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If Prosecution Fails To Prove Presence Of Accused At Murder Scene, No Adverse Inference U/S 114 Indian Evidence Act: In Karnataka High Court

The Karnataka High Court ruled that if the prosecution fails to prove the accused’s presence at the scene of the crime, it is not appropriate to draw an adverse inference under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, and the Court cannot invoke Section 106 of the Act to ask the accused to disclose the reasons for the crime.

In the case of Suresh vs State of Karnataka (Criminal Appeal No. 981of 2019), a division bench of Honourable Justice B Veerappa and Justice S. Rachaiah allowed part of an appeal filed by an accused sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife. According to the bench, “No witnesses have testified about the accused’s presence at the scene of the crime. Because the prosecution has failed to prove the accused’s presence on the date of the incident, it would be inappropriate to draw an adverse inference under section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, and the Court cannot invoke section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act and ask the appellant to explain why he murdered his wife.”

It went on to say, “Initially, the prosecution must prove that, on the alleged date of the incident, only the accused and the deceased were present. As previously stated, no witnesses have testified or supported the appellant’s presence with his wife in this case. As a result, the trial Court could not have concluded that the accused was the sole perpetrator of his wife’s death in the alleged incident.”

The Accused Suresh had approached the court under Sections 498A and 302 of the IPC, challenging the Addl. Sessions Judge’s judgement of conviction and order of sentence.

It is claimed that during the accused’s marriage to the complainant’s daughter, the accused demanded Rs.50,000 and a gold chain. However, the complainant only paid Rs.20,000 and a gold chain.

The accused were demanding the deceased’s remaining balance. She was being treated cruelly and harassed because she had not paid the balance of her dowry. Aside from the dowry demand, the accused was suspicious of the deceased’s fidelity and used to assault her.

The complainant and other elders called a panchayath and advised the accused No.1 to reconcile with the deceased in family life and live a happy life. The elders in the panchayath decided that a separate house is required for them to be happy and to have a better understanding.

The complainant built a separate house for his daughter and accused in order for them to live happily ever after. However, the accused did not change his suspicious demeanor. As a result, on December 14, 2012, at approximately 6 a.m., the complainant was informed that the doors to the daughter’s house had not been opened. When he arrived at her residence, he discovered his daughter dead on the floor. He then filed a police complaint on December 15, 2012.

The appellant’s counsel, Advocate Nagaraja Reddy D, argued that the entire case is based on circumstantial evidence. The trial Court read the evidence on record incorrectly and concluded that the Appellant committed an offense that contradicted the evidence on record.

It was also claimed that witnesses, with the exception of relatives and interested witnesses, had become hostile. Given this, a conviction based on assumption and presumption is unheard of in criminal law.

Furthermore, the prosecution has failed to establish the accused’s presence on the previous day or at the time of the incident. Because the prosecution has not established the accused’s presence, the accused is not required to respond in the statement recorded under section 313 of the Cr.P.C. Furthermore, because the prosecution has not discharged the initial burden, the question of invoking section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act does not arise.

According to the prosecution’s advocate, Viajayakumar Majage, the trial Court correctly convicted the accused after hearing both oral and documentary evidence on record, and this Court should not interfere.

Furthermore, the evidence of the accused’s father, mother, and village elders is consistent with the accused’s suspicious character toward the deceased as well as his demand for additional dowry. Interference with the well-reasoned judgment is uncalled for because there is a motive for murder and the trial court correctly convicted the accused No. 1.

The bench reviewed the witnesses’ testimony and stated, “According to a careful reading of all of the witnesses’ evidence, it appears that some of the witnesses supported the case while others became hostile. Those who have backed the prosecution’s case are relatives and interested witnesses, and other witnesses are official witnesses.”

The bench stated in Manoj Kumar Roop Singh v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2016 Criminal Law Journal 5015, that “evidence of related witnesses cannot be discarded by the relationship existing between the deceased and the relatives.”

The court then stated that the entire case is based on circumstantial evidence. It stated, “It is a settled principle of law that when the case is based on circumstantial evidence, the prosecution must prove the changed circumstances without leaving any missing link to form the chain.”

It stated, “Suspicion, no matter how strong, is not a substitute for proof. To obtain a conviction, the prosecution must prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt. There is a long way between “may be true” and “must be true,” and the prosecution must travel the entire distance to prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt.”

As a result, it ruled, “After reviewing the oral and documentary evidence on record, we conclude that the trial Court erred in convicting the accused/appellant for the offense under Section 302 of the IPC. As a result, the conviction for the aforementioned offense may be reversed.”

It was observed, “The presence of the accused is required to draw an adverse inference against him. To invoke the adverse inference contemplated by section 114 r/w section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, the accused must be present either before or immediately after death.”

It went on to say, “The harassment and cruelty in connection with the demand for additional dowry and accused No.1 suspecting the fidelity of the deceased are proven facts based on witness testimony. The same fact has been established by the panchayathdars who are being called as witnesses in this case.”

Following that, it stated that appellant/accused No.1 has been acquitted of the offense punishable under Section 302 of the IPC. The impugned conviction judgment dated 13.12.2018 and sentence order dated 17.12.2018, convicting the appellant/accused No.1 for the offence punishable under Section 498-A of the IPC, are hereby confirmed.

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