Manjunath Chennabasapa Madalli Vs. State of Karnataka  Insc 155 (19 February 2007)
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT & S.H. KAPADIA
(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 4077 of 2006) Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT, J.
Challenge in this appeal is to the judgment rendered by a Division Bench of
the Karnataka High Court dismissing the appeal filed by the appellant. The
appellant was found guilty of offence punishable under Sections 498-A and 302
of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (in short the 'IPC') by the trial court and was
sentenced to undergo R.I. for two years and life respectively. Fine was also
imposed with default stipulation.
The High Court set aside the conviction for the offence punishable under
Section 498-A IPC but maintained the conviction under Section 302 IPC and
consequently the sentence.
The background facts as projected by the prosecution are as follows:
Sumithra (hereinafter referred to as the 'deceased'), as the daughter of
Siddamma (PW-1) and sister of Hosakerappa (PW-6) as well as grand daughter of
Hanumawwa (PW-7). She was married to the accused about one year back to the
date of incident. After the marriage, Sumithra went to the house of her husband
to lead a happy family life. Though initially they led a happy married life,
bickerings started between the accused and his wife as he started abusing and
ill-treating her on the pretext that she does not know how to do the house-
hold work. However, this was only a pretext to extract additional dowry from
the parents of the deceased. As per the customs during Gowri Festival, the
deceased was brought to her parental place to celebrate the festival and at
that time, the deceased who was pregnant had complained about the ill-
treatment meted out to her by her husband. As such, the parents, grand-mother and
other relatives asked the deceased to stay back in their house. The accused
started visiting the house of PWs 1 and 7 and was insisting upon the deceased
to come back to his village. On such a visit viz., on 9.3.2001, the accused
again came to the house and picked up a quarrel with the deceased and her
mother and other relatives and insisted that she should be sent on that day
itself. The relatives informed him that as Sumithra was pregnant, after
performing certain ceremonies including 'Srimantha', she would be sent back
later. The accused stayed in the house of the in-laws that night. On the next
day i.e. on 10.3.2001, after taking the night meals, the accused and the
deceased slept inside the room whereas, the mother, brother and other relatives
slept outside the hall. In the night around 3.00 a.m., they heard cries coming
from the room and when they went inside, they saw the accused running away and
Sumithra lying unconscious on the ground with bleeding injuries on her head.
Immediately, she was shifted to Government Hospital, Gadag and then to KIMS Hospital.
However, in spite of the medical treatment, she breathed her last on 13.3.2001.
In the meantime, on 11.3.2001 itself Head Constable (PW-18) and SHO of Gadag
Rural Police station on getting the medico legal intimation that one Sumithra
was admitted in the hospital and that she was assaulted by her husband with an
iron implement, he went to the hospital and made enquiry and found that
Sumithra, the injured was not in a position to give any statement. As such, he
recorded the statement of Siddamma (PW-1) who was present in the hospital and
treating the same as first information, came back to the Police Station and
registered a case in Crime no. 50/2001 for the offences punishable under
Sections 498-A, 504 and 307 IPC, registering the FIR. He again went back to the
hospital and there, as per the advise of the Doctor, shifted the injured to KIMS
Hospital, Hubli. He again deputed and sent requisition for recording of the
dying declaration by the authorised Taluka Executive Magistrate, but the same
could not be recorded as Sumithra was in coma.
As already noted, at KIMS Hospital, Hubli, in spite of the treatment the
injured Sumithra breathed her last. After her death, the offence punishable
under Section 307 IPC was altered to Section 302 of IPC and further
investigation was continued.
During the investigation, spot mahazar, inquest proceedings were undertaken.
Statement of witnesses, which threw light on the incident, were recorded. The
dead body was subjected to autopsy. Search for the accused was carried out and
he was apprehended on 14.3.2001. After securing all the necessary reports and
on completion of the investigation, charge sheet was filed against the accused.
On committal and on the basis of the charge sheet materials, the accused was
charged for the offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 302 IPC. As the
accused denied the charges and claimed to be tried, he was tried under
The trial Court found the evidence to be credible and notwithstanding the
fact that the vital witness i.e. the mother of the deceased (PW-1) had resiled
from the statement given during investigation, held that the residual evidence
was sufficient to hold the accused guilty. Accused was accordingly convicted and
sentenced as aforenoted. It was held that the circumstantial evidence pressed
into service was sufficient to establish the accusations. The High Court in
essence affirmed the conclusions, but altered the conviction.
In support of the appeal, learned counsel for the appellant submitted that
there was practically no evidence whatsoever and even the so-called
circumstances highlighted by the trial Court and the High Court do not lead to
a conclusion that the accused was guilty of the offence as alleged.
Learned counsel for the State on the other hand supported the judgments of
the courts below.
It 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 doubt.
We 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:
"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
In 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:
"the circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be
drawn, must be cogently and firmly established;
those 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 (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.
In 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.
Sir 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
There 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.
In 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. 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 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:
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;
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
the circumstances should be of a
conclusive nature and tendency;
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 aspects were highlighted in State of Rajasthan v.
Rajaram (2003 (8) SCC 180) and State of Haryana v. Jagbir Singh (2003 (11)
In the instant case, the only circumstance which was highlighted by the
trial Court and the High Court was that there was unnatural death and
additionally the so called dying declaration purported to have been recorded by
the then Tehsildar (PW-16). The mere fact that the deceased had died an
unnatural death cannot by itself be a circumstance against the accused
particularly when Section 498-A has been held to be inapplicable. Additionally,
the conclusion that there was dying declaration is also not factually correct.
The trial Court itself has referred to the evidence of PW-16 who categorically
stated that though he was requested to record the dying declaration the same
could not be recorded as the doctor was of the opinion that the deceased was
not in a fit condition to give her statement. Thereafter, no statement was
recorded. In fact he was called to attend the inquest.
Above being the position the conviction as recorded by the trial Court and
upheld by the High Court is indefensible and is set aside.
The appeal is allowed.
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