IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.873 OF 2005
Prashant Mahadeo Chavan
Residing at Plot No.243/1938
Motilal Nagar - 1, Goregaon (W),
Presently lodged at Thane District Prison. ..Appellant. Vs.
The State of Maharashtra
Dindoshi Police Station
C.R. No.01/2004 ..Respondent. ....
Mr. Raja Thakare with Mr. A.M. Chimalkar i/b Mr. Manohar Kandalkar for the Appellant.
Ms. P.H Kantharia, APP for the State.
CORAM: SMT. RANJANA DESAI and,
DR. D.Y. CHANDRACHUD, JJ.
6th October, 2008.
JUDGMENT (Per DR. D.Y. CHANDRACHUD, J. :
1. The Appellant was tried for offences punishable under Sections 302 and 304(B) of the Penal Code. The charge against the Appellant is that he had caused the death of his wife on 2nd January, 2004 by hanging her by the neck with a nylon rope which was tied to the pipe of a ceiling fan. The Appellant and five other 2
accused (consisting of his two brothers, two sisters and mother) were also tried for offences punishable under Section 498-A read with Section 34 of the Penal Code. All the accused have been acquitted of the charge under Section 498-A read with Section 34 and the Appellant has also been acquitted of the offence punishable under Section 304-B. The Appellant has been convicted under Section 302 of the Penal Code and has been sentenced to imprisonment for life and to a fine of Rs.1,000/-, in default whereof he has been sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three months.
2. The Appellant was married to Sakshi on 31st May, 2001. Sakshi was a graduate and was employed as a Computer Operator at the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam. On 13th December, 2002 Sakshi delivered a baby girl. On 6th March, 2003 the Appellant took his wife and the child back to the matrimonial home. Sakshi resumed work on 1st April, 2003. Matrimonial disputes had arisen between the Appellant and his wife and some time in the month of April, 2003 a compromise was arrived at through the uncle of the 3
Appellant. In August 2003 the Appellant took premises on leave and license into which he and Sakshi moved together with the new born. The premises were situated at Nagari Niwara Parishad at Goregaon (East). In December, 2003 a procedure for the medical termination of pregnancy was carried out on Sakshi. 2nd January, 2004 happened to be a Friday which was a weekly holiday for the Appellant. There were four tenements on the floor of the building where the Appellant resided of which two were vacant. Apart from the tenement which was occupied by the Appellant and his family, the immediately adjoining tenement was in the occupation of a family which had engaged Bhavana Rathod (P.W.5) as a domestic help. At 10.30 a.m. the Appellant knocked on the door of the adjoining tenement. P.W.5 Bhavana was alone, her employers having gone to work. The Appellant informed P.W.5 that Sakshi had hung herself. P.W.5 accompanied the Appellant to his house and found that Sakshi was hanging by a nylon rope from the ceiling fan. Her feet were on the floor. P.W. 5 went down to the second floor to call a neighbour - Sarika Chaphekar, and took her upstairs. Sakshi continued to be in the same position. P.W.5 searched for a 4
knife in the tenement of the Appellant and not finding one obtained it from her own residential quarters and gave it to the Appellant. The Appellant cut the rope after which Sakshi was made to lie down on a sofa. Sakshi, according to the case of the prosecution, regained consciousness after being given water to drink and upon being made to smell an onion. Dr. Sudhir Patil (P.W.8) was summoned and he advised that the victim should be removed to hospital. Sakshi was taken to the Vimala Nursing Home and was admitted under the care of Dr. Raghvendra Bellurkar (P.W.7) at 11.15 a.m. Sakshi expired at 4.20 p.m. at the hospital. A First Information Report was lodged by Sanjay (P.W.1) - the brother of the deceased under Sections 498-A and 306 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code. Upon the completion of investigation the case was committed for trial before the Court of Sessions and charges were framed on 2nd December, 2004. The Appellant as noted earlier was charged of offences under Section 302 and Section 304-B of the Penal Code. The Appellant, his two brothers, two married sisters and mother were charged of offences under Section 498-A read with Section 34.
