Facts Of The Case
- In Rajendra Prahladrao Wasnik Vs. State of Maharashtra, the supreme court dealt with the rape of a child in connection with circumstantial evidence.
- Circumstantial Evidence is not defined under the Indian Evidence Act, it comes into existence only if there is no direct evidence. The court may convict the accused even in the absence of single direct evidence. It is evidence of surrounding circumstances which, by undersigned coincidence, is capable of proving a proposition with the accuracy of mathematics.
- Circumstantial evidence is defined as evidence that relies on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact. Circumstantial evidence forms the chain of the facts and if any of the links of the chain is missing or not proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt, the benefit of doubt goes in favour of the accused.
- Circumstantial evidence is direct evidence of a fact from which a person may reasonably infer the existence or nonexistence of another fact. A person's guilt of a charged crime may be proven by circumstantial evidence, if that evidence, while not directly establishing guilt, gives rise to an inference of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The law draws no distinction between circumstantial evidence and direct evidence in terms of weight or importance. Either type of evidence may be enough to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, depending on the facts of the case as the jury finds them to be. Circumstantial evidence allows for more than one explanation.
- Different pieces of circumstantial evidence may be required, so that each corroborates the conclusions drawn from the others. Together, they may more strongly support one particular inference over another. An explanation involving circumstantial evidence becomes more likely once alternative explanations have been ruled out. Testimony can be direct evidence or it can be circumstantial.
- For instance, a witness saying that she saw a defendant stab a victim is providing direct evidence. By contrast, a witness who says that she saw the defendant enter a house, that she heard screaming, and that she saw the defendant leave with a bloody knife gives circumstantial evidence. It is the necessity for inference, and not the obviousness of a conclusion, that determines whether evidence is circumstantial.
- In writing his Introduction to the Indian Evidence Act published in 1872, Sir James Stephen observed that: Facts relevant to the issue are facts from the existence of which inferences as to the existence of the facts in issue may be drawn.
- A fact is relevant to another fact when the existence of the one can be shown to be the cause or one of the causes, or the effect or one of the effects, of the existence of the other, or when the existence of the one, either alone or together with other facts, renders the existence of the other highly probable, or improbable, according to the common course of events.
- Pollock CB seems to have started it all in 1866, in Exall where he said: It has been said that circumstantial evidence is to be considered as a chain, and each piece of evidence is a link in the chain, but that is not so, for then if any one link breaks, the chain would fail. It is more like the case of a rope comprised of several cords.
- One strand of cord might be insufficient to sustain the weight, but three strands together may be quite of sufficient strength. Thus, it may be in circumstantial evidence - there may be a combination of circumstances, no one of which would raise a reasonable conviction, or more than a mere suspicion; but the whole taken together may create a conclusion of guilt with as much certainty as human affairs can require or admit of.
- The present appeals are directed against the judgment dated 26th March, 2009 passed by the High Court of Bombay, Nagpur bench affirming the conviction of accused under section 376(2)(f), 377 and 302 of Indian Penal Code.
- Mahendra Namdeora Wasnik, PW12, lived with his wife, three children and parents in village Asra. He used to go to village Tarkheda for earning his livelihood and usually return to his village after work, but on 2nd March, 2007 he came early to his house.
- Upon his arrival, he was informed by his wife that one person came to the house for tea and left and came again at around 6:30pm told that he would take their daughter to purchase biscuits but never brought her back to the house.
- Having learnt this, PW12 started searching for his daughter along with others, but they could not find her. On 3rd March, 2007 at about 8:00am when he was going to the Police Station for lodging the report, he saw that some persons had gathered in the fields of Pramod Vitthalrao Mohod. He went there and saw the dead body of his daughter.
- The dead body of his daughter was lying in nude condition and there were injuries on her person. On the information received from his wife, PW12 suspected that the accused was the person who was a resident of village Parlam and had taken away his daughter.
- Consequently, PW12 lodged the report with the police, Exhibit 71 in respect of the incident. FIR was registered being Crime Case No. 23/2007 under sections 376(2)(f), 377, and 302 IPC.
- The accused was produced before the court and was committed to the Court of Sessions where he was charged with the offences punishable under sections 376, 377, and 302 of IPC.
- He was tried for these offences. Learned trial court found him guilty of all offences and awarded him punishments.
- Offences Punishment/sentence 302 IPC sentenced to death and he shall be hanged till dead subject to confirmation by the Hon'ble High Court, Bombay Bench at Nagpur as per the provisions of section 366 of Cr.P.C.
