The Bombay High court recently acquitted a man convicted of murder of his wife as the person to whom he had made an extra judicial confession of having murdered her had turned hostile.
Justices Sadhana S. Jadhav and Milind N. Jadhav noted that "As far as extra-judicial confession is concerned, the same is not reliable for the simple reason that the person to whom the purported extra-judicial confession was made has resiled from his earlier statement and has been declared hostile by the prosecution."
The case mainly rested on Witness no. 1, who claimed that someone informed him that the accused had murdered his wife. He went to verify this and found the accused in his house seated beside the dead body of his wife that was lying in a pool of blood. He claims the accused upon inquiry informed him that when he returned home from a relative's place his wife didn't open the door. He entered through the window and found her sleeping soundly. Whereupon he beat her on her head and back. Later he paid no attention to her and at 6 am next morning he noticed that she was dead. Witness no. 1 reported this to the police and chargesheet was filed.
However, in his substantive evidence, Witness no. 1 did not depose about the disclosure statement made by the accused to him and deposed before the Court that upon inquiry of the said incident, the accused told him that his wife was dead. The witness was therefore declared hostile.
It was also the case of the prosecution that at the instance of the accused, a bamboo stick was also recovered.
The court noted that this has been interpolated subsequently just like filling in the blanks. Neither is anything proved in accordance with law nor can it be held that the bamboo stick which was recovered at the instance of the accused was used for assaulting his deceased wife.
The court noted that except for the fact that the dead body of the deceased was found in his house, there is no other evidence to lead to the inference that he hurt his wife:
"Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act does not discharge the initial burden on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. Unless the prosecution is able to stand on its own legs and give a conclusive proof of the fact that the accused is the author of the injuries sustained by his wife the onus would not shift upon the accused to explain the circumstances in which his wife has died, and her dead body is found in the house occupied by the accused and the deceased. It is a settled principle of criminal jurisprudence that an accused has a right to maintain silence and it is for the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. In the present case, the defence has given suggestions that the deceased was addicted to alcohol and that on her way home she had fallen in the nullah and had sustained the said injuries," Court said.
The bench further relied upon the case of State of Rajasthan vs. Rajaram, wherein the Supreme Court has held that value of evidence as to confession, like any other evidence, depends upon the veracity of the witness to whom it has made.
Thus, in the instant case, it held that accused cannot be convicted on the basis of a statement purportedly given by a hostile witness. Accordingly, he was acquitted.
Case Title : Suresh Ladak Bhagat v The State of Maharashtra
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 205