Saturday 10 June 2023

Whether landlord should prove as per S 106 of the Evidence Act that who has murdered his tenant if he owned premises where the murder was committed?

 Circumstance (a) - Re: Apartment from where the dead body was found stood in the tenancy and possession of Santosh.

29. Insofar as tenancy of the apartment being with Santosh is concerned, the same has been proved by the testimonies of PW3 and PW4. Nothing material could come out from their cross-examination, nor any such suggestion has been given to them, as may cast a doubt on their deposition in respect thereof. No doubt Santosh denied tenancy and claimed that there exists no documentary proof in respect thereof but as there could be an oral tenancy also, in our view, the finding returned by the courts below in respect thereof calls for no interference. However, mere tenancy of the apartment being with Santosh by itself is not sufficient to hold him guilty as there is no general presumption against the owner/tenant of a property with regard to his/her guilt if a dead body with homicidal injuries is found in his/her property. No doubt, if the prosecution succeeds in proving a chain of circumstances from which a reasonable inference can be drawn regarding one's guilt then, in absence of proper explanation, the Court can always draw an appropriate conclusion with respect to his/her guilt with the aid of Section 106 of the IEA, 1872. But, if the chain of circumstances is not established, mere failure of the Accused to offer an explanation is not sufficient to hold him guilty.

30. Expounding the law on the scope and applicability of Section 106 of the IEA, 1872, in Shambu Nath Mehra v. State of Ajmer MANU/SC/0023/1956 : AIR 1956 SC 404, this Court observed:

9. This lays down the general Rule that in a criminal case the burden of proof is on the prosecution and Section 106 is certainly not intended to relieve it of that duty. On the contrary, it is designed to meet certain exceptional cases in which it would be impossible, or at any rate disproportionately difficult, for the prosecution to establish facts which are "especially" within the knowledge of the Accused and which he could prove without difficulty or inconvenience. The word "especially" stresses that. It means facts that are pre-eminently or exceptionally within his knowledge. If the Section were to be interpreted otherwise, it would lead to the very startling conclusion that in a murder case the burden lies on the Accused to prove that he did not commit the murder because who could know better than he whether he did or did not. It is evident that that cannot be the intention and the Privy Council has twice refused to construe this section, as reproduced in certain other Acts outside India, to mean that the burden lies on an Accused person to show that he did not commit the crime for which he is tried.

In short, the prosecution has failed to demonstrate (a) that the apartment was locked or in exclusive control of Santosh @ Bhure and (b) that the deceased was in the company of Santosh or Neeraj on 11.09.2000 or any time thereafter, till recovery of the body of the deceased.
In light of the discussion above and in the facts of the case, in our considered view, the mere presence of the dead body in the apartment let out to Santosh is not such a clinching circumstance which, on its own, could sustain Santosh's conviction with the aid of Section 106 of the IEA, 1872 by shifting the onus on him to explain as to under what circumstances the dead body with multiple injuries was found there.

b) Mere presence of a dead body in an apartment is not enough to convict a tenant or owner of that apartment for murder, particularly when there is no admissible evidence to prove that around the plausible time of murder the Accused was present there, or was last seen with the deceased, and had motive to finish off the deceased;


Criminal Appeal Nos. 575 and 576 of 2011

Decided On: 28.04.2023

 Santosh  Vs.   State (G.N.C.T.) of Delhi

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:

Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Manoj Misra and Aravind Kumar, JJ.

Author: Manoj Misra, J.

Citation: MANU/SC/0499/2023.

Read full Judgment here: Click here

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