The Supreme Court acquitted a murder accused on the ground that when a case is governed by circumstantial evidence if the chain of circumstances is not established, the failure of the accused to discharge the burden under Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is not relevant at all (Nagendra Sah v. The State of Bihar).
After concluding that the case was based on circumstantial evidence, the Bench considered implications under Section 106 of the Act. The provision reads as follows: The 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. The appellant before the Court was convicted by the trial court under Sections 302 (Murder) and 201 (Disappearance of Evidence) of the Indian Penal Code for the murder of his wife. The trial court’s order was upheld by the Patna High Court. The prosecution’s case was based on the post-mortem report that stated the cause of death as ‘asphyxia due to pressure around the neck by hand and blunt substance’.
Before the apex court, counsel for the appellant submitted that except for the post-mortem report, no other material was relied upon by the trial court as well as High Court for convicting the appellant, and a complete chain of events establishing the guilt of the appellant was not established.
On the other hand, counsel appearing for the State of Bihar submitted that since the appellant and the deceased were staying together under the same roof, Section 106 of the Evidence Act would apply. It was further stated that the burn injuries did not cause the death and the chain of circumstances established by the prosecution supported only one hypothesis - that the appellant killed his wife.
The Court, after hearing the rival contentions, referred to its decision in Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, which laid down the five golden principles that govern a case based solely on circumstantial evidence. Following this, the Bench noted that no material was placed on record to signify that the relationship between the appellant and the deceased were strained. In fact, the appellant was not the only person in the house where the incident took place, and the parents were also present.
Therefore, it can be said that the facts established do not rule out the existence of any other hypothesis. The facts established cannot be said to be consistent only with one hypothesis of the guilt of the appellant.
Finding that the circumstances established by the prosecution do not lead to only one possible inference regarding the guilt of the appellant, the Court acquitted him of the charges and set aside the trial court and High Court orders.