28 September 1955
Supreme Court


Case number: Appeal (crl.) 19 of 1955






DATE OF JUDGMENT: 28/09/1955


CITATION:  1955 AIR  801            1955 SCR  (2) 570

ACT:   Circumstantial evidence-Conviction based  thereon-Standard of  proof-Various  links completing the chain  of  evidence- Failure  to offer an explanation by the  accused-Whether  an additional link in the chain.

HEADNOTE:   The  standard  of proof required to convict  a  person  on circumstantial  evidence is well-established by a series  of decisions of the Supreme Court.  According to that  standard the  circumstances relied upon in support of the  conviction must  be  fully  established  and  the  chain  of   evidence furnished by those circumstances must be so far complete  as not  to  leave any reasonable ground for a  conclusion  con- sistent with the innocence of the accused. The appellant was convicted under s. 302 of the Indian Penal Code  and sentenced to transportation for life.  There  were no  eyewitnesses  to the murder and the  conviction  of  the appellant rested solely on the circumstantial evidence which was relied on by the courts below. The  various  facts which formed the links in the  chain  of circumstantial  evidence in the present case taken  together advanced  the  case against the appellant very  much  beyond suspicion  and  reasonably  and definitely  pointed  to  the appellant as the person who committed the murder. In  a  case like the present when the various links  in  the chain had been satisfactorily made out and the circumstances pointed  to  the appellant as the  probable  assailant  with reasonable definiteness and in proximity to the deceased  as regards  time and situation, and be offered no  explanation, which  if  accepted,  though  not  proved,  would  afford  a reasonable  basis  for  a  conclusion  on  the  entire  case consistent  with his innocence, such absence of  explanation or  false  explanation would itself be  an  additional  link which completed the chain. Hanumant  v.  The  State of Madhya  Pradesh  ([1952]  S.C.R. 1091), referred to.




 CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal Appeal No. 19 of 1955. Appeal  by Special Leave from the Judgment and  Order  dated the llth May 1954 of the Patna High Court in Death Reference No.  8 of 1954 with Criminal Appeal No. 142 of 1954  arising out of the Judgment                             571 and Order dated the 12th March 1954 in Sesssions Trial No. 2 of 1954. B.   P. Maheshwari, for the appellant. M.   M. Sinha, for the respondent. 1955.   September  28.   The  Judgment  of  the  Court   was delivered by JAGANNADHADAS  J ’-This is an appeal by special leave.   The appellant  Deonandan  Mishra (Deonandan Missir)  who  was  a stenographer  to  the Inspecting Assistant  Commissioner  of Income-tax , Patna, has been convicted under section 302  of the Indian Penal Code for having committed the murder of his second wife, Mst.  Parbati Devi, on the night of the 3rd/4th September,  1953 and sentenced to transportation  for  life. The  deceased was married to the appellant in or  about  the year  1941  and was his second wife.  As  appears  from  the subsequent events, she was considered to be a woman of loose morals.  She appears to have been forsaken by her husband as also  by  her father in or about the year 1945 and  to  have sought  shelter  in the Anath Ashram at Gaya.   Through  the intervention  of  the Secretary of the Ashram and  with  the consent  of  both the husband and the father,  she  got  re- married to one Nand Lail of Punjab in December, 1945.  After a stay of about an year and a half with Nand Lall in Punjab, she  appears  to have left him on account  of  alleged  ill- treatment.   She  came back to the Anath Ashram at  Gaya  in June,  1947,  but  left it again  in  October,  1947.  -What happened  thereafter is not clear from the evidence and  her whereabouts between October, 1947 and August, 1953, are  not known and do not seem to have been traced, All that  appears is  that for some time prior to the date of the  murder  she was  found going up and down in places near about  Gaya  and that particularly on the 2nd and 3rd September, 1953,  i.e., two  days  prior to her murder she was found  going  between Gaya  and  Patna and a place Chakand in  between  these  two places.  Early morning at about 7 A.M. on the 4th September, 1953, P.W. 10, Havildar, found a naked dead body of a 572 female  lying  in the Kabristhan at the  outskirts  of  Gaya about a mile and a half from the police thana.  It was lying on  the western verandah of the bungalow of  the  Kabristhan with a number of cut injuries on the neck and on other parts of  the body.  Report of this was carried to the police  and the  body was subsequently identified to be that of  Parbati Devi,  the  second  wife  of  the  appellant,  Investigation followed   and  the  appellant  was  arrested  on  the   6th September, 1953, and put up for trial in due course.   There is no eye-witness to the murder and the case against the  appellant depends entirely on circumstantial  evidence. The  standard of proof required to convict a person on  such evidence  is  well-established by a series of  decisions  of this Court, of which it is sufficient to mention Hanumant v. The State of Madhya Pradesh(1).  This standard requires that the circumstances relied upon must be fully established  and that the chain of evidence furnished by these  circumstances should  be  so far complete as not to leave  any  reasonable ground for a conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused.   The  learned  counsel  for  the  appellant   has, therefore,   strenuously  contended  before  us   that   the



