Criminal Appeal no. 1903 of 2019
Date of Judgement:
14 September 2021
Justice Ajay Rastogi
Justice Abhay S Oka
Appellant – Nagendra Sah
Respondent – The State of Bihar
Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act will apply to those cases where the prosecution has succeeded in establishing the facts from which a reasonable inference can be drawn regarding the existence of certain other facts which are within the special knowledge of the accused.
- Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code - Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender.
- Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code - Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
- Section 101 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 - Whoever desires any Court to give a judgment as to any legal right or liability dependent on the existence of facts which he asserts, must prove that those facts exist. When a person is bound to prove the existence of any fact, it is said that the burden of proof lies on that person.
- Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 - When any fact is especially within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him.
- The facts of the case are that the appellant’s wife was reported to be dead by burn injuries. An autopsy report revealed that the death was caused by asphyxia due to immense pressure over neck by hand or a blunt object. The FIR was registered under Section 302 of IPC and further under Section 201 of the Code.
- The Sessions Court ordered conviction of the appellant. The appellant preferred an appeal before the High Court of Patna. The High Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the order of the Sessions Court. Aggrieved by this, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.
- The Counsel for appellant argued that none of the witnesses supported the view of the respondent, except the autopsy report relied upon by the respondent. It was also submitted that there were other people in the premise when the said incident occurred. It was further submitted that appellant and the deceased were living a normal and prosperous matrimonial life. The case of the appellant is that, while the deceased was boiling milk for their children, the fire accidently caught on her saree and as a result of that she suffered severe burn injuries and succumbed to death.
- It was also contended that proper chain of events to establish the guilt was not shown. Hence it was prayed that the order of conviction be set aside.
- The Counsel for respondent contended that the claim of the appellant that the death of the deceased was caused by burn injuries is utterly false and completely contrary to the post mortem report. It was stated that as both the appellant and deceased lived under the same roof under Section 106 of the Evidence Act, it is the burden of the appellant to prove that he is not guilty as he is in possession of significant information which he can only provide.
- The court, after observing the examination of witnesses, held that there were no frictions in the matrimonial life of the appellant and deceased. All witnesses provide that there was a breakout of fire and the appellant and his relatives tried to extinguish the same and admitted the deceased in a hospital for treatment.
- This court, after referring to precedents and the facts of the case, held that there was other possible hypothesis for the death of the deceased and hence it does not help in a circumstantial evidence case. It was also held that the burden of proof always lies with the prosecution and Section 106 of the Evidence Act is an exception.
- The court was of the view that no guilt has been shown or proved against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt. Hence the order of the trial court was set aside and the appellant was acquitted of the charges.
- Whether the burden of proof lies on the accused as provided under Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act?
- Whether the chain of events laid out by the Sessions Court is complete and provide an absolute hypothesis that the guilt lies with the appellant?
- This court referring to Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. the State of Maharashtra (1984), observed the five significant principles laid out in this case wherein it was provided that the facts established should be consistent with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused and they should not be explainable on any other hypothesis. The court observed that, while the fire incident happened, there were other members of the family and this happened in their presence. Hence, it was possible for considering a different hypothesis which might not make the appellant guilty. Therefore, the hypothesis put forth by the respondents are not absolute and there is a possibility of another hypothesis.
- With respect to Section 106 of the Evidence Act, it was held that Section 106 is an exception to Section 101 of the Act. Section 101 states that any person who desires a judgement be given based on the facts, provided the burden of proof lies upon the that person. Hence, it is for the Petitioner to prove the guilt.
- The second illustration to Section 106 provides that if a person is found traveling without a railway ticket, it is for him to prove that he had the ticket or provide any other plausible reason. This because only the concerned person can explain his position and reasons. Hence, it was held that Section 106 applies only when the prosecution has successfully established the chain of events and facts.
According to Section 101 of the Indian Evidence Act, the burden of proof lies upon the person who desires a judgement be passed and Section 106 is an exception to Section 101 and shall be operative when facts of the petitioner have been established and prima facie case has been made and the court is of the opinion that essential facts can be uncovered only from the accused.
Questions to Answer:
1. How is Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act an exception to Section 101 of the Indian Evidence Act?
2. If the accused fails to offer a reasonable explanation, can it be a ground for prima facie guilt as falsity in defence of the accused?
Click here to download the original copy of the judgement