3. The prosecution examined eleven witnesses. P.W.1 Sanjay was the complainant and the brother of the victim; P.W.2 Meena was the sister of the victim while P.W.3 Ramchandra was the father of the victim. P.W. 4 Anant More was a Panch witness to the inquest Panchanama. P.W. 5 Bhavana was the neighbour of the accused. P.W. 6 Susan was a colleague at the work place of the victim. P.W. 7 Dr. R.M. Bellurkar was the Medical Officer at the Nursing Home. P.W. 8 Dr. Patil was initially summoned to examine the victim. P.W.9 Gawde was the Investigating Officer. P.W. 10 Dr. Sanap conducted the postmortem. P.W.11 Agarkar was also the Investigating Officer. The defence examined six witnesses, among them D.W. 6 Ravindra Yadav upon whose testimony a plea of alibi was sought to be set up by the Appellant.
4. The Appellant alone has been convicted under Section 302 as noted earlier. All the other charges have failed and the other accused have been acquitted.
5. On behalf of the Appellant it has been submitted that in a case based on circumstantial evidence, the burden lies on the prosecution to establish all those circumstances which would lead to only one conclusion viz. the guilt of the accused and eliminate any other reasonable hypothesis inconsistent with the innocence of the accused. In the present case, it has been urged that there are several lacunae in the theory of the prosecution viz. (i) The prosecution has not established how the deceased was hanged viz whether the ligature was first tied to the rope of the ceiling fan and then to her neck or vice versa; (ii) The victim was alive even after the rope with which she was hanging was cut; (iii) There is no evidence of the victim having been incapacitated by the use of any drugs or the infliction of an injury; (iv) There is no evidence of any mark of struggle on the body of the accused ; (v) An unexplained injury on the thigh cannot be regarded as incapacitating the victim to put up a struggle ; (vi) The victim was violent and rowdy and the possibility of the injury having been caused while she was taken down through the staircase could not be ruled out; (vii) The medical evidence of Dr. Patil (P.W.8) and Dr. Sanap (P.W.10) is 7
consistent with the hypothesis that the death in the present case was a result of the suicide. Counsel appearing for the Appellant further urged that since all the accused have been acquitted of the charge under Section 498 and the Appellant has been acquitted of the charge under Section 304-B as well, and no appeal has been preferred by the State against acquittal, the so called circumstances pertaining to the ill treatment of the deceased which were disbelieved by the Trial Court, cannot be relied upon. No evidence of an immediate proximate cause has been brought on the record by the prosecution. Learned counsel submitted that the statement of the accused under Section 313 can be taken into consideration only after the prosecution discharges its burden of proving its basic case and in any case multiple questions were posed to the accused which were such as were liable to mislead him. Further more, it was submitted that the conduct of the Appellant was consistent with his innocence. The Appellant had in his statement under Section 313 stated that he had left his house to drop the child with the baby sitter. D.W.6 was a natural witness and was examined as a chance witness on an otherwise 8
insignificant chance meeting. The conduct of the Appellant in calling his immediate neighbour was natural and in the ordinary course of things. The Appellant had also not furnished a false history to the examining doctor P.W. 8. The injuries on the person of the victim have been reasonably and plausibly explained by the Appellant. The prosecution having failed
to establish its case, the burden cannot be cast on the Appellant under Section 106 of the Evidence Act. The Appellant cannot be made to bear the brunt of a faulty investigation.
6. On the other hand, the Learned APP has supported the judgment of conviction by relying on a number of circumstances and it has been urged that the evidence which has been adduced on behalf of the prosecution establishes all the necessary links to establish the guilt of the Appellant. The Learned APP urged that (i) The conduct of the Appellant was wholly unnatural and no immediate attempt was made to bring down the deceased and release her from the rope; (ii) The Appellant had in his statement under section 313 admitted that the latch of the house was not 9
bolted from inside; (iii) The Appellant had furnished false information to the relatives to the effect that his wife had committed suicide; (iv) The injuries found on the body of the victim clearly establish that this was not a case of suicide; (v) The Appellant had set up a palpably false plea of alibi through the evidence of D.W.6 and (vi) The burden of explaining circumstances which were within the special knowledge of the Appellant was upon him under Section 106 of the Evidence Act and the failure of the Appellant to discharge that burden provides an additional link in establishing the case of the prosecution based on circumstantial evidence.
