11 August 2020

Accused can use prosecution's evidence to establish his defence without adducing his evidence

In Periasami and Another v. State of T.N.; 1996 (6) SCC 457, accused, two in number, were alleged to have attacked the deceased. Though the Sessions Judge acquitted the accused, the High Court convicted the two appellants under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC and another accused under Section 324 IPC. This Court found that the injuries were caused by the appellant with lethal weapons. Dealing with the contention that offence would not be above 304 Part I, the Court noted that though the right of private defence was not set up under Section 313 Cr.PC., absence of such a plea would not stand in the way of the defence based on the exception being set up was the contention taken by the appellant. The Court noted as follows:
“17. While dealing with the said alternative contention we have to bear in mind Section 105 of the Evidence Act, 1872. A rule of burden of proof is prescribed therein that the burden is on the accused to prove the existence of circumstances bringing the case within any of the exceptions “and the Court shall presume the absence of such circumstances”. The said rule does not whittle down the axiomatic rule of burden (indicated in Section 101) that the prosecution must prove that the accused has committed the offence charged against. The traditional rule that it is for prosecution to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt applies in all criminal cases except where any particular statute prescribes otherwise. The legal presumption created in Section 105 with the words “the Court shall presume the absence of such circumstances” is not intended to displace the aforesaid traditional burden of the prosecution. It is only where the prosecution has proved its case with reasonable certainty that the court can rest on the presumption regarding absence of circumstances bringing the case within any of the exceptions. This presumption helps the court to determine on whom is the burden to prove facts necessary to attract the exception and an accused can discharge the burden by “preponderance of probabilities” unlike the prosecution. But there is no presumption that an accused is the aggressor in every case of homicide. If there is any reasonable doubt, even from the prosecution evidence, that the aggressor in the occurrence was not the accused but would have been the deceased party, then benefit of that reasonable doubt has to be extended to the accused, no matter he did not adduce any evidence in that direction.
18. The above legal position has been succinctly stated by Subbarao, J. (as he then was) in a case where an accused pleaded the exception under Section 84 IPC (Dahyabhai Chhaganbhai Thakkar v. State of Gujarat [AIR 1964 SC 1563 : (1964) 2 Cri LJ 472]):
“The prosecution, therefore, in a case of homicide shall prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused caused death with the requisite intention described in Section 299 of the Penal Code, 1860. This general burden never shifts and it always rests on the prosecution. … If the material placed before the court, such as, oral and documentary evidence, presumptions, admissions or even the prosecution evidence, satisfies the test of ‘prudent man’ the accused will have discharged his burden. The evidence so placed may not be sufficient to discharge the burden under Section 105 of the Evidence Act, but it may raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of a Judge as regards one or other of the necessary ingredients of the offence itself.”[Para No.11]

    We, therefore, have no hesitation in holding that a statement made by the accused under Section 313 Cr.PC even it contains inculpatory admissions cannot be ignored and the Court may where there is evidence available proceed to enter a verdict of guilt. In the aforesaid case he specifically stated that he murdered his wife with a Kunda and not with Phali. The Court noted further that there was no merit in the defence sought to be set up under Section 84 of the penal code. However, the Court noted as follows:
16. …..However, we have noticed that the accused had adopted another alternative defence which has been suggested during cross-examination of prosecution witnesses i.e. his wife and PW 2 (Ramey) were together on the bed during the early hours of the date of occurrence. If that suggestion deserves consideration we have to turn to the question whether the benefit of Exception I to Section 300 of the IPC should be extended to him?
Accused can use prosecution's evidence to establish his defence without adducing his evidence
17. The law is that burden of proving such an exception is on the accused. But the mere fact that the accused adopted another alternative defence during his examination under Section 313 of the CrPC without referring to Exception I of Section 300 of IPC is not enough to deny him of the benefit of the exception, if the Court can cull out materials from evidence pointing to the existence of circumstances leading to that exception. It is not the law that failure to set up such a defence would foreclose the right to rely on the exception once and for all. It is axiomatic that burden on the accused to prove any fact can be discharged either through defence evidence or even through prosecution evidence by showing a preponderance of probability.
18. In the above context, we deem it useful to ascertain what possibly would have prompted the accused to kill his wife. The prosecution case as noted above, is that the accused was not well- disposed to his wife as she was always speaking against his drinking habits. We are inclined to think that, while considering the manner in which he had suddenly pounced upon his young wife who bore two children to him and smashed her head during the early hours, he would have had some other strong cause which probably would have taken place within a short time prior to the murder. Certain broad features looming large in evidence help us in that line of thinking.”[Para No.14]
Supreme Court of India
The State Of Kerala

(2020) AIR (SC) 966

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