Judgment And Analysis
- The very first issue raised before the Supreme Court was that whether the
prosecution had proved the case beyond reasonable doubt?
- The second issue raised was whether the case falls in the category of
'rarest of the rare' or not?
Beyond Reasonable Doubt
- The counsel appearing for the appellant contended the case is one of the circumstantial evidence and the onus to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt is on the prosecution and the prosecution in this case failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubts as all witnesses are interested witnesses as they are the relatives of the informant or the deceased and such cannot be safely relied upon by the court to hold the appellant guilty of the alleged offences.
- To this the court stated that, there is no doubt that it is not a case of direct evidence but the conviction of the accused is founded on circumstantial evidence. It is a settled principle of law that the prosecution has to satisfy certain conditions before a conviction based on circumstantial evidence can be sustained.
- There must be a chain of events so complete as not to leave any substantial doubt in the mind of the Court. To put it simply, the circumstances forming the chain of events should be proved and they should cumulatively point towards the guilt of the accused alone. In such circumstances, the inference of guilt can be justified only when all the incriminating facts and circumstances are found to be incompatible with the innocence of the accused or the guilt of any other person.
- Furthermore, the rule which needs to be observed by the Court while dealing with cases of circumstantial evidence is that the best evidence must be adduced which the nature of the case admits.
- Chain of the events:
- The accused had taken deceased from her home on the pretext of purchasing her biscuits.
- Neither deceased nor the accused returned to the house.
- Accused was seen with the deceased on 2nd March, 2007 at about 6.00 p.m. at the bus stand where, in the normal course of life, such shops are situated.
- Thereafter, the nude body of deceased was found in the field of Pramod Vitthalrao Mohod on 3rd March, 2007.
- Exhibit 11 and 71, show beyond reasonable doubt that the three year old girl was subjected to rape, injuries and then murdered.
- The above circumstances and the chain of events is complete with regard to the commission of crime and undoubtedly points towards the accused.
- Whether the prosecution has provided these facts as required in law:
- PW2, Kanta, is the mother of the deceased. According to her, the occurrence took place on the day of Holi festival. She identified the accused, who was present in the court and stated that he had come to their house earlier and then on the date of the incident as well.
- Supporting the case of the prosecution, she stated that he had come to the house at about 3.00 p.m. and then left after having tea by saying that he wanted to meet his friends and thereafter, he again came back at 6.00 p.m. deceased was playing in front of the house at that time. The accused told her that he would purchase biscuits for the child and took deceased with him.
- They had gone towards the bus-stand and thereafter, neither deceased nor the accused returned home. She had told her husband, PW1, about the incident on his return from work. PW2 also stated that on the next day body of deceased was found in the fields.
- There was blood in her nostrils and mouth. Marks of bites were found on her breast. There was swelling in the private parts of her body. She came to know the name of the accused subsequently. Her statement remained uncontroverted or nothing material came in her cross-examination.
- PW4 is the other material witness, Ravindra, who stated that on the day of the incident, i.e. 2nd March, 2007, he was present at the S.T. Bus stand of Asra and he had seen the accused along with Vandana in hotel Rajendra Bhojane. She was on the waist of the accused and they had purchased a packet of biscuits. Thereafter, he saw the accused going on the road which goes to Amrawati.
- PW5, Bhimrao Pundlik Gulhane is a witness where the accused used to work as a labourer. The said witness deposed that on the date of occurrence, i.e. 2nd March, 2007, the accused did not come for duty. However, on that day in the morning, the accused came to him and demanded Rs. 500/- saying that he wanted to go to Asra and thereafter, he did not come back.
- The accused was subjected to medical examination and was examined by Dr. Ravindra Ruprao Sirsat, PW9 and he noticed no injuries on his person.
- Dr. K.V. Wathodkar, Dr. (Mrs.) V.K. Wathodkar and Dr. Varsha S. Bhade had prepared the postmortem report, Ex.-which clearly shows that the cause of death of the three-year old girl was rape and asphyxia. All these factors have been proved by the prosecution both by documentary as well as oral evidence.
- The accused admitted the documents i.e. the sketch map, Ex.64, spot panchnama, Ex.10, inquest panchnama, Ex.11, seizure panchnamas Exihibits 12, 13 and 14 in respect of the seizure of clothes of the accused and in respect of blood sample, pubic hair sample, semen sample of the accused, arrest panchnama, Ex.16, postmortem report Ex.17 and letters Ex.19 to 27.