7. The admitted position on the basis of the evidence before the Court is that the Appellant resided together with his wife Sakshi in a tenement at the Nagari Niwara Parishad, Goregaon (East). The tenement was acquired on a leave and license basis in August 2003. Sakshi had delivered a baby girl on 13th December, 2002. During the course of the submissions before this Court counsel appearing for the Appellant has relied upon the testimony of P.W. 5 - Bhavana Rathod as being the testimony of a truthful 10
witness. P.W.5 was engaged as a domestic help in the residential tenement of Deepak Mistry. The tenement where P.W.5 worked was immediately adjoining the residence of the Appellant and Sakshi. These were only two tenements which were occupied on the floor, the remaining two being vacant. Evidently, there were matrimonial disputes between the Appellant and his wife. The Appellant in the course of his statement under Section 313 accepted the position that in June 2003 his uncle had intervened and brought about a compromise. 2nd January, 2004 was a Friday which was a weekly day off for the Appellant. According to the Appellant Sakshi had informed him that she should be going late to work and he left her to drop the child to the baby sitter. The defence which was sought to be established through the testimony of D.W.6 who was a bus driver is that between 10.20 and 10.30 a.m. the Appellant had a conversation at which they discussed the New Year'
s Eve of 31st December 2003 after which the Appellant left. The Appellant thereupon went back home. The door to the tenement was not locked from inside. The Appellant claims that he found Sakshi hanging from a nylon rope from the ceiling fan and 11
proceeded to inform his neighbour P.W. 5. P.W. 5 in turn called a neighbour on the second floor, Sarika Chaphekar, and returned to the tenement where the victim was in the same position. P.W.5 brought a knife from her tenement which was used by the Appellant to cut the nylon rope through which Sakshi was found to be hanging. Sakshi was alive and was made to lie down on the sofa. She regained consciousness upon being given a glass of water. P.W.8 was summoned and on his advice she was moved to the Vimala Nursing Home where she was attended to by P.W.7.
8. The Appellant and his wife, together with their daughter who was a little over a year old were the only occupants of the tenement. According to the Appellant he had gone to the baby sitter to drop the young child off on 2nd January, 2004 which was his holiday. The Appellant claims to have had a conversation between 10.20 and 10.30 a.m. with an acquittance viz. D.W. 6 and to have found his wife hanging when he returned at 10.30 a.m. The conduct of the Appellant assumes relevance. Finding - according to him - that Sakshi was hanging the Appellant made no immediate 12
attempt to bring her down or to release her from the rope. Instead the Appellant proceeded to summon help from P.W.5 Bhavana who in turn went to the second floor to call Sarika Chaphekar. P.W.5 searched for a knife in the tenement of the Appellant and not finding one obtained a knife from her own tenement. P.W.5 has in her deposition stated that until then Sakshi was in the same position in which she had originally seen her. P.W. 5 stated that when she had first seen Sakshi her feet were on the ground. No steps whatsoever were taken by the Appellant to reduce the pressure on the neck of the victim or to immediately cut the rope himself. The Appellant has in his statement under Section 313 stated that he banged the door before he entered. The door according to the Appellant was a single door which had only one simple latch which opened by moving and the latch was not of the Godrej type. P.W.3 who was the father of the victim deposed that she was about 5'. in height. The conduct of the Appellant in 3"
taking no immediate steps to relieve the victim who, according to his statement under Section 313, was found hanging is a telling circumstance. The Appellant chose instead to summon a 13
neighbour and to wait until P.W.5 had summoned another neighbour and had obtained a knife with which the rope could be cut.
9. P.W.10, Dr. Sanap conducted the postmortem examination. P.W.10 noticed the following injuries :- (i) a ligature mark around the neck situated above the thyroid cartilage, grooved and parchment paper like coloured size 34 cm x 1 cm.
(ii) abrasion over the left forearm 1.5 cm x 2 cm. (iii) a contusion over the left thigh 2.2. cm x 2 cm.
