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State of Maharashtra v. Mangilal (2009) - Reliance on Circumstantial Evidence for Conviction

Pallavi Singh ,
  08 March 2021       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :
This judgement deals with circumstantial evidence and the grounds on which circumstantial evidences can be relied upon for a conviction. The question before the court was whether the decision of a High Court was correct in quashing the order of the Trial Court.
Citation :
AIR 2009 SC (SUPP) 2801

DATE: 6th March, 2009

JUDGES:

  • Arijit Pasayat
  • Mukundakam Sharma

PARTIES: State of Maharashtra (APPELLANT) and Mangilal (RESPONDENT)

SUBJECT

his judgement deals with circumstantial evidence and the grounds on which circumstantial evidences can be relied upon for a conviction. The question before the court was whether the decision of a High Court was correct in quashing the order of the Trial Court.

AN OVERVIEW

  1. In this case the, the Supreme Court is dealing with an appeal against the judgement of the High Court in which the High Court acquitted the accused stating that the highlighted circumstances did not establish a complete chain.

Facts

  1. Durgabai was wife of Mahadeo. They had 3 children, a 15 year old daughter and two sons aged 12 and 10, who were left without any means of survival after Mahadeo committed suicide.
  2. Subsequently, Durgabai came to be known as ‘quarterwali’ suggesting that she was involved in liquor dealing, and people started visiting her house because of her reputation.
  3. It was alleged that the accused Mangilal, developed illicit relations with Durgabai and later on her daughter Yogita also. Durgabai could not tolerate this and protested resulting in a quarrel between her and Mangilal after she reported against the accused that he used to visit her house and was creating unnecessary quarrel and gave life threats to her and her children.
  4. During the night of the event of crime, Durgabai asked Laxman, who was an elderly man 75 years of age and did petty works for survival, to stay in the ‘chapri’ for protection because of apprehension of threat.
  5. Laxman woke up hearing some sound and saw the accused who threatened him that he will face the same fate as the others in the house did. Mangilal assaulted Durgabai and was killing her and the children. Laxman saw him but due to fear he left the place and went away.

Evidences

  1. The 4 bodies and the quilts were drenched in blood. The bodies of the children were lying on the floor beside s grinding stone. Yogita’s face was smashed and there were incise wounds on the heads of children.
  2. The local police patil telephoned the Police Station. The accused was caught at the bus stand and was taken by PSI Pathan. His nail clippings were collected by the medical officer and then were kept in sealed bottle for chemical analysis. The doctor examined him and clarified he had no fresh injuries or marks on his body.
  3. Requisition was sent for dog squad who were then given smell of certain articles and the dogs tracked the house of the accused.
  4. The prosecution alleged that on the memorandum statement, the accused showed a place near his house where the burnt remains of clothes along with metal hook of pant were discovered. From a septic tank a jersey drenched in water was removed and appeared to have blood stains on it which were seized before the panchas.
  5. During investigation the accused gave important information to enlighten the investigating machinery about the place of weapon which was seized and the spot was sealed. Articles seized with blood stains were sent for chemical analysis to match with the blood on the clothes of the dead bodies.
  6. The doctor confirmed that the seized weapon could cause such injuries that were inflicted on the dead bodies.

Trial Court’s Opinion

the trial court analysed and concluded that the accused was responsible for murder of 4 persons and awarded death sentence.

High Court’s Opinion

the High Court found that the circumstances do not make out a case for the conviction. The High Court found that though the eye witness resiled from the statement made during investigation the natural presumption was that he on account of the side of the defence must have been subjected to threaten to his life as a result of which he did not ultimately support the prosecution case. The High Court found that once the witness did not support the prosecution version the case rests on circumstantial evidence. The High Court found that the circumstances highlighted did not establish a complete chain and, therefore, directed acquittal as noted above.

  1. This decision of the high court was further challenged in the Supreme Court contending in a case of such gruesome murder the High Court ought not to have interfered when the most important witness did not support the prosecution version. It was writ large that the accused was threatening him and/or had managed to get him to their side.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT

  • How much of information received from accused may be proved.-Provided that, when any fact is deposed to as discovered in consequence of information received from a person accused of any offence, in the custody of a police officer, so much of such information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered, may be proved.

ISSUES

The key issues before the Supreme Court was whether the high court was correct in dismissing the of the trial court?

ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT

  • To answer the issue raised, the Supreme Court various precedents set by the courts in cases with similar subject. The court stated that it has been consistently laid down by this Court that where a case rests squarely on circumstantial evidence, the inference of guilt can be justified only when all the incriminating facts and circumstances are found to be incompatible with the innocence of the accused or the guilt of any other person.
  • Referring to Chenga Reddy and Ors. v. State of A.P it was observed that  the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is drawn should be fully proved and such circumstances must be conclusive in nature. Moreover, all the circumstances should be complete and there should be no gap left in the chain of evidence.
  • The court relied upon the judgement in Padala Veera Reddy v. State of A.P. and Ors. which laid down the test for circumstantial evidence as follows-:

(1) the circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn, must be cogently and firmly established;

(2) those circumstances should be of a definite tendency unerringly pointing towards guilt of the accused;

(3) the circumstances, taken cumulatively should form a chain so complete that there is no escape from the conclusion that within all human probability the crime was committed by the accused and none else; and

(4) the circumstantial evidence in order to sustain conviction must be complete and incapable of explanation of any other hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused and such evidence should not only be consistent with the guilt of the accused but should be inconsistent with his innocence.

  • The Supreme Court further viewed that a conviction can be based on circumstantial evidence but for that it has to be first tested by the touch stone of law relating to circumstantial evidence which was laid down in Hanumant Govind Nargundkar and Anr. V. State of Madhya Pradesh. It was held that there must be a chain of evidence so far complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for a conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and it must be such as to show that within all human probability the act must have been done by the accused.
  • The court observed that that dogs tracing scent from place of evidence to the house of accused in no evidence in the eyes of law. The

Medical examination revealed that the ladies had `B' blood group while boys had `O' blood group. Merely because blood stains were found on the jersey of the accused from septic tank in the house of the accused and burnt pant, that is inconsequential since as noted above his blood group is also `B'. The trial Court observed that the weapon used was stone whereas the weapon recovered from the septic tank is stated to be `Kadbatodi'. Unfortunately, no finger printing was done.

  • Therefore, the court observed that the circumstances stated do not establish a complete chain of circumstances.
  • The court held thatin a case of gruesome murder, police protection should be given to witnesses so that they can depose freely. Unless that is done justice could not done with the victim. The accused persons with money and power can trample any witness who dares to depose against them. The victor will be injustice and it would be a slur on the criminal justice system if it so happens.

CONCLUSION

  • It is very difficult to find direct evidences in all the criminal cases. In such situations reliability is made on circumstantial evidence. But in the absence of any direct evidence, it completely comes to the discretion of the court to analyze the circumstances and extract a precise from it. Therefore it becomes necessary that the circumstantial evidence must qualify certain tests which have been laid by the judiciary in various cases.
  • In the present case, the circumstantial evidence could not establish chain of evidences. There were gaps which were in favour of the accused and if there is slightest possibility that the accused is innocent, he cannot be convicted until and unless the circumstances are conclusive if his guilt.
  • Also, the court emphasised on the fact that protection is to be provided to the witnesses in such barbarous cases, else justice could not be served due to the gaps created in favour of the accused.
  • Thus, the trial court’s decision of awarding death sentence was not very precise.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgment

 
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