Satnarain Sao Vs. The State of Bihar
 INSC 112 (18 April 1972)
BEG, M. HAMEEDULLAH
CITATION: 1972 AIR 1561 1973 SCR (1) 207 1972
SCC (3) 881
Indian Penal Code s. 411 and Evidence Act s.
144(a)-Stolen property found in the possession of accused shortly after
theft-Accused's explanation must be found to be reasonably true to displace
presumption against him under s. 144 Illustration (a) Evidence Act.
A Sen-Raleigh cycle which was stolen by one S
was recovered from the house of the appellant along with several other cycles.
The appellant's explanation was that some of the cycles belonged to members of
his family and the others were pledged with him in the course of his business..
Ext. DA was produced by the appellant to show that the Sen-Raleigh cycle in
question had been pledged with him by S. The Trial Court did not accept the
document as genuine, rejected his explanation as to how the said cycle came
into his possession and convicted him under s. 411 I.P.C. The conviction was
upheld by the High Court Dismissing the appeal, this Court,
HELD,: The appellant had sought to prove the
document ext. DA to support the transaction of pledge. That document had
rightly been found not to have been proved.
Apart from the Sen-Raleigh cycle several
other cycles were found in the possession of the appellant which he claimed to
have been, pledged with him. No article of any other kind was either pointed
out or claimed to have been pledged with the appellant or with members of his
family which would normally have been done if the version given by him that the
business of pawn brokers was being carried on had any truth in it. Pawn-brokers
are ordinarily and in normal course expected to maintain some books of account
or some documents which contain the particulars of the transactions relating to
pledge. There was no indication or suggestion by the appellant that he was
maintaining any such books of account or documents. [211F] The above
circumstances were sufficient to show that the court would be justified in
holding that the explanation given by the appellant could not reasonably be
true. A presumption therefore could immediately be drawn in accordance with s.
114. Illustration (a) of the Evidence Act. There was hardly any evidence worth
the name by which it could be said that the presumption had been rebutted by
the appellant. [211H] The appeal must accordingly be dismissed.
Atwal v. Massay,  3 All. E.R. 881; Otto
George Gfeller V. The King,  P.C. 211 and Rex v. Abramoitch,  84
L.J. (K.B.) 391. referred to.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 67 of 1968.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment
'and order dated January 18, 1968 of the Patna High Court in Criminal Appeal
No. 407 of 1966.
208 S. C. Agarwala and V. J. Francis, for the
B. P. Jha, for the respondent.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Grover, J. This is an appeal by special leave from a judgment of the Patna High
Court upholding the conviction of the appellant under s. 411 of the Indian
Penal Code for which a sentence of three years' rigorous imprisonment was
According to the case of the prosecution a
Sen-Raleigh cycle was stolen from the possession of Sheo Charan Lal. He
reported the matter to the Police on March 25, 1965. It appears that on May 11,
1965 the Station House Officer, Incharge Giridih Police Station A.D.N, Sinha
learnt while he was moving about in the town on the Moharram day that a thief
was running away with a Sycle. The alleged thief was apprehended and the cycle
in his possession was taken into custody. The name of that person was Mohnd.
Siddique. He made, a statement to the police officer which led him to search
the premises of the appellant. As a result of the 'search seven cycles
including the Sen-Raleigh cycle belonging to Sheo Charan Lal which was stolen
on March 24, 1965 and three other cycles were recovered from the house of the
appellant, Mohd, Siddique and the appellant were tried, the former under 's.
379 and the latter under s. 411 of the Indian Penal Code. Siddique was
convicted and sentenced but he did not file any appeal.
It was not disputed before the High Court
that the SenRaleigh. cycle was recovered along with nine other cycles as a
result of the search of the house of the appellant by A.D.N. Sinha the S.H.O.
on May 11, 1965. It was also proved that that cycle was stolen. The explanation
given by the appellant was that three out of the 10 cycles belonged to the
members of his family and the other seven had been pledged with him as he
carried on the business of a pawn broker. The Sen-Raleigh cycle had been
pledged by Siddique with him and that is how the said cycle was recovered from
his possession. P.W. I Jayantilal and P.W. 2 Shyam Narain, Singh deposed that
the appellant as well as his brothers and other members of his family lived in
the same house. It was further stated by them that the appellant and his
brothers worked as contractors and they also took things on pawn and advanced
money. According to Shyam Narain Singh he had seen ornaments and utensils being
taken on pledge by the appellant and members of his family although he had not
seen him taking any cycle on pledge. The appellant also produced a document
Exh.DA which was scribed by one Baldev Pandit and had been attested by some
witnesses. In this document it was stand that Rs. 80 bad been received by
Siddique by way of advance from the appellant and 209 that the cycle in
question had been pledged with the latter.
Neither the scribe nor Mahabir Sao or Nanden
who were the attesting witnesses gave evidence. D.W. I Ramjit Sao a neighbour
deposed that the document Exh. A had been scribed in his presence and that Rs.
80/had been paid to Siddique.
Siddique had pawned the cycle by way of
security for the advance. The courts below found that this document had been
manufactured for the purpose. of the case implying thereby that it was not
genuine. The appellant does not appear to have produced any evidence about the
pledging of the other cycles which were found in his possession nor did he
point to any other article apart from the cycles which had been pledged with
him in the course of his business when the, search was made of his house by the
S.H.O. A.D. N. Sinha.
The High Court, apart from other facts, took
the following matters into consideration while upholding the conviction of the
appellant (1) Although two defence witnesses had been examined by the appellant
there was nothing to show that he had taken the ordinary precaution of making
proper enquiries about the ownership of the cycle before advancing any loan on
(2) It was significant that the document Exh.
