Bom HC | Circumstantial Evidence. Wife found dead, can husband be convicted on the basis of him being last seen with wife? Do Police Officers need to substantiate their stand on basis of documents? Read on

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Prasanna B. Varale and S.M. Modak, JJ., held that in a matter of circumstantial evidence, the law doesn’t require a particular number of circumstances to establish the chain, it only depends on nature.

The issue involved in the present appeal was:

Whether the link between the incident of murder and the accused is established on the basis of proved circumstances?

Present matter was based on circumstantial evidence.

It was expressed that, Law does not require a particular number of circumstance so as to establish the chain. It altogether depends upon the nature of the transaction. 

In the present matter, there were a few circumstances relied upon by the prosecution and the Additional Sessions Judge believed those circumstances and drew an inference about the guilt of the accused of committing murder of his own wife Nirmala. Accused was convicted under Section 302 of Penal Code, 1860 and the said judgment has been challenged in the present appeal.

Accused and his wife were labourers. On the day of the incident both the accused and deceased went from duty a little early due to stomach pain of accused and then slept. On next day when the first informant went to wake them up, he saw Nirmala’ dead body. Accordingly, he lodged the complaint.

Circumstances on which the prosecution relied upon were as follows:

  1. Last seen theory.
  2.  Motive
  3. Noticing soaked blood stains on the clothes of the accused.
  4. Absconding himself from the spot of the incident even though his wife is murdered.

Supreme Court has already laid down golden principles while appreciating circumstantial evidence. They still hold good. So the following are the principles:-

  1. a) The circumstance relied upon must be fully established.
  2. b) They must be consistent with the hypothesis of guilt of the accused.
  3. c) They should be conclusive in nature. Only inference about guilt of the accused is to be inferred.
  4. d) There should be complete chain of evidence so as not to lead any doubt about involvement of the accused.

Trial Court blamed the accused for not giving explanation. In Court’s opinion, Trial Court committed fault on two aspects first trial court forgot the difference between suspicion and proof.

Secondly, trial court forgot to put to the accused circumstance of ‘last seen together’ as evidenced by PW-2 first informant.

In view of the above reasons, Bench decided to set aside the conviction and laid down the following reasons:

ON THE POINT OF LAST SEEN TOGETHER

Last seen circumstance has to be proved just like any other circumstance. The only difference is once the prosecution will prove that both the deceased and accused were found last together then certainly it is for the accused to explain about whereabouts or what has happened about his companion. In this exercise the time of last seen and time of death also plays important.

For the above-stated, Supreme Court’s decision in State of Goa v. Sanjay Thakran, (2007) 3 SCC 755 was referred.

SPOT OF INCIDENT

Bench stated that it was very much clear that the spot was not situated within four walls of the house but an open space. There was reason to believe that the open space was not surrounded by walls but a place accessible. In view of the said, Court stated that it had to see whether there was a burden on accused to explain how deceased was found there in a dead condition.

Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure empowers the Court to put questions in two eventualities.

One is optional and it may be at any stage of proceeding. Whereas 2nd is mandatory, and it is after prosecution witnesses were examined. Under the said Section, protection was also given to accused from possible punishment which may occur if he has refused to answer or given a false answer.

Whether this Court can remand the matter back to the trial Court for the purpose of putting that circumstance to the accused?

A similar situation arose before the Supreme Court in Nar Singh v. State of Haryana, (2015) 1 SCC 496.

There is no straight-jacket formula for deciding which course of action could be adopted, therefore it remains a question of fact.

In the present case, Bench was not inclined either to remit the matter or to put the questions to the accused.

While deciding the matter on merits, Bench stated that it has almost been 5 years since the accused was behind the bar. Further, even if the circumstance of the last seen together was considered, Court did not think that other circumstances were sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused. Court opined that prejudice was caused to the accused.

It was noted that the accused was denied the opportunity to give an explanation resulting in causing prejudice to him.

MOTIVE

“Suspecting the character of the deceased” was the motive suggested by the prosecution.

Motive is the purpose/reason for which offence is committed. Motive crops up in the mind of the culprit. We can understand the motive, only when it is manifested by some conduct. If the accused scolds, become angry and even beats the deceased it is manifestation.

A trifling act may make another person angry and a blunder may not make a person angry. So, it is difficult to opine which objectionable acts may compel another to take law into his own hand

No doubt man always wants his wife to be loyal to him and if wife has shifted loyalty towards another person, her husband never likes. It is true for wife also.

PW-4-Muktabai mother of the deceased was not eyewitness to this beating by the accused. Except her, there was no other witness. The said statement was not sufficient to believe about the reason for scolding and the group head’s opinion about cordial relations was also important as he resided in the immediate vicinity, hence Trial Court wrongly inferred about motive.

ARREST OF ACCUSED 

When the accused was arrested, bloodstains were noticed on his clothes.

Police Officers are not a layman. They are the officers having the responsibility to carry out the investigation as per the police manual and as per the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. They need to substantiate their stand on the basis of documents which are created simultaneously.

In the present case, the witness police did not make any correspondence on the arrest of the accused, neither made any Panchama. Except the bare words of the two witnesses, there is nothing in writing.

High Court found no explanation coming forward from the prosecution for not creating and not producing the single document to show the entire exercise.

Trial Court’s decision about the arrest of the accused was also found to be flawed.

CAUSE OF DEATH 

Bench expressed that merely because there was a huge time gap in between the timing of last seen together and probable timing of death, the evidence of last seen together could not be rejected in all cases.

WEAPON OF OFFENCE

As no one saw the assault Bench stated that it did not know how the accused had used the weapon koyta. Weapon Koyta was found at the spot when spot panchanama was carried out.

Prosecution had sufficiently proved the circumstances of last seen together.

The circumstance of motive was not proved, evidence on the point of arrest and seizure of clothes was not trustworthy. So, Court felt that the chain of circumstances was not established.

Hence, High Court held that there was Grave suspicion on accused that he had committed the murder of his own wife. As everyone knew that suspicion could not take place of proof, therefore, Court was unable to subscribe to the view taken by the trial court.[Sandip Baburao Waidande v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 560, decided on 09-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr Amit Mane (Legal aid) for the appellant.

Mrs M. M. Deshmukh, learned APP for the Respondent.

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.