause of death of the deceased was upon the husband. He did offer an
explanation that she had committed suicide by burning herself but this
explanation has been disbelieved. Another very material factor is that as per
his own statement when he noticed that the deceased was still alive and her
burnt body was lying just outside cabin in the chilly plantation, he had taken
the help of Bhola Babu. The name of this person he neither referred in his
statement under Section 313 Cr.PC. nor he examined this person as a witness.
normal course, thus, it will have to be presumed that if this witness was
produced and examined in Court, he might have spoken the truth which was not
suitable or favourable to the accused. For reasons best known and which
remained unexplained, this witness was not examined though in his statement
under Section 313 of Cr.P.C. in answer to the last question he had stated that
he was innocent and would give in 16 writing whatever he wanted to say. Despite
this, no defence was led by the appellant. PW1 stated in his examination-in-
chief that the tube well of the accused Manu Sao was located north of his
khalian in village Mohanpur and that Bimla Devi was living with the accused and
when about 10.00 A.M. on the date of occurrence, he had gone there he had seen
Bimla Devi in a burnt condition. According to him, the police had come and
prepared an inquest report which was signed by him. The statement of this
witness is that of the truthful witness and he has not tried to add or subtract
anything in his statement what he stated before the police during
investigation. In face of his statement, the relevancy of PW2 being declared
hostile is hardly of any consequence. Strangely, even to this witness even a
question was not posed in his cross examination that one Bhola Babu was present
at the site from whom the accused had sought help to take the deceased to the
Resultantly and in any case nothing worth noticing much less
favourable to the accused came in his cross- examination. PW3 Dr. Bidhu Bhushan
Singh expressed his opinion as to the accused of death as follows:
my opinion death was due to xphyxia (sic) shock and haemarrage (sic) as a
result of throttling (sic) and above mentioned injuries. Time elapsed since
death was 12 to 16 hours. The bruise on the right forehead region was possible
by hard blunt substance."
The above evidence clearly satisfies the conditions stated by this
Court, which need to be satisfied in a case of circumstantial evidence in the
case of Sharad (supra). The 17 circumstances proved by the prosecution are of a
conclusive nature and they do exclude the possibility of any other view which
could be taken rationally and reasonably. The fact of the matter is that the
deceased died while living with the appellant and he ought to explain his
conduct and he was expected to render some explanation which was reasonably
possible in the facts and circumstances of the case in regard to cause of her
Lastly, now we should revert to the discussion on as to what was
the motive of the appellant to kill the deceased.
come in evidence that the deceased had left her earlier husband and was living
with the appellant, who was also staying away from his family in the cabin in
his agricultural fields, where that incident occurred. There was definite
protest raised by the villagers to their living together. The statement of PW4
in this regard is of relevance. Besides this, even the medical evidence had
shown that the deceased was strangulated or throttled before her body was
burnt. The social embarrassment could be a plausible motive for the appellant
to commit the crime. Furthermore, the appellant took an incorrect, if not a
false stand before the Court that the incident occurred in his absence. His
conduct in naming Bhola Babu from whom he had sought help to take the deceased
to the hospital also does not appeared to be correct.
made no effort whatsoever to examine any witness to establish this fact. The
appellant has admitted that the 18 deceased died in front of his eyes and he
did nothing except reporting the matter to the police at a subsequent stage.
development of law, now it is a settled principle that motive is not absolutely
essential to be established for securing conviction of an accused who has
committed the offence, provided the prosecution has been able to prove its case
beyond any reasonable doubt. In the present case, the motive suggested by the
prosecution appears to be reasonable and is in consonance with the behaviour of
a person placed in a situation like the appellant and it is also difficult to
believe that a person would commit suicide without any provocation or incident
immediately preceding the occurrence.
explanation rendered by the appellant has correctly been disbelieved by both
the Courts as we see no reason to take a different view. Furthermore, in the
case of Bhimapa Chandappa Hosamani v. State of Karnataka, [(2006) 11 SCC 323],
this Court has taken the view that it is not always mandatory for the
prosecution to establish motive as it is just one of the ingredients for
convicting an accused, the Court held as under:
The trial court as well as the High Court have not accepted the evidence
regarding existence of motive as alleged by PW 1 in the first information
report. In fact she herself in the course of her deposition denied the
existence of such a motive. The High Court has agreed with the view of the
trial court on this issue. It is well settled that in order to bring home the
guilt of an accused, it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove the
motive. The existence of motive is only one of the circumstances to be kept in
mind while appreciating the evidence adduced by the prosecution. If the
evidence of the witnesses appears to be truthful and convincing, failure to
prove the motive is not fatal to the 19 case of the prosecution. The law on
this aspect is well settled."
20 In view of the above reasoning, we do not find any infirmity in
law or otherwise in the judgment under appeal.
finding of guilty as well as the order of sentence also do not call for any
interference. Hence, the appeal is dismissed.
..................J. [DR. B.S. CHAUHAN ]