17 June 2024


Supreme Court

Reena Hazarika Vs. State of Assam




Prosecution is required to establish continuity in links of chain of circumstances, so as to lead to conclusion of Accused being the assailant

The Appellant is the wife of the deceased convicted under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and sentenced to life imprisonment with fine of Rs. 1,000 and in default, imprisonment for one month. The Appellant submitted that, the Courts below have erred in holding that, the links in the chain of circumstances stood established leading to the only inescapable conclusion of the Appellant being the assailant and no other hypothesis of innocence being possible.

In a case of circumstantial evidence, the prosecution is required to establish the continuity in the links of the chain of circumstances, so as to lead to the only and inescapable conclusion of the Accused being the assailant, inconsistent or incompatible with the possibility of any other hypothesis compatible with the innocence of the Accused. Mere invocation of the last seen theory, sans the facts and evidence in a case, will not suffice to shift the onus upon the Accused under Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872 unless the prosecution first establishes a prima facie case. If the links in the chain of circumstances itself are not complete, and the prosecution is unable to establish a prima facie case, leaving open the possibility that the occurrence may have taken place in some other manner, the onus will not shift to the Accused, and the benefit of doubt will have to be given.

Section 313 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) cannot be seen simply as a part of audi alteram partem. It confers a valuable right upon an Accused to establish his innocence and can well be considered beyond a statutory right as a constitutional right to a fair trial under Article 21 of the Constitution, even if it is not to be considered as a piece of substantive evidence, not being on oath under Section 313(2) of CrPC. If there has been no consideration of the defence taken under Section 313 of CrPC, in the given facts of a case, the conviction may well stand vitiated.

In the facts and circumstances of the case, the nature of evidence available coupled with the manner of its consideration, leaves to conclusion that, the links in the chain of circumstances in a case of circumstantial evidence, cannot be said to have been established. The possibility that the occurrence may have taken place in some other manner cannot be completely ruled out. The Appellant is therefore held entitled to acquittal on the benefit of doubt. We accordingly order the acquittal and release of the Appellant from custody forthwith, unless wanted in any other case. The appeal is allowed.

Tags : Circumstantial evidence Conviction Legality

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