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Accused's Burden To Prove His Defence Taken U/s 313 CrPC Is Not Beyond All Reasonable Doubts: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
3 Aug 2021 6:43 AM GMT
Accuseds Burden To Prove His Defence Taken U/s 313 CrPC Is Not Beyond All Reasonable Doubts: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that the burden of proof on an accused in support of the defence taken under Section 313 of Code of Criminal Procedure is not beyond all reasonable doubt as it lies on the prosecution to prove the chargeThe accused has merely to create a doubt and it is for the prosecution then to establish beyond reasonable doubt that no benefit can flow from the same to the...

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The Supreme Court observed that the burden of proof on an accused in support of the defence taken under Section 313 of Code of Criminal Procedure is not beyond all reasonable doubt as it lies on the prosecution to prove the charge

The accused has merely to create a doubt and it is for the prosecution then to establish beyond reasonable doubt that no benefit can flow from the same to the accused, the bench of  Justices Navin Sinha and R. Subhash Reddy said while acquitting a woman accused of murdering her sister in law.

In this case, the deceased died in the matrimonial home in about one and a half years of the marriage suffering 95% burn injuries. The younger brother of deceased aged about 11 - 12 years was the sole eye witness. The sister in law of the deceased, along with other accused were charged for murder. The Trial Court convicted her relying on the testimony of the child witness that she stuffed cloth in the mouth of the deceased after which she was set on fire by other accused. The High Court dismissed her appeal.

In appeal, the accused contended that she had taken a specific defence in her statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. that she resided in her matrimonial home, which was separate and at a distance. It was further contended that the allegation against her by the child witness was never put to her under Section 313 CrPC thus depriving her of a valuable opportunity 1 of defence which vitiates her conviction.

"We are of the considered opinion that in absence of any question having been put to her in this regard under Section 313 CrPC the appellant has been seriously prejudiced in her defence. It has repeatedly been held that the procedure under Section 313 CrPC is but a facet of the principles of natural justice giving an opportunity to an accused to present the defence. The burden of proof on an accused in support of the defence taken under Section 313 CrPC is not beyond all reasonable doubt as it lies on the prosecution to prove the charge. The accused has merely to create a doubt. It will be for the prosecution then to establish beyond reasonable doubt that no benefit can flow from the same to the accused. The mere fact that the house of the appellant was at near quarters cannot ipso facto lead to a conclusion with regard to her presence in her parental home at the time of occurrence. It is a fact to be established and assessed from the evidence on record.", the court said accepting the accused's contention [referred to Janak Yadav v. State of Bihar, (1999) 9 SCC 125].

Not Deposed That Closed Was Taken From Her Mouth

The court noted that at no stage, the witness deposed that the cloth was taken out from her mouth, but stated that the deceased was speaking while she was being taken to hospital. "It stands to reason that if cloth was stuffed in the mouth of deceased she would have been unable to speak.", the bench noted. The bench also noticed that the doctor who performed post mortem also stated that no cloth was present in the mouth of the deceased and that all the 32 teeth were intact.

"The discussion and reasoning by the trial court that absence of any cloth in the mouth was irrelevant because if the deceased suffered hundred per cent burns the cloth naturally could not be available, suggesting that it would have been burnt also is completely fallacious.", the bench said while observing that the evidence of child witness in this case attributing a specific role to the accused is not of such a sterling quality so as to inspire confidence in the court to base the conviction on the sole evidence of a child witness. 

She was a daughter-in-law like the deceased herself

"She was a daughter-in-law like the deceased herself. The nature of the evidence makes it highly unlikely that she would have engaged in such actions. The benefit of doubt in the circumstances has to be given to the appellant.", the bench said while setting aside conviction of the accused.

Mere absence of any corroborative evidence in addition to that of the child witness by itself cannot alone discredit a child witness. 

Though, the court in this case disbelieved the child witness, it said that criminal jurisprudence does not hold that the evidence of a child witness is unreliable and can be discarded. 

"A child who is aged about 11 to 12 years certainly has reasonably developed mental faculty to see, absorb and appreciate. In a given case the evidence of a child witness alone can also form the basis for conviction. The mere absence of any corroborative evidence in addition to that of the child witness by itself cannot alone discredit a child witness. But the Courts have regularly held that where a child 2 witness is to be considered, and more so when he is the sole witness, a heightened level of scrutiny is called for of the evidence so that the Court is satisfied with regard to the reliability and genuineness of the evidence of the child witness. PW-2 was examined nearly one year after the occurrence. The Court has, therefore, to satisfy itself that all possibilities of tutoring or otherwise are ruled out and what was deposed was nothing but the truth." [Referred to State of M.P. vs. Ramesh, (2011) 4 SCC 786]


Case: Pramila vs. State of Uttar Pradesh ; CrA 700 OF 2021
Coram: Justices Navin Sinha and R. Subhash Reddy
Citation: LL 2021 SC 342


Click here to Read/Download Judgment



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