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Sabitri Samantaray vs. State of Odisha - (Supreme Court) (20 May 2022)

Once the prosecution had successfully established the chain of events, the burden is on the accused to prove it otherwise



Present appeals are directed against the judgment and order passed by the High Court. The High Court vide order impugned acquitted the daughter of the Appellants of all charges, but upheld the conviction of the Appellants. The conviction of the Appellants under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), however, was modified to conviction under Section 304 (II) of IPC. The key issue which requires determination in the instant case is whether the prosecution has successfully discharged its burden of proof, and that the chain of events has been successfully established so as to attract application of Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872.

Section 106 of the Evidence Act postulates that, the burden of proving things which 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. If the accused had a different intention than the facts are specially within his knowledge which he must prove.

Thus, 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 chain of events has been successfully established by the prosecution, from which a reasonable inference is made out against the accused. Moreover, 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.

In the instant case, the prosecution had succeeded in establishing intention of the Appellants for the commission of the offence. Such an intention, when analyzed 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. Therefore, once the prosecution had successfully established the chain of events, the burden was on the appellants to prove it otherwise. Thus, the High Court rightly observed that in light of Section 106 of the Evidence Act, the onus was now on the Appellants to disclose how the deceased lost his life.

The entire sequence of events strongly point towards the guilt of the accused Appellants, and that the Appellants have failed to offer any credible defense in this regard. The entire chain of events point towards the guilt of the Appellants. Thus, there is no error in the impugned judgment passed by the High Court. Appeals dismissed.


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