Vs. State of A.P.  INSC 1210 (23 July 2008)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1206 OF 2006
Munigadappa Meenaiah ...Appellant The State of Andhra Pradesh ...Respondent
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT,
in this appeal is to the judgment of the Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh
High Court upholding the conviction recorded by III Additional District and
Sessions Judge, Ranga Reddy District, holding the appellant guilty for the
offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (in short
`IPC') and sentencing him imprisonment for life.
facts in a nutshell are as follows:
1 The accused
Munigadapa Meenaiah is native of Thimmapuram, Bommalaramaram of Nalgonda
District. He was doing fruit business at Medchal. Ten years back, his younger
brother Mallaiah died. After demise of Mallaiah, his wife Yellamma (hereinafter
referred to as the `deceased'), along with her two sons took shelter at the
house of the accused.
During that period,
he developed illegal intimacy with the deceased and both were living together
and her sons were living separately. Suspecting the fidelity of the deceased,
the accused used to pick up quarrels with her, as a result of which, he
separated and took another portion at Medchal.
While so, the accused
hatched up a plan to liquidate the deceased. On 3.6.2001 at about 9.00 A.M. the
accused went to the house of deceased and invited her to house to consume toddy
and both of them went to the toddy shop of PW 2, purchased two bottle of toddy
and brought the same to his house in a tumbler and both of them consumed toddy.
toddy, the accused picked up quarrel with the deceased on the ground of her
chastity. As a consequence of which the deceased grew wild and abused him by
denying the allegations of illegal contacts with others. On that, the accused
brought a pestle and murdered the deceased by hitting the same on her head and
laid the body on the road in front of his house, cleaned the blood stains in
the room and tried to obliterate the scientific evidence so as to throw the
suspicion on other persons. On the report given by P.W.1, a case in Cr. No.117
of 2001 of Medchel Police Station was registered for the offence under Section
302 IPC and after completion of investigation, charge sheet was filed.
Accused abjured guilt
and demanded trial. The prosecution examined 10 witnesses, and marked Exs P 1
to P 21 and Mos 1 to 5. On the other hand, no oral evidence was adduced on
behalf of the accused, Ex. D1 contradiction was marked.
the entire material on record and after hearing the learned counsel on both
sides, the learned District Judge found the accused guilty of the offence
punishable under Section 302 IPC, convicted and sentenced him to suffer
imprisonment for life.
Trial Court placed reliance on the evidence of PWs. 1 and 10 who spoke to have
seen the deceased last in the company of the appellant. Reference was also made
to the evidence of PW5 relating to certain recoveries by PW. 19. PW 2 also
deposed to have seen accused and deceased together when they purchased toddy
and thereafter the dead body of the deceased was found in front of the house of
the accused with injuries on her head and other parts of the body. As noted
above, the learned Trial Court found the accused guilty.
the High Court the stand was that PWs. 1 and 10 are sons of the deceased and
are interested witnesses and should not have been believed. It was also
submitted that the circumstances highlighted do not make a complete chain of
circumstances. The High Court did not find any substance in the plea and
dismissed the same by the impugned judgment.
support of the appeal learned counsel for the appellant reiterated the stands
taken before the High Court.
response, learned counsel for the State supported the judgment of the Trial
Court and the High Court.
shall first deal with the contention regarding interestedness of the witnesses
for furthering prosecution version. Relationship is not a factor to affect
credibility of a witness. It is more often than not that a relation would not
conceal actual culprit and make allegations against an innocent person.
Foundation has to be laid if plea of false implication is made. In such cases,
the court has to adopt a careful approach and analyse evidence to find out
whether it is cogent and credible.
