In case of murder based on circumstantial evidence, when an inmate of a house is murdered, what is the burden on the accused?
The brief facts are that the deceased Meena Devi, her son and her daughter used to live along with her brother in law, Raj Kumar (accused). The accused had returned home on the fateful night in an inebriated condition and picked up a quarrel with the deceased. The son and daughter were taken to a different room by their grandmother. The son, PW1 saw his deceased mother being taken by the accused to the house of the other accused person. The accused then returned home and told PW1 son that his mother had run away from the home and that PW1 intimate the same to his maternal uncle. The maternal uncle reached home at about 2:00 AM. The son (PW1) and the maternal uncle (PW3) had approached the police station for giving woman missing complaint. The investigation revealed that the dead body of Meena Devi was hanging from the branch of a pine tree with a plastic rope, tied around her neck.
The Sessions Court convicted the accused person, Raj Kumar. The other accused persons were acquitted.
The High Court on appeal by the accused, acquitted on the ground that PW1, the son of the deceased had made improvements in his evidence and does not inspire confidence. Further, except for bald allegations, there is no motive being attributed to the accused person. Aggrieved over the order of acquittal by the High Court, the State appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Bench consisting of R. Banumathi J and UU Lalit J had set aside order of acquittal passed by the High Court and convicted the accused person. Speaking through R. Banumathi J, the Supreme Court held:
- Conduct of the accused – If a person goes missing, the natural conduct of the accused person should have been to intimate the police about the same. The accused person had not intimated the police. Rather, the maternal uncle (PW3) and son (PW1) are the persons who had given the police complaint.
- If the deceased was so missing, the natural conduct of the accused was to inform the police and also Anant Ram (PW-3). But that was not done. In view of Section 106 of the Evidence Act, burden is cast upon the accused, being the inmate of the house to give a cogent explanation as to how Meena Devi died. No reasonable explanation is forthcoming from the accused as to why he had neither lodged the complaint nor informed the police about the missing of Meena Devi. The respondent-accused being inmate of the house cannot get away by simply keeping quiet and offering no explanation. This is a strong militating circumstance against the respondent indicating that he might be responsible for the commission of the offence.
- Motive – Further, the motive attributed to the accused is that he had frequently quarrelled with the deceased and also assaulted her over some property and monetary issues. This being so, it cannot be stated that there is no motive as against the accused person.
- 313 Questioning – The accused person did not offer any explanation in Section 313 Questioning, rather merely denied the evidence of incriminating circumstance put to him and pleaded that he is innocent. The accused person should have offered his explanation for the incident during 313 Questioning, being an inmate of the house.
For the above reasons, the Supreme Court set the order of the High Court and restored the order of conviction by the Session Court.