circumstances relied on have not been fully established  and that  in any case they are not enough to bring  the  offence home to the accused.  The various circumstances relied  upon have, therefore, to be briefly noticed.  The appellant belongs to a place called Chakanddih about  a mile and a half from a railway station called Chakand, which is  in between Patna and Gaya and which is about five  miles from  Gaya.  It is in evidence that the deceased  woman  was seen  alighting at the Chakand railway station on the  night of the 2nd September, 1953, at about 10-15 P.m. from a train proceeding  from Gaya to Patna and that after  so  alighting she was found proceeding to the village Chakand-dih.  It  is also  in evidence that she took the train again  early  next morning  at Chakand for Patna.  The evidence  further  shows that  on the 3rd morning at about 10 o’clock, she  presented herself at the (1)  [1952] S.C.R. 1091. 573 Income-tax  office  at Patna, and made enquiries  about  the appellant  from a peon of the office, P.W. 12, and that  the appellant was informed about this by him.  On receiving this information  the appellant came out and on seeing the  woman told  the peon that she was his wife and asked him  to  make some  arrangement to keep her for the day so that  he  might meet  her in the evening after he was free from  the  office work.   The peon accordingly made arrangements for her  stay till the evening in the quarters of the Chowkidar, P.W.  22, who lived in the compound of the office.  In the evening  of that day, i.e., 3rd September, at about 7 P.m. the appellant came to his quarters and took away this woman in a rickshaw. These  facts  are spoken to by the peon, P.W.  12,  and  the Chowkidar,  P.W. 22.  It is further in evidence  that  after midday  on the 3rd September, 1953, the appellant  filed  an application  for  casual  leave  for  one  day,  i.e.,   4th September  and that leave was granted.  That  the  appellant did  apply for leave and got it is not disputed.   The  next evidence  against  the appellant is that he  was  seen  that night,  travelling  with  the deceased  Parbati  Devi  in  a compartment  of the train which left Patna at about  8  P.m. that  night  for  Gaya.   This evidence  is  that  of  three witnesses,  P.W.  1,  a daffadar and P. Ws.  3  and  4,  two chowkidars,  all  of whom were on duty  at  Chakand  railway station that night.  All of them speak to their having  seen the appellant along with the deceased woman in a third class compartment  at  about 11 or 11-30 P.m. that  night  in  the train from Patna to Gaya when it stopped at Chakand  railway station  for a few minutes.  It is their evidence that  they knew both these persons well and that these persons did  not get down at that station but proceeded in the train  towards Gaya.  This evidence, if accepted as it has been by both the courts  below-undoubtedly is a strong  circumstance  against the  appellant inasmuch as it makes out that  the  appellant was last seen with the murdered woman a few hours before the time  when the murder must have taken place.  This  evidence has  been strongly challenged.  The appellant admitted  that the murdered 574 woman  met him at his office at Patna in the first  week  of September,  but his case before the Sessions Judge was  that this  was  not  on the 3rd but on the  2nd.   In  answer  to questions under section 342, Criminal Procedure Code by  the learned  Sessions Judge, he admitted that the deceased  came to  the Income-tax Office at Patna, to see him and  that  he met her there and that he made her stay in the house of  the Chowkidar  and  that  he took her from the  lodging  of  the



