Monday, July 7, 2008

Examine circumstantial evidence carefully: SC

Examine circumstantial evidence carefully: SC

J.Venkatesan

Facts so established must conform to hypothesis of guilt

New Delhi: Conviction of an accused can be based solely on circumstantial evidence provided all facts so established are consistent with the hypothesis of his guilt, the Supreme Court held on Friday.

A vacation Bench, consisting of Justices Arijit Pasayat and G.S. Singhvi, said great care must be taken in evaluating circumstantial evidence and if the evidence relied on was reasonably capable of two inferences, the one in favour of the accused must be accepted.

“Where a case rests squarely on circumstantial evidence, the inference of guilt can be justified only when all incriminating facts and circumstances are found to be incompatible with the innocence of the accused or the guilt of any other person.”

Quoting an earlier judgment, the Bench said: “In cases where evidence is of a circumstantial nature, the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should in the first instance be fully established and all the facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Pasayat said: “There must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for a conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused.”

The Bench said the onus should be on the prosecution to prove that the chain was complete and the infirmity of lacuna in prosecution could not be cured by false defence or plea; the circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency and should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved.

In the instant case, Roop Singh was sentenced to life, purely on circumstantial evidence, in a murder case by a trial court.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court confirmed the verdict.

Allowing the appeal against this judgment, the apex court pointed out that “the evidence does not present a complete chain of circumstances which ruled out the possibility of any other person being the assailant and/or unerringly points to the appellant as being guilty of the charged offences.”

Hence the Bench ordered his acquittal and directed that he be released forthwith.

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