New Delhi: In the absence of any direct
evidence, a person can be convicted on mere circumstantial
material if sequence of events unmistakably point towards the
guilt of the accused, the Supreme Court has held.
A bench of justices Asok Kumar Ganguly and Deepak Verma,
however, said courts have to weigh such evidence cautiously to
ensure that conclusive evidence was gathered by the
prosecution to nail the accused.
"It is obviously true that this case rests solely on
circumstantial evidence. It is true that in cases where death
takes place within the matrimonial home, it is very difficult
to find direct evidence.
"But for appreciating circumstantial evidences, the court
has to be cautious and find out whether the chain of
circumstances led by the prosecution is complete and the chain
must be so complete and conclusive as to unmistakably point to
the guilt of the accused," the apex court said.
The apex court made the remarks while dismissing the
appeal of the husband Birender Poddar, facing a life term for
torturing his wife to death as she objected to his
extra-marital affair with his sister-in-law ("bhabhi")
The sessions court had awarded him life imprisonment and
the Patna High Court affirmed the sentence upon which he
appealed in the apex court.
Poddar took the plea that his conviction was erroneous as
his wife died due to jaundice, there was no direct evidence of
his crime and those who testified against him were all
relatives of the deceased wife.
The prosecution had argued that Poddar tortured and
strangulated his wife to death.
"If we look into the facts of the case, we find from the
evidence of PWs 5, 6, 7 and 8 on which the prosecution relied
that there is consistent evidence of ill-treatment of the
"There is also evidence of beating and injury mark on the
deceased. There is consistent evidence that the appellant
had an illicit relation with one Janki Devi, who is the wife
of the brother of the appellant and as the deceased was
complaining of such illicit relations of the appellant with
that lady, she was subjected to torture.
"We find that the defence of the appellant that the
deceased was suffering from jaundice has not been proved at
all. There is no evidence on record that the deceased was
treated for jaundice," the apex court said.
The bench also rejected the defence argument that the
witnesses were all relatives of the deceased and said that in
the absence of other independent witnesses, the high court had
rightly relied upon the testimony of the family members.
"It is, of course, true that the evidence of the
interested witnesses have to be carefully scrutinised. We find
that the high court has scrutinised the evidence of the
relations with due care and caution," the bench added.