chowkidar  in the evening on a rickshaw.  But he  maintained that  all  this happened on the 2nd and not on the  3rd  and said  that  after  taking  her  from  the  lodgings  of  the chowkidar,  at  Patna  on a rickshaw, he  got  down  at  the crossing  and  gave her money and sent her  away.   He  also added  that  once  formerly she had come to  his  office  to demand  money.  His case that be met the deceased  woman  at Patna on the 2nd and not on the 3rd was not accepted by both the  courts below.  Not only was there the evidence  of  the peon, P.W. 12, and the chowkidar, P.W. 22, in support of the prosecution  case  as  to  the date  being  the  3rd  but  a responsible  and,  educated  person like  the  Inspector  of Income-tax, against whom nothing has been alleged, has  also spoken to the same from his personal knowledge.  It is  also significant that the appellant when he was questioned  under section  342,  Criminal Procedure Code in the court  of  the Committing  Magistrate did not specifically put forward  his case that it was on the 2nd and not on the 3rd, that he  met the  woman  at his office in Patna.  His  answer,%  in  that court  were  bare denials when he was asked whether  he  saw Parbati  Devi at the Patna Incometax Office on the  3rd  and whether he asked the chowkidar to allow her to remain in his house  for the whole of the day.  His present case  that  he met  the  deceased at Patna on the 2nd and not  on  the  3rd appears  to be an afterthought.  In the  circumstances,  the following  facts, viz., that the appellant met the  deceased at  Patna Income-tax Office on the 3rd, that he took  charge of  her that evening from the quarters of the  chowkidar  of the  office by taking her in a rickshaw, that he  was  found travelling with her by                             575 the  night  train at about 11 or 11-30 p.m. at  the  Chakand railway  station and proceeding towards Gaya, must be  taken to have been fully and clearly established, as found by both the courts below.,   The next important circumstance alleged against him is the existence  of a strong motive.  That the  relations  between both of them were completely strained, and that the  marital tie was virtually (though not legally) snapped, is  admitted and  is  clearly borne out on the record by  the  Thyagpatra which  he  gave  to the Secretary,  Anath  Ashram,  in  1945 authorising him to get her married to an-’ other person.  It is also admitted that the appellant had married a third wife some  time  before  this murder.   The  suggestion  for  the prosecution  is that in, all these circumstances and  having regard  to the bad reputation which this woman had  gathered round her, as the evidence clearly shows, and in view of the fact that she started troubling him by visits at his office, the appellant had a strong motive to commit the, murder.  It is  urged  for the defence that this woman must have  had  a number  of persons with whom she must have been carrying  on love  intrigues  and  that she  must  have  provoked  strong jealousies of various persons in and around the place  where she  was admittedly moving for at least some time  prior  to her  murder and that any one of such persons might have  had much stronger motives to commit the crime.  Now, while it is perfectly  true  that there is no clear evidence  about  the life and movements of this woman from about October, 1947 to August,  1953,  there can be no doubt that on  the  material before  the Court, the existence of a strong motive  on  the part  of  the appellant is clearly indicated.  As  has  been already  stated  this woman left the appellant in  the  year 1945 and took shelter in the Anath Ashram, Gaya.  Ex. 2 (a), a Thyagpatra executed by the appellant on the 12th October., 1945,  shows that he purported to give up all  -rights  over