- The prosecution has provided documentary evidence and other factual links. The story of the prosecution has been duly proved by the witnesses by circumstantial or direct evidence; there is no occasion for this Court to doubt that the prosecution has not been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. In our considered opinion, the tests laid down by this Court in Baldev Singh v. State of Haryana in relation to cases of circumstantial evidence are completely satisfied in the present case.
- The circumstances and the chain of events proved by the prosecution are fully established, and the circumstances which were required to be proven by the prosecution have been proved by them successfully. The cumulative effect of the entire prosecution evidence is that it points unmistakably towards the guilt of the accused. It is not only a case of circumstantial evidence simpliciter but also the 'last seen together' principle.
Rarest Of The Rare
- The last contention of the counsel of the appellant-accused was that
this is not a case to be fallen in the category of the "rarest of the rare
case" and the accused should not be awarded the death sentence.
- To this contention, the court said that we have already held that the
prosecution has been able to bring home the guilt of the accused for the
offences under sections 376(2)(f), 377 and 302 of the IPC and in order to deal
with this contention raised on behalf of the appellant, the court may at the
very outset, refer to the basic principles that are to be kept in mind by the
court while considering the award of death sentence to an accused.
- This very Bench in a recent judgment, considered various judgments of
this Court by different Benches right from Bachan Singh's case, in relation to
the canons governing the imposition of death penalty and illustratively stated
the aggravating circumstances, mitigating circumstances and the principles that
would be applied by the Courts in determining such a question.
tentatively examine the facts of the present case in light of the above
principles. First and foremost is that the crime committed by the accused is
heinous. In fact, it is not heinous simplicitor, but is a brutal and inhuman
crime where a married person, aged 31 years, chooses to lure a three year old
minor girl child on the pretext of buying her biscuits and then commits rape on
- Further, obviously intending to destroy the entire evidence and the
possibility of being identified, he kills the minor child. On the basis of
the `last seen together' theory and other direct and circumstantial
evidence, the prosecution has been able to establish its case beyond any
reasonable doubt. It can hardly be even imagined that what torture and
brutality the minor child must have faced during the course of commission of
this crime. All her private parts were swollen and bleeding. She was
bleeding through her nose and mouth.
- The injuries as described in EX.P17 (the post mortem report) shows the
extent of brutal sexual urge of the accused, which targeted a minor child,
who still had to see the world. He went to the extent of giving bites on her
chest. The pain and agony that he must have caused to the deceased minor
girl is beyond imagination and is the limit of viciousness.
- When the Court draws a balance-sheet of the aggravating and mitigating
circumstances, for the purposes of determining whether the extreme sentence
of death should be imposed upon the accused or not, the scale of justice
only tilts against the accused as there is nothing but aggravating
circumstances. In fact, one has to really struggle to find out if there were
any mitigating circumstances favoring the accused.
- Thus, for the reasons afore-recorded, we find that the learned trial
court was fully justified in law and on the facts of the present case, in
awarding the extreme penalty of death for an offence under Section 302 IPC along with other
punishments for other offences.
The judgment given by the Court in Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik v State of
Maharashtra is veracious because the court has rightly pointed out the
principles of the 'circumstantial evidence' and 'the rarest of the rare' case.
Rape is defined under sec 375 of IPC as an offence of a very heinous nature.
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other
forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person's
consent. Rape is an offence which must not go unpunished and maximum punishment
should be awarded to the accused in such cases.
Whereas, the present case is not only a case of rape but of murder too and
murder and rape, in themselves are heinous crime which provides death penalty.
So such a case must come under the category of "rarest of the rare case" which
the court has veraciously done in the aforesaid case.
The court has also given a precise judgment in relation to the principles of the
circumstantial evidence because in the present case there was not even single
link missing from the chain. The court in the present case has provided a
punishment which was precise and of punitive nature.
- K.D. Gaur- A Textbook on Indian Penal code.
- Ratanlal and Dheerajlal: Law of evidence.
- www.https//-manupatra.com .
- www.https//ssconline.com .
- Rajendra Prahldrao Wasnik vs. The State of Maharashtra 2012(4) SSC 37.
- 13 CLR 619 at 628.
- 1909 in the NSW edition of Stephen's Digest of the Law of Evidence by Shaw, Macmillan 1909.
- (1866) 176 ER 850.
- Indian Penal Code 1860 s376(2)(f).
- Indian Penal Code 1860 s37.
- Indian Penal Code 860 s320.
- Indian Penal Code 1860 s302.
- Criminal Procedural Code 1908 s366.
- Baldev Singh v. State of Haryana AIR 2009 S 963.
- Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1980 SC 898.