Gau HC | Conviction for murder set aside where ‘reverse burden’ wrongly shifted on accused to prove innocence, law regarding S. 106 Evidence Act restated

Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench of Mir Alfaz Ali and Nani Tagia, JJ., allowed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC.

The appellant was alleged to have murdered his son after a quarrel took place between the two. Apparently, there was no direct evidence against the appellant and his conviction was based on circumstantial evidence. The trial court held that the deceased was found dead in the house of the appellant and the appellant did not offer any explanation as to how the death of the deceased was caused. Thus, basically relying on the said circumstance, the conviction of the appellant was recorded putting a reverse burden on the appellant under Section 106 (burden of proving fact especially within knowledge) of the Evidence Act. Aggrieved by the order of the trial court, the appellant filed the instant appeal.

While perusing the record, the High Court noted that evidently, the body of the deceased was found in the rented house of the tenant of the appellant. Also, when the dead body was recovered and people came to the place of occurrence, the appellant was found in his own house in an inebriated condition. When the police came, then only, he came out on being called by the police. The trial court observed that the appellant was found inside the house where the occurrence took place, but, there was no evidence on record to support such observation, and as such, this finding of the trial court appear to be perverse.

Regarding the law on Section 106, the High Court observed:

“In a criminal trial burden is always on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt and Section 106 of the Evidence Act is not intended to relieve the prosecution of its burden. Only when prosecution proves certain fact from which reasonable inference can be drawn regarding certain other facts, which unless explained by the accused by virtue of his special knowledge, tend to inculpate the accused, in such circumstance the accused owe an explanation, otherwise section 106 of the Evidence Act does not put any burden on the accused to prove his innocence.”

Referring to the facts of the instant case, the Court held:

“In the present case evidently prosecution has not been able to prove any fact, from which an adverse inference could be drawn to attribute culpability to the appellant, in absence of any explanation. As already indicated above, the findings of the learned trial court, that the deceased was found with the appellant in his house was perverse. Once, these findings are discarded, there are no other materials on record to attribute any special knowledge to the appellant in respect of the death of the deceased.”

Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the conviction and sentence awarded to the appellant was set aside. [Tunu Urang v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 5528, decided on 19-12-2019]

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