this woman as a husband and authorised the Ashram to arrange to get her married according to her choice.   Simultaneously with  this  Thyagpatra,  he  also  sent  a  letter  to   the Secretary, 73 576 Anath Ashram, Ex. 2-A(1), which is as follows:  "It  is  submitted that I have duly  filled  the  tyagpatra (divorce  form) in connection with my wife Parbati Devi  and submitted  the same to the Ashram.  Besides this, I pray  to the Ashram Samiti and the Bibah Samiti, with my folded hands that they should keep in mind to get Parbati Devi married at a  very  distant place in any other State,  because  she  is Woman of such a loose character that if she is married to  a place near about it will bring ill fame to the Ashram and to me.  As I am an employee in the Police department, it  shall adversely  affect my service.  I pray you not to  refuse  my prayer".   The  state of mind of the appellant as disclosed  in  this letter  furnishes  a  clue as to how  his  mind  would  have reacted  when in spite of her having been married away at  a distant  place,  she came back and  was  virtually  knocking about from place to place between Patna and Gaya and went so far  as to meet him in the very office where he was  working to demand money.  It is strongly urged that this letter only shows  the state of his mind about eight years prior to  the murder.   But in view of his own admission that she  started troubling  him  again  by visiting him at  his  office,  and demanding money at least on two occasions including that  on the 3rd September, the courts below were perfectly justified in  considering that a strong present motive on the part  of the appellant has been made out.  Learned counsel for the appellant urges that the  existence of  the motive and the evidence as to the  appellant  having been  last seen travelling in the train with this  woman  on the night of the 3rd September a few hours prior to the time of  the murder, even if believed are, at best  circumstances which  may create a strong suspicion but that they  are  not enough  by themselves to make out the guilt of the  accused. It  s  pointed out that there is no evidence  that  the  ap- pellant  and the deceased woman were found getting  down  at the  Gaya  station or that they were  both  fond  proceeding towards Kabristhan after so getting down.  Undoubtedly there is some gap in the evidence 577 at this point.  But their getting down at Gaya or proceeding towards  Kabristhan  must  have  taken  place  at  or  after midnight.  It is in evidence that Kabristhan was on the out- skirts of Gaya about a mile and a half from the Gaya  police station, on the bank of the river Phalgu and that there  was no  human  habitation within about 100 yards of  the  place. The  absence of any specific evidence, therefore, as to  the appellant  having  been seen with the murdered  woman  going towards Kabristhan or near about Kabristban is intelligible. It  cannot  be denied, however, that  if  the  circumstances against the appellant stopped short at this point, there may be   room  for  hesitation.   There  are   however   further circumstances  relied  upon  by the courts  below  and  they require to be noticed and considered.  These further circumstances are (1) the finding of a blood- stained  knife (pen-knife) near the dead body, and  (2)  the existence  of  certain  injuries  upon  the  person  of  the appellant when he was arrested on the 6th.  The evidence  of P.W.  23, the officer-in-charge of Kotwali  police  station, Gaya,  who proceeded to investigate this offence on  getting



information  thereof  at 7 A.M. on the 4th  September  shows that he then found the dead body of the woman, in a pool  of blood underneath and near the neck, and that there was found at the time a blood-stained knife near the head.  This knife was  seized and marked as Ex. 1. The prosecution  has  given evidence  of three witnesses, P.Ws. 11) 13 and 18,  who  are respectively  the  Daftari, the Chaprasi and  the  Inspector attach  to  the  Income-tax  Office,  Patna,  in  which  the appellant was working, that they had seen with the appellant a knife similar to the one which was shown to them in Court, as  having been found by the side of the dead body.  Out  of these  P.  W. 18, the Income-tax Inspector  says  in  cross- examination  that he had never seen such a  knife  "before". The  appellant, while in his examination under section  342, Criminal  Procedure  Code admitted that he used  to  keep  a knife for mending pencil, denied that the knife, produced in court  as being the one which was found by the side  of  the dead body, was 578 his  or was like the one he kept.  It was strongly urged  on behalf of the defence that there was no proof that this  was the  very  knife  which the appellant  used  to  have.   The learned  Judges  of  the High Court met  this  criticism  as follows:-     "’Of course no witness could have possibly deposed  that this was the knife which was in possession of the appellant. They  say  that  the  knife which they  had  seen  with  the appellant prior to the occurrence was a knife similar to the one  which was found in a -blood-stained condition near  the dead body.  We have examined that knife for ourselves and it has  a  peculiarity  of its own.  The  knife  has  an  ivory handle.   It  has  a  cork screw  and  a  bottle  opener-all combined.   A knife of this description, therefore,  can  be identified  and it is not one of the kind which can be  said to be an ordinary one".    In  view of the above observation by the  learned  Judges and having regard to the evidence of P.W. 18, who, though he did not speak of these peculiar features, has  categorically said  that be had never seen -such a knife before, there  is no  reason  to disagree with the finding of the  High  Court that  the find of this knife near the dead body is a  strong circumstance against the appellant.   The next, circumstance found against the appellant is  the presence  of injuries on his body at the time of his  arrest on the 6th.  P.W. 24, a Civil Assistant Surgeon of Gaya  who examined  him at 6 P.m. on the 6th of September,  found  the following four simple injuries on his person. (1) One  wound on  the left ring finger, (2) one wound on the back of  left hand  near thumb, (3) two abrasions in front of right  knee, and  (4) one small abrasion in front of left knee.   In  his opinion,  the  injuries  were  all  about  three  days  old. Numbers  1  and  2 might have been caused  by  a  sharpedged weapon such as a penknife and injuries 3 and 4 by some  hard and  rough  substance such as friction against  the  ground. According  to him. the nature and -position of the  injuries were such that "if the victim is lying on the ground and  if the  assailant is over on the chest of the victim and he  is -holding the victim                             579 by  his  left hand and if he is  inflicting,  injuries  near about  his  left hand the victim  is  struggling-making  the assailant unsteady, then injuries Nos. 1 and 2 may be caused by  his own weapon and injuries Nos. 3 and 4 may  be  caused due to friction against the ground".  This answer  indicates the  possibility of the injuries having been received  by  a