10. According to P.W.10 the cause of death was "asphyxia due to hanging unnatural". P.W.10 further stated that the contusion injuries were possible due to an assault by a hard and blunt object. In the course of his cross examination, P.W.10 has stated that such a contusion would not occur on the thigh merely by holding that part of the body of the patient. The testimony of P.W. 10 was that the contusion would not occur merely because 14
the patient was rowdy and a part of the body had come into contact with a hard and blunt object unless the hard and blunt object hits that part. The contention before us of the Learned counsel for the Appellant was that as the victim was rowdy and was moving her hands and legs, she may well have sustained the abrasion and contusion on the way to the hospital. This submission cannot be accepted in the face of the evidence of P.W.10. The evidence of P.W.10, Dr. Sanap, shows the existence of a contusion over the left thigh caused due to an assault by a hard and blunt object and an abrasion over the left forearm. P.W. 7 Dr. Bellurkar who had treated the victim at the Nursing Home also deposed that there were subcutaneous deep scratch marks seen on the dorsum of both the hands and the forearms of the victim. P.W.7 stated that these injuries were fresh and would not be found if the person who was hanged had her feet on the ground. The inquest Panchanama shows marks on the right side of the wrist of the right hand of the victim; on the left hand near the wrist a dark reddish colour mark was seen. On the left leg on the thigh a dark red colour mark was also seen. These injuries show a struggle and an assault and are 15
destructive of the hypothesis that the victim committed suicide.
11. The Appellant set up a plea of alibi through the evidence of D.W.6. In his evidence D.W.6 stated that he was a bus driver and that he and the Appellant were residing in the Nagari Niwara tenements. D.W. 6 stated that he had met the Appellant on 2nd January, 2004; that the Appellant would go to drop his daughter for baby sitting and would return in the bus driven by D.W.6. On 2nd January, 2004 the Appellant, according to D.W.6, went alone with his daughter to the baby sitters'
place and on his way back spoke
to D.W.6 between 10.20 to 10.30 a.m. Thereafter the two parted company. In the course of his cross examination D.W.6 stated that, they had "discussed about 31.12.03". However, D.W.6 admitted that he and the Appellant were not together on the New Year'
s Eve nor had they been together on 1st January, 2004. D.W. 6 did not remember any other fact except the time and duration at which he and the Appellant had met on 2nd January, 2004. The evidence of D.W.6 is palpably false and it is abundantly clear that the witness has been interposed only to establish a false case of 16
an alibi. D.W. 6 furnished the exact time and duration when he met the Appellant on the date of the incident. He was otherwise unable to furnish any other details in the course of his cross examination. It is evident that the witness has given false evidence at the behest of the accused. There is another reason why the defence that is sought to be set up by the Appellant was not believable. D.W.6 deposed that the Appellant was with him between 10.20 and 10.30 a.m. P.W. 5 who according to counsel appearing for the Appellant is a witness of truth deposed that the Appellant knocked at her door at 10.30 a.m. P.W.5 in the course of her deposition has stated that the main gate was about ten minutes' walking distance
from the ground floor of the building. The Appellant could not have therefore been knocking at the door of P.W.5 at 10.30 a.m. if the alleged conversation with D.W.6 had taken place between 10.20 and 10.30 a.m.
12. The burden under Section 106 of the Evidence Act lies upon the Appellant to explain circumstances which lay within his special knowledge. The date on which the incident took place was 17
a weekly off for the Appellant. According to the Appellant the victim had informed him that she was going to go late for work. The Appellant according to his own case was to drop the child at the baby sitters'
house. The Appellant and his wife were the only two occupants of the house before he allegedly left to drop the child at the baby sitter. What the victim was doing before he left the house was within the special knowledge of the Appellant. There is no reasonable or valid explanation by the Appellant. The defence that the Appellant had left his home to drop the child at the baby sitters' house is sought to be buttressed by the alleged conversation with D.W. 6 between 10.20 and 10.30 a.m. The evidence of D.W. 6 is palpably false. The irresistible inference is that a false defence has been advanced to the effect that the Appellant was not at home when the incident occurred. Under Section 106 of the Evidence Act, the burden lies on the Appellant to explain facts within his knowledge. The defence that the Appellant was in conversation with a bus driver - D.W. 6, at a place outside his house, between 10.20 and 10.30 a.m. is palpably false. The Appellant has failed to explain what he was doing when 18
the incident took place.