A was quite silent as to the source from where Siddique had got that cycle and'
when he had acquired it.
(3) These facts showed that the transaction
could not have been a bona fide transaction by the person carrying on bona fide
business of advancing loans on pledge.
(4) The Investigating Officer had deposed to
the fact that after the recovery of 10 cycles he made a verification from the
records of the Police station and found that besides the Sen-Raleigh cycle
cases had been instituted earlier with respect to four more cycles out of the
(5) Even if it be assumed that this evidence
was not admissible according to the charge as framed with regard to two cycles
the same had been recovered from the place of the appellant which had been
admitted by Siddique as having been stolen by him.
(6) There could be no doubt that at least two
of the 10 cycles recovered from the possession of the appellant were stolen
(7) Considering the above aspect as well as
the fact that the conduct of the appellant in connection with the taking
possession, of the cycle in question from Siddique was not at all consistent
with the conduct of a man of ordinary prudence it was not possible to accept
the appellant's contention that he had taken possession, of the cycle without
knowledge or belief that it was stolen.
210 Learned counsel for the appellant has
subjected the above reasons given by the High Court for sustaining the
conviction to criticism on several grounds. It has been firstly pointed out
that admittedly the trial was confined to the alleged theft of the SenRaleigh
cycle and its having been received by the appellant in circumstances which made
him guilty of an offence under s. 411 ,of the Indian Penal Code; the
prosecution relating to the other cycles should not have been taken into
account. It has next been urged that the whole approach with regard to the
appellant not having made bona fide enquiry from Siddique before accepting the
Sen-Raleigh cycle in pledge was unsustainable in law.
We may in this connection refer to a judgment
of Lord Widgery C.J. in Atwal v. Massey(1) in which it was laid down that in
order to establish an offence under s. 22 of the (English) Theft Act 1968 which
is similar in terms to s. 411 of the Indian Penal Code, it was not sufficient
to show that the goods had been received in circumstances which would have put
a reasonable man on enquiry; the question was a subjective one; was the
appellant aware of the theft or did he believe the goods to be stolen or did
he, suspecting the goods to be stolen, deliberately shut his eyes to the
circumstances ? The next submission on behalf of the appellant is that the
correct ambit and scope of the presumption which can be drawn under s. 114,
illustration (a) of the Evidence Act was not considered by the High Court or
the courts below.
Section 114 provides that the court may
presume the existence of any fact which it thinks likely to have happened
regard being had to the common course of natural events, human conduct and
public and private business, in their relation to facts of the particular case.
Illustration (a) is as follows : that a person 'who is in possession of stolen
property soon after the theft is either the thief or has received the goods
knowing that to be stolen unless he can account for his possession. In Otto
George Gfeller v. The King ( 2 ) the law as enunciated in Rex v. Abramovitch(3
) was accepted as representing the correct statement on the subject of the
presumption to be drawn in such cases. That was in the following terms :
"Upon the prosecution establishing that
the accused were in possession of goods recently stolen they may in the absence
of any explanation by the accused of the way in which the goods came into their
possession which might reasonably be true find them guilty, but that if an
explanation were given which the jury think might reasonably be true, and which
is consistent with innocence although they were not convinced of its truth the
(1)  3 All. E.R. 881.
(3)  84 L.J. [K.B.] 391.
(2)  P.C. 211.
211 prisoners were entitled to be acquitted
inasmuch as the prosecution would have failed to discharge the duty cast upon
it of satisfying the jury beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the
It has been urged before us that the
appellant had given an explanation of how he came into possession of the Sen Raleigh
cycle, his explanation being that it had been pledged with him by Siddique in
the ordinary course of business which he was carrying on and that explanation
had been sought to be supported by evidence. The two prosecution witnesses had
testified that the appellant and other members of his family were carrying on
the business of pawn brokers apart from other avocations which they were
following. It is emphasised that according to the above statement of law even
if the courts were not convinced of the truth of the explanation but if the
same could be held to be reasonably true the prosecution must be considered to
have failed to discharge the duty cast upon it of satisfying the court beyond
reasonable doubt of the guilt of the appellant.
The question that the courts, therefore, had
to decide was whether the explanation given by the appellant in view of the
admission that the Sen-Raleigh cycle was stolen property could be held to fall
within the above rule, namely, whether it might reasonably be true even though
the; courts were not convinced of its truth. Since the courts below and the,
High Court have taken some irrelevant and inadmissible matters into
consideration we have examined with care the explanation given by the appellant
in the light of the entire facts and we are unable to come, to the conclusion
that the explanation could be regarded such as might reasonably be true. The
first and the most important fact is that the appellant had sought to prove the
DA to support the transaction of pledge. That
document bad rightly been found not to have been proved. Apart from the Sen-Raleigh
cycle several other cycles were found in the possession of the appellant which
he claimed to have been pledged with him. No articles of any other kind were
either pointed out or claimed to have been pledged with the appellant or with
members of his family which would normally have been done if the version given
by him that the business of pawn brokers was being carried on had any truth in
Pawn-brokers are ordinarily and in normal
course expected to maintain some books of account or some documents which
contain the particulars of the transactions relating to pledge. There was no
indication or suggestion by the appellant that he was maintaining any such
books of account or documents.
The above circumstances, in our opinion, were
sufficient to show that the court would be justified in holding that the
explanation given by the appellant could not reasonably be true. A 212
presumption, therefore, could immediately be drawn in accordance with S. 114,
Illustration (a) of the Evidence Act. There was hardly any evidence worth the
name by which it could be said that the presumption had been rebutted by the
In the result the conviction and the sentence
of the appellant are maintained and the appeal is dismissed. He was released on
bail; he shall surrender to the bailbonds.
G.C. Appeal dismissed.