person while making a murderous attack on the victim with  a pen-knife.  The appellant when asked about these injuries in his  examination under section 342, Criminal Procedure  Code stated  in the Sessions Court (as well as in  the  committal court)  that he fell down at Jehanabad platform on  the  3rd due to Dhoti getting entangled, and sustained injuries.   In support  of his explanation he relied on an application  for extension of leave sent first by telegram on the morning  of the  5th  of September to the  Commissioner  of  Income-tax, Patna asking for extension of leave followed by a letter  of that very date to the same effect.  The letter was addressed to  the  Inspecting Assistant  Commissioner  of  Income-tax, Northern Range, Patna, and runs as follows:   "I beg to state that I started from home from Patna in the night  train of 3rd September 1953.  When the train  stopped at Jehanabad I wanted to come out of the train for taking  a stand  on the platform due to unbearable heat in the  train. At  the gate of the compartment as soon as I wanted to  come out  my  one leg entangled with the lower part of  my  dhoti resulting  instantaneous fell down from the train.   Due  to this  accident I got injuries at both the knees and the  cut marks in the back of my left palm.  I therefore request  you to kindly extend my leave up to 10th September, ’53".   When questioned under section 342, Criminal Procedure Code before the Sessions Court about the extension of his  leave, he said "I was a stenographer.  How can have I typed when my left hand was injured.  Hence I wanted to extend the leave". It  appears to us, however, very doubtful, having regard  to the  nature  of the injuries, whether this can be  the  real reason for his extending the leave, He does not 580 say so specifically in his application for leave.  Nor, does it appear so likely from the. medical evidence how  injuries Nos.  1 and 2 could have been caused by the alleged fall  on the railway platform.  In the crossexamination of the Doctor it was suggested that if there is a broken glass piece lying on  the  ground  and if during the fall  the  hand  came  in violent contact with that piece of glass, then such injuries may be caused.  But the appellant in his explanation and  in the  application  for  leave does  not  say  anything  which indicates  that he received the injuries on the band from  a piece of glass.  In this state of the evidence, it cannot be said  that the courts below were not justified in coming  to the conclusion which they did, viz., that the explanation of the  appellant  for  the injuries was  false  and  that  the injuries may well have been received on the occasion of  the murder.   Summing  up, the various facts, which formed the links  in the  chain of circumstantial evidence in this case,  may  be stated to be as follows:   1. There was a fairly strong motive for the ap- pellantto commit the murder in question.   2. He took charge of the murdered woman on the evening of the 3rd September by taking her out from  the quarters  of the chowkidar of the Incometax  Office,  Patna, and leaving the place with her in a rickshaw.   3.He  was found travelling with her by a train  which  was proceeding  to Gaya that night, at Chakand  railway  station and  this was at about 11 or 11-30 P.M., i.e., a  few  hours prior to the time when she must have been murdered.   4.The knife, which looked like the one which he was  known to  be  using in his office and which was not  of  a  common pattern,  was  found  just by the side of the  head  of  the murdered woman stained with blood.  5.When  he  was  arrested two and a  half  days  after  the



