Darshan Singh vs State of Punjab 2024 INSC 19 – Criminal Trial – Ss 161, 313 CrPC – Illiterate Witness – Circumstantial Evidence

Criminal Trial – Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ; Section 161 – If the PWs had failed to mention in their statements u/s 161 CrPC about the involvement of an accused, their subsequent statement before court during trial regarding involvement of that particular accused cannot be relied upon. Prosecution cannot seek to prove a fact during trial through a witness which such witness had not stated to police during investigation. The evidence of that witness regarding the said improved fact is of no significance. [Referred to : (i) Rohtash Vs. State of Haryana, (2012) 6 SCC 589 (ii) Sunil Kumar Shambhu Dayal Gupta Vs. State of Maharashtra, 2011 (72) ACC 699 (SC). (iii) Rudrappa Ramappa Jainpur Vs. State of Karnataka, (2004) 7 SCC 422 (iv) Vimal Suresh Kamble Vs. Chaluverapinake, (2003) 3 SCC 175] (Para 26)

Criminal Trial – Illiterate witness – Appreciation of evidence led by such a witness has to be treated differently from other kinds of witnesses. It cannot be subjected to a hyper-technical inquiry and much emphasis ought not to be given to imprecise details that may have been brought out in the evidence – The evidence of a rustic/illiterate witness must not be disregarded if there were to be certain minor contradictions or inconsistencies in the deposition. (Para 27)

Criminal Trial – Circumstantial Evidence –The normal approach in a case based on circumstantial evidence is that the circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn must be cogently and firmly established; that those circumstances should be of a definite tendency unerringly pointing towards the guilt of the accused; that the circumstances taken cumulatively should form a chain so complete that there is no escape from the conclusion, that within all human probability, the crime was committed by the accused and they should be incapable of explanation on any hypothesis other than that of the guilt of the accused and inconsistent with his innocence. [See Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra (1984) 4 SCC 116 ] – failure to prove a single circumstance cogently can cause a snap in the chain of circumstances. There cannot be a gap in the chain of circumstances. When the conviction is to be based on circumstantial evidence solely, then there should not be any snap in the chain of circumstances. If there is a snap in the chain, the accused is entitled to benefit of doubt. If some of the circumstances in the chain can be explained by any other reasonable hypothesis, then also the accused is entitled to the benefit of doubt. [See: Bhimsingh Vs. State of Uttarakhand, (2015) 4 SCC 281.] (Para 9,37)

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ; Section 313– Standard of proof to be met by an accused in support of the defence taken by him under Section 313 of Code 21 of Criminal Procedure is not beyond all reasonable doubt, as such, a burden lies on the prosecution to prove the charge. The accused has merely to create a doubt and it is for the prosecution then to establish beyond reasonable doubt that no benefit can flow from the same to the accused. [See: Pramila vs State of Uttar Pradesh 2021 SCC OnLine SC 711] – The statement of an accused under Section 313 CrPC is no ‘evidence’ because, firstly, it is not on oath and, secondly, the other party i.e. the prosecution does not get an opportunity to cross examine the accused. [ Sidhartha Vashisht Vs. State of NCT of Delhi, AIR 2010 SC 2352] (Para 31-32)

Death caused by poisoning through aluminum phosphide – Review of scholarly literature and research papers suggests that the nature of this substance (aluminum phosphide) is such that it is not conducive for deceitful administration since it carries a pungent garlic-like odour, which cannot go unmissed – Referred to Jaipal V. State of Haryana – (2003) 1 SCC 169. (Para 30)

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