Read Order: SURESH Vs. STATE OF KARNATAKA 

Mansimran Kaur 

Bangalore, May 02, 2022: The Karnataka High Court has recently reiterated that when the case is based on circumstantial evidence, then the changed circumstances have to be proved by the prosecution without leaving any missing link to form the chain.

Confirming the conviction of the appellant/first accused for the offence punishable under Section 498-A of IPC, the Court held that suspicion, however strong it may be, is not the substitute for proof. The prosecution has to prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt to base a conviction.

The Division Bench of Justice B. Veerappa and Justice S. Rachaiah while dealing with an appeal assailing the judgment of conviction and order of sentence of the Trial Court whereby the appellant was charged under Section 302 of IPC and Section 498A of IPC observed that the presence of the accused is sine-qua-non to draw the adverse inference against the accused. To invoke the adverse inference as envisaged under section 114 r/w section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, the presence of the accused either before death or immediately after death is essential, added the Bench.

The appellant preferred the present appeal against the impugned judgment of conviction dated December 13, 2018 and order of sentence dated December 17, 2018 whereby the Trial Court convicted the first accused under Section 498-A  of IPC and sentenced him to undergo rigorous  imprisonment for one year. Further the accused was also convicted under Section 302 of IPC and had to undergo imprisonment for life under the same. 

Facts in brief were that the complainant lodged the complaint stating that the first accused and his daughter were husband and wife. The accused use to torture his daughter on the account of demand of dowry. The complainant even constructed a separate home for his daughter and wife and the first accused. However, one day the complainant was informed by an informant that he suspected that something wrong  had occurred in his daughter’s house and on being apprised of the same when the complaint reached to her place, she was found lying on the ground dead. 

Consequently, the complaint was filed and a case was registered under Section 302 of IPC. After investigation, charge sheet was filed and the Trial was conducted wherein the Court framed charges against the accused persons under 498A, 302, 304B r/w section 34 of IPC and also sections 3, 4, and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

The Court after considering the submissions from both the sides, decided to re-appreciate the evidence on record as being the First Appellate Court. The Court observed that some of the witnesses supported the case while some turned hostile. The ones who supported were interested witnesses and the rest were official witnesses. To appreciate the evidence of the witnesses the Court relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Manoj  Kumar  Roop Singh  vs. State  of  Himachal Pradesh  wherein it was observed that generally a married woman discloses facts of cruelty influcted upon her in the matrimonial house to her relatives only. Thus in view of the same, this Court observed that the testimony of the relatives could not be discarded solely on the ground of relationship existing between the deceased and the relatives. 

Further the post mortem report stated that the death of the deceased was due to vagal inhibition, as a result of violent attack on the neck, accentuated by contusion of the brain. It depicted that the death was homicidal. 

Saying that the entire case was based on circumstantial evidence, the Bench asserted, “It is the settled principle of law that when the case is based on the circumstantial evidence, the changed circumstances has to be proved by the prosecution without leaving any missing link to form the chain. In other words, the Court must satisfy itself that various circumstances in a chain of evidence should be established clearly and that the completed chain must be such as to rule out a reasonable likelihood of the innocence of the accused.”

Further reliance was placed on the case of  Sujith Biswas vs. State of Assam , wherein stark distinction between proof beyond reasonable doubt and suspicion was drawn.

It was further observed while re-appreciating the circumstantial evidence that the prosecution failed to establish the presence of the accused at the place of occurrence.  Since the prosecution failed to prove the presence of the accused, as on the date of the incident, it would not be appropriate to draw the adverse inference  as per the provision under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act and the Court cannot invoke the provision under Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act and ask the appellant to state the reasons for murder of his wife, the Court remarked. 

Thus after taking into account the oral and the documentary evidence on record, the Court opined that the Trial Court erred in convicting the first accused under Section 302 of IPC. It was further observed that the presence of the accused is sine-qua-non to draw the adverse inference against the accused. To invoke the adverse inference as envisaged under section 114 r/w section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, the presence of the accused either before death or immediately after death is essential.

Thus, in light of the above observations, the present appeal was partly allowed by observing that the conviction of the accused under Section 302 of IPC was erroneous, however the charges of cruelty inflicted upon the deceased were confirmed through the oral and documentary evidence available on record and thus the conviction under Section 498-A was upheld by this Court as well. 

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