murder,  he  bad simple injuries on his hand and  the  knees which  might  well  have been  received,  according  to  the medical  evidence, in an assault on the murdered woman  with the knife above mentioned.                             581 These circumstances taken together, advance the case against the appellant very much beyond suspicion and reasonably  and definitely  point  to  the  appellant  as  the’  person  who committed the murder.  In such a situation the fact that  he has  no explanation to offer as to how, after  having  taken charge of this woman on the evening of the 3rd at Patna  and after having travelled with her in the train that very night towards  Gaya,  he left the woman, where and how  he  parted company with her and what became of her so far as he  knows, goes  a  long way against him.  The fact that on  the  other hand he tries to dissociate himself from her company at  the relevant  time by putting forward for the first time in  the Sessions Court, the story of having met her at Patna on  the 2nd September and of his having parted company with her that evening at some crossing after giving her some money,  which is  patently false, is very significant.  The  further  fact that the explanation for his injuries appears to be false is also  significant.   These false  explanations  are  telling circumstances  which, in a case depending on  circumstantial evidence  taken with the other facts such as those  in  this case, are enough to bring the guilt home to the accused.  To combat this conclusion learned counsel for the appellant drew  our  attention  to  the nature  and  position  of  the injuries  on the body of the deceased woman as disclosed  by the  medical evidence of the Doctor, P.W. 17, who  conducted the postmortem examination, as also the various  indications at  the site of the Occurrence., as found and spoken  to  by the  police officer, P. W. 23, who was the first officer  to go  to  the scene by about 7 A.M. on the  4th  on  receiving information,  He  also drew our attention to the  fact  that according  to  the  report of the  Serologist  and  Chemical Examiner, no human blood appeared to have been found on  the saree and the bodice found lying near about the place  where the  dead body was lying and that neither the saree nor  the bodice showed any indication of having been torn or tampered with  and  that on the other hand the body was  found  lying absolutely naked with face upwards.  These features 582 have  all  been pressed into service for a  strong  argument that  the  murder must have been the act of  more  than  one person  and probably having its source in sex jealousy.   We have very closely and anxiously gone into this aspect of the matter by carefully scrutinising the entire evidence in this behalf.   It  is  unnecessary  to  recapitulate  the   same. Whatever may have been. the actual situation on the spot and the  method  by  which the murder was  in  fact  committed-a matter for mere speculation-we are satisfied that the murder could  have  been committed by a single  individual  in  the position  of the appellant.  Sitting in an appeal by way  of special  leave, we are not prepared to say that the  medical evidence and other concomitant circumstances were such as to compel  a  conclusion  contrary to that arrived  at  by  the Courts  below.  It is true that in a case of  circumstantial evidence  not only should the various links in the chain  of evidence  be  clearly established, but the  completed  chain must  be such as to rule out a reasonable likelihood of  the innocence of the accused.  But in a case like this where the various links as stated above have been satisfactorily  made out  and  the circumstances point to the  appellant  as  the probable  assailant,  with reasonable  definiteness  and  in



proximity to the deceased as regards time and situation, and he  offers  no explanation, which if  accepted,  though  not proved, would afford a reasonable basis for a conclusion  on the entire case consistent with his innocence, such  absence of explanation or false explanation would itself be an addi- tional  link which completes the chain.  We are,  therefore, of  the  opinion  that this is a case  which  satisfies  the standards   requisite  for  conviction  on  the   basis   of circumstantial evidence.    I We find, therefore, no sufficient reason to differ from the  view  taken by the lower courts and  this  appeal  must accordingly be dismissed. 583