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The Supreme Court has recently held that Section 106 of the Evidence Act merely prescribes that when an individual has done an act, with an intention other than that which circumstances indicate, the onus of proving that specific intention falls onto the individual and not on the prosecution.
The bench of the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Krishna Murari, and Justice Hima Kohli opined that "although Section 106 is in no way aimed at relieving the prosecution from its burden to establish the guilt of an accused, it applies to cases where the chain of events has been successfully established by the prosecution, from which a reasonable inference is made out against the accused."
The judgment has been pronounced in an appeal filed challenging the judgment of the Odisha High Court wherein the conviction of the appellants was upheld. However, the same was modified from conviction under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code to 304 (II) IPC.
It is important to mention that the conviction of appellants under Section 302 IPC was modified to conviction under Section 304 (II) IPC and, therefore, the sentence term was reduced to rigorous imprisonment for a term of five years and a fine of Rs. 10,000, and an additional six months of rigorous imprisonment in case of default.
The bench was considering the issue as to whether the prosecution has successfully discharged its burden of proof, and whether the chain of events has been successfully established so as to attract the application of Section 106 of the Evidence Act.
The Counsel appearing for the appellants argued that the reliance placed on Section 106 of the Evidence Act is misconstrued, in absence of clear evidence pointing to the guilt of the appellants accused.
Whereas the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and has therefore failed to discharge its burden of proof, the counsel added.
Referring to the law laid down by the Apex Court in its judgment in the case of Shambu Nath Mehra Vs. State of Ajmer, the counsel submitted that in the absence of the prosecution having failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the High Court cannot supplant Section 106 of the Act to discharge the burden of proof incumbent upon the prosecution.
However, the counsel appearing for the State submitted that no one else except the appellants was present at the scene of the offence and therefore, on account of the appellants having special knowledge, reference to Section 106 of the Evidence Act, has been rightly made.
In addition to this, he also argued, "The Trial Court, while confirming the reliance placed by the prosecution on the judgment of this Court rendered in Rajendra Kumar Vs. State of Rajasthan has also referred to Section 106 of the Evidence Act. Therefore, contentions made by the appellants that no reliance was placed by the prosecution on Section 106 of the Evidence Act, are incorrect."
The bench while referring to section 106 of the Act noted that it postulates that the burden of proving things that are within the special knowledge of an individual is on that individual.
"Although the Section in no way exonerates the prosecution from discharging its burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt, it merely prescribes that when an individual has done an act, with an intention other than that which the circumstances indicate, the onus of proving that specific intention falls onto the individual and not on the prosecution," the court, however, clarified.
In addition to this, the bench while referring to the judgment in the case of Trimukh Maroti Kirkan Vs. State of Maharashtra noted, "In a case based on circumstantial evidence, whenever an incriminating question is posed to the accused and he or she either evades response or offers a response which is not true, then such a response in itself becomes an additional link in the chain of events."
Referring to the case in hand, the bench said, "The prosecution had thus succeeded in establishing intention of the appellants for the commission of the offence. Such an intention, when analysed in the light of the statements made by all the sets of witnesses, and fatal injuries sustained by the deceased at the relevant place and time, certainly makes out a strong case that death of the deceased was indeed caused by the appellants."
The accused-appellants in the matter were tenants, whereas, the landlord lodged an FIR that an unknown person attacked the accused-appellants when they were watching television in their house. The landlord rescued the couple through an inter-connected door. However, the unknown person remained inside the appellants’ house.
When the Police arrived at the house and conducted a search, the unknown person was found dead inside the kitchen of the house. In furtherance of this, a charge sheet was filed against the accused-appellants and their daughter for offences under Sections 302, 201, 109, and 34 IPC.
The Trial Court convicted the accused-appellants and their daughter. However, the High Court acquitted the daughter of all charges, as she was not present at the scene of the offense.
On the contrary, the conviction of the accused-appellants was confirmed by the High Court. The High Court had observed that something had transpired between the appellants and the deceased, which ensued into an assault.
However, the High Court had modified the conviction under section 302 IPC to section 304 (II) IPC while observing that "there was a strong possibility of the existence of grave and sudden provocation, which was discernible from adduced evidence."
Cause Title: Sabitri Samantaray Vs. State of Odisha | Bidyadhar Praharaj Vs. State of Odisha
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