13. P.W. 1 Sanjay Bhosale deposed that he had asked the Appellant about his whereabouts at the time of the incident. P.W. 1 stated that the Appellant had informed him that he was in the kitchen and then he stated that he was in the toilet. The Learned APP, while relying on the aforesaid part of the testimony of P.W. 1 submitted that there was no cross examination on this aspect. The attention of the Court has, however, been drawn by counsel appearing for the Appellant to the cross examination of the Investigating Officer - P.W.9 Gawde. In paragraph 33 of the notes of examination, the defence has brought out an omission on the part of P.W. 1 in the statement under Section 164. In that he had not disclosed that the Appellant has stated that he was in the kitchen or in the bathroom. Be that as it may, we are of the view that quite independent of what has been stated by P.W. 1, for the reasons already indicated, the irresistible inference from the evidence is that besides the one year old, child the Appellant and the deceased were the only two occupants of the tenement and the 19
alibi set up by the Appellant to establish that he was not present at the tenement between 10.20 and 10.30 a.m. is positively false. As already noted earlier, the testimony of D.W. 6 in that regard is false and is not worthy of credence. The Evidence Act does not contemplate that the accused should prove his case "with the same strictness and rigour as the prosecution is required to prove a criminal charge". (Rabindra Kumar Dey v. State of Orissa1). The Court has to consider as to whether the probability of the version given by the accused throws doubt on the prosecution case. In the present case the accused has not given "a reasonable and probable explanation" to displace the burden cast by Section 106 of the Evidence Act, to explain facts which were within her special knowledge.
14. In prosecutions for criminal offences Courts are often concerned with the question of the burden of proof where certain facts are within the special or personal knowledge of the accused. Section 106 of the Evidence Act stipulates that when any fact is especially within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him. In Collector of Customs v. D. 1 AIR 1977 SC 170.
Bhoormall2 the Supreme court while examining the provisions of Sections 167 and 178-A of the Sea Customs Act held as follows : "Since it is exceedingly difficult, if not absolutely impossible, for the prosecution to prove facts which are especially within the knowledge of the opponent or the accused, it is not obliged to prove them as part of its primary burden. .... Smuggling is clandestine conveying of goods to avoid legal duties. Secrecy and stealth being its covering guards, it is impossible for the Preventive Department to unravel every link of the process. Many facts relating to this illicit business remain in the special or peculiar knowledge of the persons concerned in it. On the principle underlying Section 106, Evidence Act, the burden to establish those facts is cast on the person concerned; and if he fails to establish or explain those facts, an adverse inference of fact may arise against him, which coupled with the presumptive evidence adduced by the prosecution or the Department would rebut the initial presumption of innocence in favour of that person, and in the result, prove him guilty."
15. In State of West Bengal v. Mir Mohd. Omar3 the Supreme Court while adverting to the provisions of Section 106 of the Evidence Act observed as follows :
"The pristine rule that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused should not be taken as a fossilised doctrine as though it admits no process of intelligent reasoning. The doctrine of presumption is not alien to the above rule, nor would it impair the temper of the rule. On the other hand, if the 2 AIR 1974 SC 859.
3 2000 SCC (Cri) 1516.
traditional rule relating to burden of proof on the prosecution is allowed to be wrapped in pedantic coverage, the offenders in serious offences would be the major beneficiaries and the society would be the casualty."
16. These judgments were cited with approval in the judgment of the Supreme Court in Trimukh Maroti Kirkan v. State of Maharashtra4. The Supreme Court noted an unfortunate prevalence in society of crimes committed against women particularly in the secrecy of the matrimonial home. In such cases, noted the Supreme Court, it is difficult for the prosecution to lead evidence. Members of a family may be reluctant to depose against others of the family and neighbours would rarely come foreword to testify. The parents of the woman who is the victim are away from the scene of crime. The Supreme Court observed that this does not mean that "a crime committed in secrecy or inside the house should go unpunished". The Supreme Court held that while the initial burden would be on the prosecution, the nature and extent of the evidence could not be of the same degree as in other cases involving circumstantial evidence :
4 (2006) 10 SCC 681.
