The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday exonerated a convict from the charge of Murder under Section 302 of IPC, stating that Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act does not discharge the prosecution from proving its case beyond reasonable doubt and that an accused has the right to silence without being adversely affected by such silence.
The appeal was filed by one Prasanta Biswas who had been sentenced to life term by the Additional Sessions Judge of Ranaghat for murdering his wife. The prosecution's case therein was that the appellant used to torture the victim and must have murdered her in order to pursue his illicit relationship with a lady of his village, Swapna. However, none of those witnesses had seen the appellant mixing with Swapna.
In the statements made by the appellant under Section 313 of CrPC, he denied all the allegations leveled against him, claiming that he was not at home at the time of the alleged incident.
Passing the order of conviction, the Additional Sessions Judge held that the accused had special knowledge of the facts and circumstances in which his wife was murdered and the burden was on him to explain those circumstances. However, such burden had not been discharged and mere denial of presence at the time of the incident would not provide the accused with a good alibi. Reliance in this regard was placed on Section 106 of the Evidence Act which states that when any fact is especially within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him.
While hearing the appeal titled "Prasanta Biswas v. State of West Bengal", the bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee felt that conviction of the appellant was prompted by a strong suspicion in the mind of the Trial Court. They noted that there was nothing on record to connect the accused to the murder of his wife.
The court said that there was nothing in the evidence adduced by the prosecution to establish the presence of the appellant in his house at or around the time of occurrence of the incident. There was no effort on the part of the Investigating Officer to ascertain where the accused was at the time of occurrence. None of the prosecution witnesses had anything material to say about the incident and nothing that they said inculpated the accused. Further, the allegation of the appellant having illicit relationship with Swapna was also unfounded. Hence the court was of the opinion that no definite inference could be drawn that the accused was the culprit.
The court also relied on the Supreme Court's verdict in Jaspal Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 1 SCC (Cri) 1, wherein it was held that Section 106 of the Evidence Act was not intended to relieve the prosecution of its burden to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
"Section 106 would have applied, had it been established that the appellant was with the victim at or around the time of occurrence or that the victim was last seen with him. The fact that the appellant and the victim were married, per se, cannot attract application of Section 106 of the Evidence Act irrespective of wherever the appellant was at the time of occurrence of the incident", the bench said.
The court went on to say that the accused was not obligated under Section 313 of CrPC to say where he was on the night the incident. "An accused has the right to remain silent and such silence cannot be held to be admission of any charge brought against him. An accused is presumed innocent until proved guilty. The burden of proving him guilty is on the prosecution. The accused need not say anything at all", the bench concluded.
Advocates Ankit Agarwala, Subir Debnath, Soham Banerjee, Alotriyo Mukherjee and Roma Roy for the Appellant and APP Madhusudan Sur and Advocate Monoranjan Mahato for the State
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