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For unnatural death inside house, onus is on persons residing in house to give explanation: SC

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New Delhi (ILNS): The Supreme Court recently upheld the conviction of a husband who was accused of having strangled his wife to death. During the verdict the court, echoing the high court, observed that if the incident takes place inside the privacy of the house, the onus was on the persons residing in the house to give an explanation.

The observation was made by a bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy in a case where one Sahodara Bai was found dead on a cot in her matrimonial home after which a marg intimation was lodged with the police at the behest of her brother, Kishore Kumar. Kumar had alleged that he had returned to the village to see his sister, where he was informed by her in-laws that she had died. He related a prior incident from a few days ago alleging that on August 19, 1999, the deceased had returned to her maternal home stating that she had been harassed at the hands of her in-laws for the last 6-7 months.

The bench, upholding the conviction of the trial court and the high court, further observed:

“The fact that the family members were in the home some time before is also quite obvious. No explanation has been given as to how the wife could have received the injuries. This is a strong circumstance indicating that he is responsible for commission of the crime. The appellant herein was under an obligation to give a plausible explanation regarding the cause of the death in the statement recorded under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C. and mere denial could not be the answer in such a situation.”

The Sessions Court held the father-in-law, mother-in-law and the husband guilty of offences punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The finding of the Sessions Court was based on the cause of death being asphyxia due to strangulation. The testimony of the doctor was relied upon to come to the conclusion that the death was homicidal as it was a result of strangulation.

All the three accused preferred an appeal before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. In the course of the pendency of the appeal, the father-in-law of the deceased passed away. The High Court concluded that there was no legally admissible evidence to convict the mother-in-law of the deceased and hence she was acquitted. However, the conviction of the husband was upheld by the High Court.

The High Court observed that since the incident had taken place inside the privacy of the house, the onus was on the persons residing in the house, to give an explanation.

The High Court further observed that in such situations, it is difficult for the prosecution to lead any direct evidence to establish the guilt of the accused. In this regard, the High Court referred to Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which reads as:

“106. Burden of proving fact especially within knowledge.— When any fact is especially within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him.”

Also Read: Petition in SC seeks direction to the Centre to hand over Vohra Committee Report, annexures for comprehensive investigation

It, thus, opined that in such cases, while the initial burden to establish the case would be upon the prosecution, it would be of a relatively light character. There would be a corresponding burden on the inmates of the house to give cogent explanation as to how the crime was committed. They could not get away by keeping quiet and offering no explanation.

Read the judgment here;


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