NEW DELHI: In cases lacking direct evidence to link accused with the offence, the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is be drawn should be "fully proved" and there should be "no gap" left in the chain of events, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.
The observations have been made in a judgement by the apex court while dismissing the appeal of a convict against a Madras High Court's verdict awarding him the life term for murdering his pregnant wife on October 28, 2005.
The apex court was faced with the legal arguments that the case at hand was based on circumstantial evidence and there were gaps in the chain of events linking convict to the murder.
"In a case based on circumstantial evidence, the settled principles of law are that the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully proved and such circumstances should be conclusive in nature and moreover the circumstances should be complete and there should be no gap left in the chain of events," a bench of justices Ashok Bhushan and Ajay Rastogi said.
"However, the circumstances must be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused and inconsistent with the innocence," Justice Rastogi, writing the judgement, said.
Referring to several judgements, the top court said when a case rests on "circumstantial evidence" then such proofs must satisfy tests including "the circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn, must be cogently and firmly established".
The circumstances should be of a "definite tendency unerringly pointing towards guilt of the accused", it said, adding "the circumstances, taken cumulatively, should form a chain so complete that there is no escape from the conclusion that within all human probability the crime was committed by the accused and none else".
"The circumstantial evidence in order to sustain conviction must be complete and incapable of explanation of any other hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused and such evidence should not only be consistent with the guilt of the accused but should be inconsistent with his innocence," it said.
The bench upheld the verdicts delivered by the trial court and the high court awarding the life term to R Damodaran in the case based on circumstantial evidence.
Damodaran, who was in inebriated condition on the fateful night, had beaten his wife Nirmala Mary with a log causing severe internal injuries and himself took her to a hospital saying she suffered the cardiac arrest, the claim was belied by the medical evidence during the trial.
"The present case squarely rests on circumstantial evidence where the death has been caused by homicidal violence and the appellant who had himself taken the deceased to the hospital and made a false statement to the doctor that she had suffered a cardiac arrest which was found to be false after the postmortem report was received and the nature of injuries which were attributed on the body of the deceased of which a reference has been made clearly establish that it is the case where none other than the accused appellant has committed a commission of crime with intention to commit the murder of his own wife who was at the advanced stage of pregnancy," it held and asked him to surrender back to jail.