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Section 106 Evidence Act- 'Failure To Explain' Can Only Be An Additional Link To Complete Chain Of Circumstance: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
11 Aug 2021 12:20 PM GMT
Section 106 Evidence Act- Failure To Explain Can Only Be An Additional Link To Complete Chain Of Circumstance: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that the failure of the accused to explain can only be held as an additional link to complete the chain of circumstance. If the other circumstances in the chain are not established, such failure to explain cannot be the sole basis to convict the accused, the bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and AS Bopanna observed.Section 106 of the Evidence Act provides...

The Supreme Court observed that the failure of the accused to explain can only be held as an additional link to complete the chain of circumstance. 

If the other circumstances in the chain are not established, such failure to explain cannot be the sole basis to convict the accused, the bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and AS Bopanna observed.

Section 106 of the Evidence Act provides that when any fact is especially within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him.

In this case the High Court held the accused guilty of pouring kerosene around the deceased and her children and setting them on fire since he had failed to explain the reason for eruption of fire in the house.

The case of the prosecution in this case was that the accused was married to the husband of the deceased (who was his first wife and had two kids). Due to incident of fire occurred in the house, the first wife and kids died. The Husband, mother in law and the accused were tried and the Trial Court convicted the accused only. This is after noticing that the accused was also sleeping along with the deceased and in that circumstance was of the opinion that if the house caught fire accidentally then the accused also should have suffered burn injuries. Since she had come out of the house without any injuries it was held that she is guilty. The High Court confirmed the Trial Court judgment.

In appeal, the bench observed that the links in the chain of circumstances is necessary to be established for conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence. It said that mere suspicion would not be sufficient, unless the circumstantial evidence tendered by the prosecution leads to the conclusion that it "must be true" and not "may be true". Referring to evidence on record, the bench made the following observations: 

Moral wrong for not coming to the aid of deceased cannot be a circumstance to hold a person guilty of a crime which is as serious as murder

"The natural human conduct is that when there is any incident or accident the immediate reaction is to get away from the scene and save oneself. If in the middle of the night for whatever reason there was fire and if the appellant had woken up and noticed it a little earlier, the natural conduct is to run out of the house instead of going into the house which is burning to check on the other inmates. It takes a person lot of courage or be overdriven with compassion to get back into the house to save somebody else and not doing so may be considered as morally wrong for not coming to the aid of fellow human being in distress, but it cannot be a circumstance to hold a person guilty of a crime which is as serious as murder unless the other circumstances in the chain point to the accused so as to lead to an irresistible conclusion of being guilt"

The court added that not being injured alone cannot be held as a circumstance to hold one guilty of having set fire to the house. 

In this case, the High Court had held the second marriage; the desire for domestic dominance and the execution of document for maintenance on 17.02.2006, that is, a day before registration of the marriage as a circumstance and motive,. In this regard, the bench observed:

"This is for the reason that the marriage had been registered after an arrangement for maintenance was made in favour of the first wife for only a portion of the property which is a normal thing in such circumstance and it cannot be held as a strong motive for an alleged crime of the present nature where the appellant would destroy her own house and that too without there being any other incident when they have lived together in the same house and the fire incident has occurred after more than six months from the date of marriage.. Therefore, if all these aspects are taken into consideration the doubts which arise in the mind would outweigh the reasons given by the High Court for pointing to the suspicion on the appellant and in that circumstance certainly the benefit of doubt should go in favour of the appellant.

Failure to explain can only be held as an additional link to complete the chain of circumstance

The High Court had held the accused  guilty of pouring kerosene around the deceased and her children and setting them on fire since the appellant had failed to explain the reason for eruption of fire in view of such obligation to explain under Section 106. In this context, it was observed thus:

"As held in Sharad Birdhichand Sarda (supra) the failure to explain can only be held as an additional link to complete the chain of circumstance. In the instant case, since the other circumstances in the chain are not established, the same cannot be held against the appellant. On the other hand, the case itself is that the fire had erupted at midnight when the appellant and others were sleeping and she come out shouting. The explanation for the cause of fire by the appellant would have arisen only if there was any other evidence to the effect that the appellant was already awake and was outside even before the fire erupted."

Therefore, allowing the appeal, the bench observed that the accused is entitled to be acquitted as the benefit of doubt weighs in her favour.    

Case: Parubai vs. State of Maharashtra ; CrA 1154 OF 2018
Citation: LL 2021 SC 371 
Coram: Justices Hemant Gupta and AS Bopanna
Counsel: Adv Sudhanshu S. Choudhari for appellant, Adv Sachin Patil for respondent - State

Click here to Read/Download Judgment


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