Possession of Stolen Goods; 5 Best Supreme Court Case Laws

According to illustration (a) of Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act the Court may presume that a man who is in possession of stolen goods soon after the theft is either the thief or has received the goods knowing them to be stolen, unless he can account for his possession.

Possession of Stolen Goods

Dealing with illustration (a) of Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, the Supreme Court in various decisions reported as follows:

1. Earabhadrappa @ Krishnappa vs. State of Karnataka, (1983) 2 SCC 330

  • The nature of presumption under Illustration (a) to Section 114 must depend upon the nature of the evidence adduced.
  • No fixed time limit can be laid down to determine whether possession is recent or otherwise and each case must be judged on its own facts.
  • The question as to what amounts to recent possession sufficient to justify the presumption of guilt varies according as the stolen article is or is not calculated to pass readily from hand to hand.

2. Gulab Chand vs.State of M.P., (1995) 3 SCC 574

  • It is true that simply on the recovery of stolen articles, no inference can be drawn that a person in possession of the stolen articles is guilty of the offence of murder and robbery.
  • But culpability for the offences will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case and the nature of evidence adduced.

3. Sanwat Khan v. State of Rajasthan [AIR 1956 SC 54: 1956 Cri LJ 150]

  • No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to what inference should be drawn from certain circumstances.
  • Where only evidence against the accused is recovery of stolen properties, then although the circumstances may indicate that the theft and murder might have been committed at the same time, it is not safe to draw an inference that the person in possession of the stolen property had committed the murder.
  • A note of caution has been given by this Court by indicating that suspicion should not take the place of proof.

4. Tulsiram Kanu v. State [AIR 1954 SC 1 : 1954 Cri LJ 225]

  • The presumption permitted to be drawn under Section 114, Illustration (a) of the Evidence Act has to be read along with the “important time factor”.
  • If the ornaments in possession of the deceased are found in possession of a person soon after the murder, a presumption of guilt may be permitted.
  • But if several months had expired in the interval, the presumption cannot be permitted to be drawn having regard to the circumstances of the case.

5. Earabhadrappa v. State of Karnataka [(1983) 2 SCC 330: 1983 SCC (Cri) 447]

  • The nature of the presumption and Illustration (a) under Section 114 of the Evidence Act must depend upon the nature of evidence adduced.
  • No fixed time-limit can be laid down to determine whether possession is recent or otherwise and each case must be judged on its own facts.
  • The question as to what amounts to recent possession sufficient to justify the presumption of guilt varies according as the stolen article is or is not, calculated to pass readily from hand to hand.
  • If the stolen articles were such as were not likely to pass readily from hand to hand, the period of one year that elapsed cannot be said to be too long particularly when the accused had been absconding during that period.