Mansimran Kaur 

Mumbai, April 13, 2022: Confirming the conviction based entirely upon circumstantial evidence, the Bombay High Court has observed that in such cases it is the duty of the court to satisfy itself that the circumstances in the chain of events have been established clearly so as to rule out a reasonable likelihood of the innocence of the accused.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Sadhana  S. Jadhav and Justice Milind N. Jadhav upheld the conviction pronounced by the Trial Court by observing that the circumstantial evidence in the present case completely established the motive of the accused in commission of the alleged offences. 

The present appeal was filed pursuant to the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Bombay wherein the conviction of the appellant was confirmed under Sections 498-A and 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The factual background of the case leading to the present appeal was that the appellant/accused on January 31, 2011 went to the Tilak Nagar Police Station, Mumbai and apprised the police officials of the fact that his wife has committed suicide. On February 2, 2011,the brother of the deceased wife registered an FIR at the same police station under Section 304 (b) and 306 of IPC. After thorough investigation it was found that the death of Rukhmani (wife of the appellant) was homicidal due to compression of neck and therefore Section 306 came out to be substituted by Section 302 of IPC. 

The Sessions Court after considering the evidence on record and all other relevant documents convicted the accused and sentenced him to suffer rigorous imprisonment for two years and pay fine of Rs. 1000 and in default in payment of fine, to undergo simple imprisonment for one month. He was also convicted for the offence punishable under Section 302 of IPC and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life and pay fine of Rs. 2000 and in default in payment of fine, to undergo simple imprisonment for three months. The Trial Court directed that both the sentences of imprisonment imposed on the appellant shall run concurrently. This judgment of the Trial Court was challenged before the present Court by way of appeal.

The Counsel for the appellant challenged the conviction on the ground that the Trial Court failed to appreciate the evidence in a fair and just manner. It was further submitted that the allegation pertaining to ill treatment and cruelty was hearsay stated by more than one witness. It was also added that during their marital period there was not a single incident of report of cruelty by the deceased or by her family members. Additionally it was submitted that the FIR was lodged after a delay of 48 hours. 

On the contrary , the State submitted that the death of the appellant’s wife was not natural as there was material evidence present on record to depict that before her demise, she was subject to ill treatment and cruelty by the accused by making dowry related demands which was borne out by the evidence of various prosecution witnesses. It was further submitted that one of the witnesses and the police witnesses deposed that when they first saw her, Rukmini was lying on the floor which led to inevitable conclusion that the accused had committed murder of Rukmini as there was no eye witness to testify that Rukmini had hung herself and any person had seen Rukmini being untied, released and brought to the ground by the accused and kept in the sleeping position on the ground.

The Court after hearing the submissions from both the sides and considering  the entire  material or record observed that the case of the prosecution was purely based on circumstantial evidence. 

It was further observed that the law on circumstantial evidence is well crystalized by the Apex Court in the case of Sharad Birdhichand Sarda Vs. State of Maharashtra wherein certain conditions were laid down which are to be fulfilled in a case based on circumstantial evidence before the case against the accused can be said to be fully established. Relevant finding from the case stated above was that in such cases the facts so established should be consistent, only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused and such facts established should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty. The circumstances should be of conclusive nature and tendency. It is necessary that the facts established should exclude every possible hypothesis, except the one to be proved, i.e. the guilt of the accused. It has further been held that there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable doubt for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the acts must have been done by the accused. 

The Bench said, “… for conviction to be based on circumstantial evidence, each and every incriminating circumstance must be clearly established by reliable and clinching evidence and the circumstances so proved must form a chain of events from which the only irresistible conclusion that can be safely drawn is the guilt of the accused and that no other hypothesis against the guilt is possible.”

The Bench also noted that it was observed by the Apex Court in G. Parshwanath Vs. State of Karnataka that in cases where circumstantial evidence plays a major role  for the purpose of  deciding the conviction, the Court has to consider the total cumulative effect of all the proved facts, each one of which reinforces the conclusion of guilt and if the combined effect of all these facts taken together is conclusive in establishing the guilt of the accused, the conviction would be justified even though it may be that one or more of these facts by itself or themselves was /were not decisive. 

Considering these legal propositions, this Court was of the view that the evidence on record and the circumstantial evidence vividly affirmed that the appellant was rightly  accused of the alleged offences. Considering the oral evidence given by first four prosecution witnesses, the Bench said that all these witnesses are closely related to Rukmini and had met Rukmini during the brief period of cohabitation with the accused between July 2010 and January 2011. All four witnesses had deposed that Rukmni had informed them that she was being ill-treated by the accused. This fact was further proved with the examination of Rukmini’s brother who in his deposition stated that the accused ill-treated Rukmini and demanded money from her and his brother  collected an amount of Rs. 20,000  and transferred the said amount into the bank account of the accused. In view of above findings, the Court observed that the circumstantial evidence was proved beyond doubt and the motive was clearly established in the present case . Thus, the order of conviction was upheld and the appeal was accordingly dismissed. 

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