"Where an offence like murder is committed in secrecy inside a house, the initial burden to establish the case would undoubtedly be upon the prosecution, but the nature and amount of evidence to be led by it to establish the charge cannot be of the same degree as is required in other cases of circumstantial evidence. The burden would be of a comparatively lighter character. In view of Section 106 of the Evidence Act there will be a corresponding burden on the inmates of the house to give a cogent explanation as to how the crime was committed. The inmates of the house cannot get away by simply keeping quiet and offering no explanation on the supposed premise that the burden to establish its case lies entirely upon the prosecution and there is no duty at all on an accused to offer any explanation." Again, in a subsequent part of the judgment the Supreme Court observed thus :
"Where an accused is alleged to have committed the murder of his wife and the prosecution succeeds in leading evidence to show that shortly before the commission of crime they were seen together or the offence takes place in the dwelling home where the husband also normally resided, it has been consistently held that if the accused does not offer any explanation how the wife received injuries or offers an explanation which is found to be false, it is a strong circumstance which indicates that he is responsible for commission of the crime."
17. The same principle was followed by the Supreme Court 23
in an earlier judgment in Babu Raveendran v. Babu Bahuleyan5 where the Supreme Court observed as follows :
"The question which remains to be considered is, who is responsible. As already noticed, the accused and the deceased were closeted inside the room. There is no evidence of an intruder. In such a situation, the circumstances leading to the death of the deceased are shifted to the accused. It is he who knows in what manner and in what circumstances the deceased had met her end and as to how the body with strangulation marks found its way into the nearby well. All the aforesaid circumstances, taken together cumulatively lead and unerringly point only to the guilt of the accused."
18. In Chandrashekarappa v. State of Karnataka6 the accused had set up a false plea of alibi; the accused and deceased were last seen together; there was a ligature mark on the neck and the conduct of the accused seen after the commission of the crime was relevant. The Supreme Court held as follows : "In such circumstances, it was for the accused to explain how the deceased met with her death and his own conduct which the accused has failed to do. The trial court and the High Court have rightly held that the chain of circumstantial evidence forged from the evidence adduced by the prosecution is enough for fastening the guilt on the accused beyond any reasonable doubt." 5 (2003)7 SCC 37.
6 (2003) 11 SCC 299.
19. In Swapan Patra v. State of West Bengal7 the Supreme Court reiterated that in a case of circumstantial evidence, when the accused offers an explanation and that explanation is found to be untrue, this offers an additional link in the chain of circumstances to establish the guilt of the accused. The same principle was applied by the Supreme Court in Joseph Kooveli Poulo v. State of Kerala8 :
"During the time of questioning under Section 313, Cr. P. C. , the appellant instead of making at least an attempt to explain or clarify the incriminating circumstances inculpating him, and connecting him with the crime by his adamant attitude of total denial of everything when those circumstances were brought to his notice by the Court not only lost the opportunity but stood self - condemned. Such incriminating links of facts could, if at all, have been only explained by the appellant, and by nobody else they being personally and exclusively within his knowledge. Of late, Courts have, from the falsity of the defence plea and false answers given to Court, when questioned, found the missing links to be supplied by such answers for completing the chain of incriminating circumstances necessary to connect the person concerned with the crime committed (see State of Maharashtra v. Suresh, 2000 (1) SCC 471). That missing link to connect the appellant - accused, we find in this case provided by the blunt and outright denial of every one and all the incriminating circumstances pointed out which, in our view, with sufficient and reasonable certainty on the facts proved, connect the 7 (1999) 9 SCC 242.
8 AIR 2000 SC 1608.
accused with the death and the cause for the death of Gracy."
20. In State of Punjab v. Karnail Singh9, the Supreme Court held thus :
"Though the prosecution has to lead evidence to substantiate its accusations, if factors within the special knowledge of the accused are not satisfactorily explained it is a factor against the accused. No explanation was given by the accused during examination under Section 313 of the Code except making bold denial. Though this factor by itself cannot be sufficient to fasten the guilt of the accused, while considering the totality of the circumstances this is certainly a relevant factor."
21. In R. Rajendran Nair v. State of Kerala10 the Appellant was charged with having caused the murder of his wife who was found to be hanging. The Supreme Court noted that the most incriminating circumstance alleged was that the hanging took place when the Appellant was in his house and nobody else was there. This circumstance that the Appellant was at home, however, was not founded on any evidence at all. The Supreme Court observed thus :
"We searched in vain for the evidence in support thereof 9 2003 AIR SCW 4065.
