SC: Failure of accused to discharge burden u/s 106 Evidence Act, irrelevant if prosecution is unable to establish chain of circumstances

By Legal Wires 5 Minutes Read

The Supreme Court observed that if the prosecution is unable to establish a chain of circumstances in a case governed by circumstantial evidence then the failure of the accused to discharge burden under Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872 is not relevant.

Nagendra Sah v. State of Bihar

The Division Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Abhay S Oka observed that the circumstances established by the prosecution do not lead to only one possible inference regarding the guilt of the appellant.

Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act states that “Burden of proving fact especially within knowledge – When any fact is especially within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him.”

In the case, the appellant’s wife died due to burn injuries on 18 November 2011, and based on information furnished by Mahesh Sah, a case of unnatural death was registered. However, autopsy results showed the cause of death was asphyxia due to pressure around the neck by hand and blunt substance. Immediately an FIR was registered against the appellant under section 302 of IPC. When the case went to the Court of Sessions, charges under Section 201 and 302 were framed against the appellant.

Appellant was convicted under the framed charges by the trial court and was sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 for offence section 302 and rigorous imprisonment for 3 years and a fine of Rs 5000 for offence section 201. Both the sentences had to run concurrently and upon default in payment of either fine, the Trial Court directed the appellant to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 3 months.

The Appellant appealed before the Patna High Court which was dismissed by the court. Thereafter, he approached the Apex Court.

The Counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that none of the witnesses except the official witnesses had supported the prosecution’s case and that his conviction was based solely on the cause of death mentioned in the post mortem report.

The Counsel appearing for the respondent submitted that the appellant’s defence that the deceased died due to burn injuries sustained by accidental fire was completely false based on post mortem report. Since the deceased and the appellant were staying under the same roof Section 106 of the Evidence Act would apply and the burden to explain how the death had occurred was on the appellant.

The Court noted that not only the appellant but also his parents were residing under the same roof.

Justice Oka said “Section 106 of the Evidence Act will apply to those cases where the prosecution has succeeded in establishing the facts from which a reasonable inference can be drawn regarding the existence of certain other facts which are within the special knowledge of the accused. When the accused fails to offer proper explanation about the existence of said other facts, the Court can always draw an appropriate inference.”

Therefore the Court acquitted the appellant and set aside the High Court’s order dated April 22, 2019.

Legal Wires

Team @LegalWires

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