Supreme Court: Chain of Evidence Should be Complete in Circumstantial Evidence Case

A three-judges bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R Subash Reddy and Justice M.R Shah has set aside an order passed by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh and restored the order passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Kullu.

Brief Facts of the case Anwar Ali & Anr vs The State of Himachal Pradesh are as follows:

A dead body was recovered near bypass Bihali Road, Chandigarh on 02.09.2010. The Police were informed, and they reached the spot. The body was sent for postmortem. Father of the deceased identified the body; subsequently, a case was registered.

On 5.09.2010, SI Narayan received secret information that a jeep was lying vacant in Chandigarh. The IO and the other officers searched the jeep and recovered some photographs, mobile phones and documents of the jeep.

Based on the photographs, the Police started looking for the accused. The accused were arrested on 08.092010. During the investigation, the Police recovered a crate from Punjab. a knife and a rope were also recovered on 09.09.2010. According to the Police, the knife and the rope were used to murder the deceased. The charge sheet was filed in this case shortly thereafter.

Proceeding before the trial Court

The case of the prosecution was solely based on circumstantial evidence as there was no direct evidence. The prosecution mainly relied on the recovery of the rope and knife, recovery of the abandoned jeep, disclosure statement and photographs that were found in the jeep.

The Hon’ble trial Judge did not believe that the rope and knife were used to commit the crime. Nor did he believe in the disclosure statement or in the recovery of mobile and the recovery of photographs from the jeep.

It was also observed that some material facts were withheld from the Court with respect to sniffer dogs. The Court opined that the recoveries from the jeep were made at an earlier date, and a panchnama was prepared later.

In light of all the evidence, the Court acquitted both the accused.

Aggrieved by order of the trial Judge, the responded approached the High Court.

Proceedings Before the High Court

The High Court reversed the judgment passed by the trial court judge and convicted the accused of the offences punishable under 5 Sections, 302 read with 34, 392, 420 and 201, IPC.

The accused challenged the order passed by the High Court and moved the Supreme Court.

Arguments raised before the Supreme Court-

The counsel for the appellants-accused made the following submission:-

  1. It was argued that the High Court overruled a well-reasoned judgement of the Trial Court.
  2. It was argued that the acquittal was based on the fact that the trial court disbelieved the theory of recovery of rope and knife.
  3. It was also argued that the trial court doubted the disclosure statement as well. 
  4. The counsel submitted that the High Court failed to acknowledge the fact that the knife was recovered on 2.09.2010 with the help of sniffer dogs as mentioned by prosecution witnesses 4 and 5.
  5. The theory that the knife and rope were discovered based on the disclosure statement of the accused was untrue.
  6. The counsel also raised suspicion on the recovery of photographs and mobile on .6.9.2010
  7. The counsel argues that the IO did not inform the jurisdictional Police as required under Section 166(3) Cr.P.C, which is also a reason to doubt the prosecution’s theory.
  8. Independent witnesses were not examined in the case.
  9. The counsel argued that the call details of the recovered mobile phones should have been examined which was not done in this case.
  10. The counsel stated that this case was based solely on circumstantial evidence. In such a case the onus is on the prosecution to prove a complete chain of events. It was further argued that in the present case, the prosecution failed to complete the chain of events.

Arguments by the Respondents

The counsel for the respondent state argued that the High Court had examined all the facts thoroughly and was satisfied.

It was submitted that the High Court studied the depositions of all the witnesses and was satisfied.

The following points were considered by the High Court:-

  1. Medical evidence
  2. Recovery of weapons (knife and rope)
  3. Recovery of mobile phones, photographs from the jeep
  4. Clothes of the accused
  5. Crates that were recovered based on the disclosure statement of the accused
  6. The fact that no defence evidence was provided

The decision of the Court

The Court opined that if a case is based solely on circumstantial evidence, then the chain of evidence should be so complete that it should be clear that the crime was committed by the accused.

The Court agreed with the judgement of the trial court where it was stated that that there were material contradictions in the depositions of the witnesses.  It was also observed that during cross-examination, the IO had suppressed material facts.

The judges also observed that the prosecution had failed to prove motive in this case. With regards to the recovery of the jeep, photographs and mobile phone, the Court opined that the story was highly suspicious.

After going through all the material facts and arguments raised by the parties, the Court set aside the Judgment of High Court and restored the order of the trial court, and acquitted both the accused.

Case Details:

Title: Anwar Ali & Anr vs The State of Himachal Pradesh

Case No. CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1121 OF 2016

Date of Order: 25.09.2020

Quorum: Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R Subash Reddy and Justice M.R Shah

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