10 1998 SCC (Cri) 254.
but found not an iota of it. The evidence on record only indicates that after assaulting the deceased - as a result of which she became unconscious - the appellant left the house along with his daughter at 8.00 p.m. and came back home sometime later. While according to the prosecution the appellant came at a point of time when his wife was still alive, his version, as noticed earlier, was that when he came back he found her hanging. His further version was that he untied the knot of the saree which she used as the ligature and brought her down. In the absence of any evidence to prove that the deceased was alive when the appellant came back his version cannot be rejected altogether. For an individual to hang a living person (who would certainly make all possible efforts to extricate himself) after lifting him to a certain height seems to be rather improbable."
The facts in R.Nair' case are therefore clearly distinguishable s
since, in that case there was no evidence to indicate that the appellant was in his house when the hanging had taken place; moreover as the Supreme Court held, there was nothing to indicate that the deceased was alive when the Appellant came back.
22. Undoubtedly in a case which is based on circumstantial evidence, the burden lies on the prosecution to establish all the links which establish the commission of the offence by the accused 27
beyond reasonable doubt. Moreover, the circumstantial evidence must be consistent only with one hypothesis viz. the guilt of the accused, (Awadhi Yadav v. State of Bihar - 1971 (3) SCC 116 at para 3) . However, as the Supreme Court observed in Ram Avtar v. The State (Delhi Administration)11 :
"...circumstantial evidence must be complete and conclusive before accused can be convicted thereon. This, however, does not mean that there is any particular or special method of proof of circumstantial evidence. We must, however, guard against the danger of not considering circumstantial evidence in its proper perspective, e.g. where there is a chain of circumstances linked up with one another, it is not possible for the court to truncate and break the chain of circumstances. In other words where a series of circumstances are dependent on one another they should be read as one integrated whole and not considered separately, otherwise the very concept of proof of circumstantial evidence would be defeated." Reference may also be made to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Gagan Kanojia v. State of Punjab12 where the Court held thus :
"Indisputably, charges can be proved on the basis of the circumstantial evidence, when direct evidence is not available. It is well settled that in a case based on a circumstantial evidence, the prosecution must prove that 11 AIR 1985 SC 1692.
12 (2006) 13 SCC 516.
within all human probabilities, the act must have been done by the accused. It is, however, necessary for the courts to remember that there is a long gap between "may be true" and "must be true". Prosecution case is required to be covered by leading cogent, believable and credible evidence. Whereas the court must raise a presumption that the accused is innocent and in the event two view are possible, one indicating to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the defence available to the accused should be accepted, but at the same time, the court must not reject the evidence of the prosecution, proceeding on the basis that they are false, not trustworthy, unreliable and made on flimsy grounds or only on the basis of surmises and conjectures. The prosecution case, thus, must be judged in its entirety having regard to the totality of the circumstances. The approach of the court should be an integrated one and not truncated or isolated. The court should use the yardstick of probability and appreciate the intrinsic value of the evidence brought on record and analyse and assess the same objectively."
Even in a case which is found on circumstantial evidence, the Court must have due regard to the provisions of Section 106 of the Evidence Act. The burden of establishing facts within the special knowledge of any person lies on that person.
23. These principles will have to govern the analysis of evidence in the present case. The evidence on the record shows 29
that both the accused and the deceased were the only two adult occupants of the residential tenement, the only other occupant being a one year old child. The accused was present with the deceased on the date of the occurrence which additionally happened to be the weekly day off for the accused. The deceased was found hanging by the neck with her feet on the ground from a nylon rope tied to the ceiling fan. The accused set up a plea of alibi and to establish that he was away from the house when the incident occurred relied on the evidence of a palpably false defence witness, D.W.6. The fact that the accused has set up a plea of alibi which is demonstrably false is an additional link in the chain of circumstances required to establish the guilt of the accused. The conduct of the accused after he allegedly saw his wife in a hanging position is anything but natural. The injuries which were found on the body of the deceased were not sustained in the hanging and clearly establish a scuffle or struggle and an assault. In his statement under Section 313 when the accused was asked as to whether the feet of the deceased were found in the same position viz. on the floor, as they were when P.W. 5 had 30
accompanied him initially, the answer of the accused was patently evasive as follows :
"I do not know where her legs were. I was looking at her face. I had held her so she was not in the same position."
