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If a crime committed inside a house,the onus is upon inmates, to give explanation: SC - [106 IEA]

"It, thus, opined that in such cases, while the initial burden to establish the case would be upon the prosecution, it would be of a relatively light character. There would be a corresponding burden on the inmates of the house to give cogent explanation as to how the crime was committed. They could not get away by keeping quiet and offering no explanation." (Para 9)


Jayantilal Verma v. State Of M.P.

Criminal Appeal No. 590 Of 2015

19th November, 2020.


The Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kauland and Justice Hrishikesh Roy upheld the judgment of the High Court and held the three accused persons guilty of offences punishable under Section 302 of the IPC.


The appellant's wife was found dead in her matrimonial home on 24.8.1999. Her death was informed to her brother when he came to visit her. He alleged that the deceased had returned to her maternal home stating that she had been harassed at the hands of her in-laws for the last 6-7 months, the reason being her attempt to speak to the wife of the brother of the appellant herein. A post-mortem was conducted and an FIR was filed arraying the accused of offences punishable under Sections 302 along with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The post mortem report stated that the cause of death was asphyxia due to strangulation, and the nature of death was possibly homicidal. The prosecution led evidence of 9 witnesses to establish their case where 5 of them turned hostile. Effectively, the case was based on the testimony of PW-1, apart from the testimony of the doctor who conducted the postmortem.


The Sessions Court held all the three accused persons guilty of offences punishable under Section 302 of the IPC, in terms of the judgment dated 21.7.2000. In an appeal before the High Court, the Court concluded that there was no legally admissible evidence to convict the mother-in-law of the deceased, and hence she was acquitted. The Appellant's father died in the course of pendency of the appeal. However, the conviction of the appellant herein was upheld by the High Court. Aggrieved, the appellant has filed the present appeal in which leave was granted.


The circumstantial evidence was examined closely as that could be the only basis of conviction, and it was found that there was a complete chain to prove the guilt of the accused. The Trial Court held that after the murder, the appellant's father sent his wife and the appellant herein to the fields, while he went to the pond to bathe and when he returned to his house, he raised a hue and cry, pretending to be shocked by the sudden death of the deceased. The High Court in the given situation, apart from relying on the testimony of PW-1, turned its attention to the postmortem report. It went on to state that since the incident had taken place inside the privacy of the house; the onus was on the persons residing in the house, to explain.


The Court held that

"It, thus, opined that in such cases, while the initial burden to establish the case would be upon the prosecution, it would be of a relatively light character. There would be a corresponding burden on the inmates of the house to give cogent explanation as to how the crime was committed. They could not get away by keeping quiet and offering no explanation." (Para 9)


The submission of the learned counsel for the appellant was that the circumstantial evidence was not of such a nature that it could be said to be conclusive, and the chain of evidence was not complete to pronounce the appellant herein guilty. The previous allegations of cruelty had not been proved as there was no prior complaint of harassment against the in-laws of the deceased and the testimony of PW-1 is further discredited, as he is the stepbrother and not the real brother of the deceased. There was stated to be no intention or motive attributable to the appellant herein to kill the deceased and the prosecution could not absolve itself of the burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. He had stated that the mark could have been caused by pressing the necklace on the neck, but asphyxia was not possible due to the same. No recovery of the necklace had taken place from the appellant herein and the weapon of crime was never recovered.


Learned counsel for the respondent-State relied upon the absence of any explanation by the accused regarding the cause of death, even though the death had occurred in the privacy of the matrimonial home. The appellant herein and his family are stated to be the only residents, where the body of the deceased was found, and that itself cast a burden on them within the meaning of Section 106 of the Evidence Act.


The court contended that the mere presence or absence of a large number of witnesses cannot be the basis of conviction. It is the quality of evidence and not the number of witnesses, which is relevant. (Para 18) The rationale adopted for concluding the reason for the real brother of the deceased turning hostile while stepbrother stood his ground is also obvious and correctly appreciated, i.e., to preserve the close family ties which continued to exist by marriage in the instant case, given the siblings of the deceased and appellant herein being married. The High Court also found that the location of the house and the surrounding buildings were such that there was no possibility of somebody from outside coming and strangulating the deceased and that too without any commotion being caused or any valuable/jewelry missing.


The court relying upon Trimukh Maroti Kirkan v. State of Maharashtra, (2006) 10 SCC 681 observed that the fact that the family members were in the home sometime before and no explanation given as to how the wife could have received the injuries is a strong circumstance indicating that the appellant is responsible for the commission of the crime. The appellant herein was under an obligation to give a plausible explanation regarding the cause of the death and mere denial could not be the answer in such a situation. The court thus finds no reason to interfere with the impugned judgment.

Hence, the appeal stands dismissed.


View/Download Judgment: Jayantilal Verma v. State Of M.P.


M. Maheswari

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