The Law On The Cases Based On Circumstantial Evidence

The law on the cases based on circumstantial evidence is very well crystallized by Their Lordships of the Apex Court in the case of Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra reported in AIR 1984 SC 1622.

It will be appropriate to refer to the following observations of Their Lordships in paragraph nos. 152 & 153 of the judgment, which read as under :

These five golden principles constitute the panchsheel of the proof of a case based on circumstantial evidence.

A close analysis of this decision would show that the following conditions must be fulfilled before a case against an accused can be said to be fully established :

  • (1) the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully established.
  • (2) the facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, that is to say, they should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty,
  • (3) the circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency.
  • (4) they should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved, and
  • (5) there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused.”

It may be noted here that Apex Court indicated that the circumstances concerned ‘must or should’ and not ‘may be’ established.

There is not only a grammatical but a legal distinction between ‘may be proved’ and ‘must be or should be proved’ as was held by Apex Court in Shivaji Sahabrao Bobade v. State of Maharashtra, (1973) 2 SCC 793 : AIR 1973 SC 2622 where the following observations were made :

“certainly, it is a primary principle that the accused must be and not merely may be guilty before a Court can convict and the mental distance between ‘may be’ and ‘must be’ is long and divides vague conjectures from sure conclusions.”

It could thus be seen that Their Lordships have held that before convicting an accused in a case based on circumstantial evidence, it will have to be established that the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn are fully established.

It is further necessary that the facts so established should be consistent, only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused.

It should be established that the facts established should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty.

The circumstances should be of conclusive nature and tendency.

It is necessary that the facts established should exclude every possible hypothesis, except the one to be proved, i.e. the guilt of the accused.

It has further been held that there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable doubt for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the acts must have been done by the accused.

See Also : Rajesh Dhannalal Daware Vs. State of Maharashtra {Bombay High Court, 5 May 2016}