24. In Dr. C.K. Parikh' treatise entitled "Medicolegal s
Postmortems in India" there appears the following description of a complete as opposed to partial hanging :
"Hanging is defined as that form of death which is caused by suspension of the body by a ligature round the neck, the constricting force being the weight of the body. When feet do not touch the ground and the weight of the whole body acts as a constricting force, it is called complete hanging. When feet of the victim are found resting on the ground or the whole body is found in a reclining position, and the weight of not the whole body but only part of the body or head alone acts as a constricting force, it is known as partial hanging. .... Asphyxia due to blocking of the air passages is accepted traditionally as a common cause of death. .... The amount of pressure on the neck that can bring about severe obstruction of carotid arteries and sudden loss of consciousness is surprisingly low, about 3.5. kg. This accounts for the failure of the victim to extricate himself from the noose even if he should wish to do so." (emphasis supplied)
The author opines that homicidal hangings are rare though it may 31
be established where inter alia injuries are found on the body of the victim which could not be self inflicted or where there is a sign of struggle :
"Homicidal hanging may be suspected in a victim when (a) the knot is tied on the back of the neck (b) the mouth is gagged ( c) the limbs are tied (d) injuries are found on the body which could not have been self inflicted (e) signs of struggle with some other individual are present, or (f) there is evidence of stupefication by drink or drugs." In the present case, the medical evidence as discussed earlier shows injuries on the body which could not have been self inflicted. P.W. 10, Dr. Sanap deposed that the injury on the thigh was caused by an assault with a hard and blunt object. There was an abrasion over the left forearm. There were subcutaneous deep scratch marks on the dorsum of both the hands and on the forearms. There were marks on the two wrists, noted in the inquest panchanama. There injuries were not self inflicted and show a sign of struggle with another person. The medical evidence in fact shows that one of the injuries was caused by an assault with a hard and blunt object.
25. The manner in which the investigation has been carried out in the present case leaves much to be desired and provides a disturbing account of serious lapses on the part of the investigating agency. The spot Panchanama was not brought on the record because it was not signed by the Investigating Officer (P.W. 9 Arvind Gawde). The nylon rope was not sent for chemical examination and no report of the Chemical Analyser was called. There was no supervision of the investigation by a senior officer. The judgment of the Learned Trial Judge contains observations in regard to the manner in which a chit which was allegedly written by the deceased was handled. Be that as it may, it is a settled position in law, in view of recent judgments of the Supreme Court that in a case of defective investigation, it would not be proper to acquit the accused if the case is otherwise established conclusively. As the Supreme Court observed in Ambika Prasad v. State (Delhi Administration)13
"Dealing with a case of negligence on the part of the investigating officer, this Court in Karnel Singh v State of M.P. - 1995 SCC (Cri) 977) observed that in a case of defective investigation it would not be proper to acquit the accused if the case is otherwise established 13 (2000) 2 SCC 646.
conclusively because in that event it would tantamount to be falling into the hands of an erring investigating officer. Similarly, in Ram Bihari Yadav v. State of Bihar (1998 SCC (Cri) 1085) this Court observed :
"In such cases, the story of the prosecution will have to be examined dehors such omissions and contaminated conduct of the officials otherwise the mischief which was deliberately done would be perpetuated and justice would be denied to the complainant party and this would obviously shake the confidence of the people not merely in the law-enforcing agency but also in the administration of justice."
... a criminal trial is meant for doing justice to the accused, the victim and the society so that law and order is maintained. Hence, as observed by this Court in State of U.P. v. Anil Singh - 1988 Supp SCC 686 it is necessary to remember that a Judge does not preside over a criminal trial merely to see that no innocent man is punished. A Judge also presides to see that a guilty man does not escape. One is as important as the other. Both are public duties which the Judge has to perform."
26. The prosecution has established its case beyond reasonable doubt. All the links necessary to establish the guilt of the Appellant in a case based on circumstantial evidence have been proved. These links are consistent with the guilt of the Appellant and his guilt alone. The judgment of the Additional Sessions Judge does not suffer from any infirmity. 34
The Appeal shall accordingly stand dismissed.
(SMT. RANJANA DESAI, J.)
(DR. D.Y. CHANDRACHUD, J.)