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Husband Can’t Be Asked To Explain Wife’s Death In Their House Unless Prima Facie Case Established: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court recently overturned a man’s conviction in connection with the murder of his wife, despite the fact that her body was discovered in their home and he was discovered near the deceased through a Bench of Justices Sadhana S. Jadhav and Milind N. Jadhav in the case of Suresh Ladak Bhagat v The State of Maharashtra (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.9 OF 2014)

FACTS OF THE CASE:

Witness No. 1 saw the accused in his home with the corpse of the dead lying in a pool of blood, to whom he reportedly confessed to killing his wife. According to the prosecution, when she was sleeping, the accused hit her on the head and back. Later, he paid no attention to her, and the next morning, at 6 a.m., he discovered she was dead.

Witness No. 1 informed the police, and a charge sheet was filed. Witness No. 1 did not attest to the disclosure statement made by the accused to him in his substantive testimony, but he did depose before the Court that upon enquiry about the stated occurrence, the accused told him that his wife was deceased. As a result, the witness was labelled hostile.

It was observed that, under section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, the prosecution bears the initial burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution contended that it is incumbent upon the accused to provide an explanation as contemplated by section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act and that the mere discovery of a dead body in the accused’s home without any plausible explanation is sufficient to convict the accused for an offence punishable under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Furthermore, a bamboo stick was hidden 10 feet from the accused’s dwelling in a carton holding newspaper. Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act was invoked to retrieve the same at the accused’s request.

JUDGEMENT:

The court stated that the question before it would be what evidence there is against the accused that would lead to a required inference that the accused is the cause of the deceased’s injuries. The court stated that other than the fact that the deceased’s body was discovered in his home, there is no further evidence to support the conclusion that he harmed his wife. It was stated “It is a settled principle of criminal jurisprudence that an accused has a right to maintain silence and it is for the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In the present case, the defense¬†has given suggestions that the deceased was addicted to alcohol and that on her way home she had fallen in the nullah and had sustained the said injuries.”

Furthermore, the court stated that the extrajudicial confession cannot be relied on since the Witness became hostile. As a result, the accused was acquitted by the court.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

Click here to view judgement

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