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If the Prosecution fails to discharge its burden initially then the onus will not be shifted to the Defense: Orissa High Court

The common law maxim, “ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat” (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies) explains that Burden of proof lies on the party asserting it and never on the party denying it. Division bench of Justice S. K. Mishra and Justice Pramath Patnaik in the case of Pradeep Behera V. State of Orissa [CRLA No.228 of 2003 ] decided that  the prosecution must establish its case beyond all reasonable doubt unless there is an exception case of private defence, alibi etc. However, under exceptional circumstances also only the onus shifts to the defense and not the burden.  

In the instant case, the wife of the Appellant died after succumbing to burn injuries, the investigating agency however, failed to record the dying declaration of the deceased. Father of the deceased lodged a report before the Inspector-In-Charge, Bhawanipatna Town Police Station, Bhawanipatna regarding the incident for which Bhawanipatna Town Police Station Case No.133(29) was registered for commission of offences under Section 498A/302/ 304B of the Penal Code read with Section 4 of the Dowry 3 Prohibition Act, 1961. After the investigation was completed by the Investigating officer, a Charge-sheet was filed and Appellant was framed with charges under Sections 498A and 302 of the Penal Code. No charge was, however, framed under Section 304B of the Penal Code or under Section 4 of the D.P. Act. On basis of which, the conviction and sentence to undergo imprisonment for life under Section 302 of the Penal Code was granted by the Sessions Judge in Sessions Case No.2/4 of 2003 Bhawanipatna against the appellant.

Challenging the decision taken by the Bhawanipatna Session Court, the accused filed a CRLA, a Criminal Appeal against Judgement. The Appellant in the instant case asserted that out of the 14 witness examined by the prosecution, the prosecution witnesses have not supported the case and except for official witnesses, all other witnesses have been declared hostile by the prosecution. It was also found that the prosecution in the Session case failed to provide any incriminating connection to the guilt of the appellant with the commission of the crime.

Therefore, relying upon the arguments, The Court opined that, “In order to establish the case, it proposes, in a criminal trial, prosecution must establish each and every circumstances beyond all reasonable doubt with certainty. Each circumstance should be consistent with guilt of the accused and should not be consistent with the innocence of the accused. Finally, all circumstances taken together should form a complete chain of events unerringly pointing to the guilt of the appellant.”

As, in the mentioned case, the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the Appellant from the start, and failed to prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt, therefore, the Court ordered setting aside the decision made by the Session Court and the Appellant was acquitted of the charge under Sec 302 of the IPC.

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