Dalip Singh and Ors. v. The State of Punjab (AIR 1953 SC 364) it has been laid
down as under:- "A witness is normally to be considered independent unless
he or she springs from sources which are likely to be tainted and that usually
means unless the witness has cause, such as enmity against the accused, to wish
to implicate him falsely. Ordinarily a close relation would be the last to
screen the real culprit and falsely implicate an innocent person. It is true,
when feelings run high and 5 there is personal cause for enmity, that there is
a tendency to drag in an innocent person against whom a witness has a grudge
along with the guilty, but foundation must be laid for such a criticism and the
mere fact of relationship far from being a foundation is often a sure guarantee
of truth. However, we are not attempting any sweeping generalization. Each case
must be judged on its own facts. Our observations are only made to combat what
is so often put forward in cases before us as a general rule of prudence. There
is no such general rule. Each case must be limited to and be governed by its
above decision has since been followed in Guli Chand and Ors. v. State of
Rajasthan (1974 (3) SCC 698) in which Vadivelu Thevar v. State of Madras (AIR
1957 SC 614) was also relied upon.
may also observe that the ground that the witness being a close relative and
consequently being a partisan witness, should not be relied upon, has no
substance. This theory was repelled by this Court as early as in Dalip Singh's
case (supra) in which surprise was expressed over the impression which
prevailed in the minds of the Members of the Bar that relatives were not
independent witnesses. Speaking through Vivian Bose, J. it was observed:
"We are unable
to agree with the learned Judges of the High Court that the testimony of the
two eyewitnesses requires corroboration.
If the foundation for
such an observation is based on the fact that the witnesses are women and that
the fate of seven men hangs on their testimony, we know of no such rule.
If it is grounded on
the reason that they are closely related to the deceased we are unable to
concur. This is a fallacy common to many criminal cases and one which another
Bench of this Court endeavoured to dispel in - `Rameshwar v. State of
Rajasthan' (AIR 1952 SC 54 at p.59). We find, however, that it unfortunately
still persists, if not in the judgments of the Courts, at any rate in the
arguments of counsel."
in Masalti and Ors. v. State of U.P. (AIR 1965 SC 202) this Court observed: (p,
209-210 para 14):
"But it would,
we think, be unreasonable to contend that evidence given by witnesses should be
discarded only on the ground that it is evidence of partisan or interested
witnesses.......The mechanical rejection of such evidence on the sole ground that
it is partisan would invariably lead to failure of justice. No hard and fast
rule can be laid down as to how much evidence should be appreciated. Judicial
approach has to be cautious in dealing with such evidence; but the plea that
such evidence should be rejected because it is partisan cannot be 7 accepted
the same effect is the decision in State of Punjab v. Jagir Singh (AIR 1973 SC
2407) and Lehna v. State of Haryana (2002 (3) SCC 76).
observed by this Court in State of Rajasthan v. Teja Ram and Ors. (AIR 1999 SC
1776) the over-insistence on witnesses having no relation with the victims
often results in criminal justice going awry. When any incident happens in a
dwelling house or nearby the most natural witnesses would be the inmates of that
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:
"In a case based
on circumstantial evi- dence, the settled law is that the circum- stances from
which the conclusion of guilt is drawn should be fully proved and such cir-
cumstances must be conclusive in nature.
Moreover, all the
circumstances should be 9 complete and there should be no gap left in the
chain of evidence. Further the proved cir- cumstances must be consistent only
with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused and to- tally inconsistent with
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;
circumstances should be of a definite tendency unerringly pointing towards
guilt of the accused;
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 10 (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 12 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:
(1) 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;
(2) 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;
(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 14 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)
and State of Haryana v. Jagbir Singh (2003 (11) SCC 261).
the instance PWs 1 and 10 as well as PW2 saw the deceased and the accused
together in the night of the occurrence. In the morning, dead body of the
deceased was found in front of the house of the accused. Additionally, on the basis
of information given by the accused certain articles were recovered and one of
them was the pestle used for inflicting the injury on the head. That being so,
the judgment of the Trial Court and the High Court do not suffer from any
appeal is without merit, deserves dismissal, which we direct.
ARIJIT PASAYAT) ............................................. J.