Burden of Proof; Analysing Section 106 of Indian Evidence Act

It is necessary to bear in mind that under Section 106 of Evidence Act, when any fact is, exclusively within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him.

# Burden of Proof

When the offence like a murder is committed within the four walls of a house, the initial burden to prove the case would undoubtedly be upon the prosecution. But in such a case, the nature and the amount of evidence to be led by the prosecution cannot be of the same degree as is required in other cases of circumstantial evidence. The burden should necessarily be comparatively of lighter character.

Honourable Supreme Court in Collector of Customs vs. D. Bhoormall (1974 (2) SCC 544) considered this question with respect to an offence under Sections 167 and 178 A of Sea Customs Act and held;

“on the principle underlying Section 106, Evidence Act, the burden to establish those facts is cast on the person concerned; and if he fails to establish or explain those facts, an adverse inference of fact may arise against him, which coupled with the presumptive evidence adduced by the prosecution or the Department would rebut the initial presumption of innocence in favour of that person and in the result, prove him guilty”.

That principles were followed in Balram Prasad Agrawal vs. State of Bihar (1997 (9) SCC 338).

Honourable Supreme Court in State of West Bengal vs. Mir Mohd.Omar (2000 (8) SCC 382), analysing Section 106 of Indian Evidence Act held;

The pristine rule that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused should not be taken as a fossilised doctrine as though it admits no process of intelligent reasoning.

# Doctrine of Presumption

The doctrine of presumption is not alien to the above rule, nor would it impair the temper of the rule. On the other hand, if the traditional rule relating to burden of proof of the prosecution is allowed to be wrapped in pedantic coverage the offenders in serious offences would be the major beneficiaries, and the society would be the casualty.

When prosecution succeeded in establishing the aforenarrated circumstances, the Court has to presume the existence of certain facts. Presumption is a course recognised by the law for the Court to rely on in conditions such as this.

# Presumption of Fact

Presumption of fact is an inference as to the existence of one fact from the existence of some other facts, unless the truth of such inference is disproved. Presumption of fact is a rule in law of evidence that a fact otherwise doubtful may be inferred from certain other proved facts. When inferring the existence of a fact from other set of proved facts, the Court exercises a process of reasoning and reach a logical conclusion as the most probable position.

The above principle has gained legislative recognition in India when Section 114 is incorporated in the Evidence Act. It empowers the Court to presume the existence of any fact which it thinks likely to have happened. In that process Court shall have regard to the common course of natural events, human conduct etc. in relation to the facts of the case.

Honourable Supreme Court in Trimukh Maroti Kirkan v. State of Maharashtra (2006(10) SCC 681), considered the failure of the accused to offer any explanation or the effect of an explanation which is found to be untrue and held;

In a case based on circumstantial evidence where no eyewitness account is available, there is another principle of law which must be kept in mind. The principle is that when an incriminating circumstance is put to the accused and the said accused either offers no explanation or offers an explanation which is found to be untrue, then the same becomes an additional link in the chain of circumstances to make it complete.

This view has been taken in a catena of decisions of Apex Court (See State of T.N. v. Rajendran (1999(8) SCC 679 para 6); State of U.P v. Dr.Ravindra Prakadh Mittal (1992 (3) SCC 300 para 39); State of Maharashtra v. Suresh (2000 (1) SCC 471 para 27); Ganesh Lal v. State of Rajasthan (2002 (1) SCC 731 para 15); and Gulab Chand v. State of M.P. (1995 (3) SCC 574 para 4).

# Illustration (a)

When it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court that ‘M’ was abducted by the accused and they took him out of that area, the accused alone knew what happened to him until he was with them. If he was found murdered within a short time after the abduction the permitted reasoning process would enable the Court to draw the presumption that the accused have murdered him. Such inference can be disrupted if accused would tell the Court what else happened to ‘M’ at least until he was in their custody.

# Illustration (b)

When A is charged with travelling on a railway without ticket, the burden of proving that he had a ticket is on him.

# Illustration (c)

Where an accused is alleged to commit murder of his wife and the prosecution succeeds in leading evidence to show that shortly before the commission of crime they were seen together or the offence takes place in the dwelling home where the husband is normally residing, if the accused does not offer any explanation on how the wife received the injuries or offers an explanation which is found to be false, it is a strong circumstance which indicate that he is responsible for commission of the crime. When the only explanation offered by the appellant as to what transpired on that night, is found to be false, it is definitely an additional link in the chain of circumstances establishing that it was the accused himself who poured the inflammable material on the body of his wife and set fire and caused her death by burns.

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