The Supreme Court of India, in the case of Sabitri Samantaray v. the State of Odisha, has shed some light on the applicability of Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 wherein the prosecution had successfully demonstrated a chain of events from which a fair connection was drawn out against the accused.
The bench comprised the Hon’ble Chief Justice NV Ramana, Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli. Their observation was based on the judgement given in the case of Trimukh Maroti Kirkan v. the State of Maharashtra, wherein it was stated that when an incriminating question is made to the accused in a trial based on circumstantial evidence, and they manage to avoid answering or give a false reply for the same, then that response will become an important link in the chain of events.
The judgment came as a result of the appeals notified against the order passed by the High Court of Odisha in a criminal appeal. The appellants were charged with offences under Sections 302, 201, read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. As per the arguments presented by the appellants -- in the lack of meaningful evidence indicating the appellants' guilt, the importance of Section 106 of the Evidence Act was misinterpreted.
The prosecution was unable to establish the case beyond reasonable doubt and hence failed to meet the burden of proof. The High Court cannot rely on Section 106 of the Evidence Act to relieve the prosecution of its burden of proof unless the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, the appellants argued that the verdict at issue was in violation of the law established by the Court in Shambu Nath Mehra v. the State of Ajmer.
The Court observed that the major challenge in this matter is whether the prosecution has effectively satisfied its standard of proof and if the chain of events has been sufficiently proven to allow the use of Section 106 of the Evidence Act. The Section does not absolve the prosecution of the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt; rather, it specifies that when an individual performs an act with an intention other than what the circumstances indicate, the onus of demonstrating that particular intent falls on the individual.
The Court relied on statements of various witnesses while concluding. As per the landlord, one of the witnesses, (a member of the police force) was the first to reach the building of the appellants after they were caught within the premises of where while the deceased was found. This resulted in prima facie evidence that only the accused appellants were inside the house at the time of death of the deceased.
Further, the Court noted that the argument from the appellants (that the assembled crowd assaulted the deceased and disfigured his face) was appropriately dismissed by the High Court since there was no relevant evidence presented in support of the asserted claim. The court examined the statement of the medical expert as well. As per the medical expert’s report, the reason for death was asphyxia due to pressure on the lower region of the neck, resulting in blockage of the upper end of the trachea.
The Court also elaborated by referring to the case of Ashok v. State of Maharashtra wherein the court had observed that the prosecution bears the initial burden of proof, which is to present strong evidence pointing to the accused's guilt. The prosecution is spared from proving the exact event in the instance of last seen together since the accused would have special knowledge of the incident and so would bear the burden of proof under Section 106 of the Evidence Act. As a result, while last seen together is not conclusive proof, it may lead to a basic assumption of guilt when combined with other issues regarding the incident.
After examining various facts and arguments from both parties of the case, the court concluded that the complete chain of events indicates the appellants were guilty and that the appellants have failed to provide any meaningful defence in the matter. As a result, there were no errors in the High Court's decision. Further, the appeals were dismissed.
 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 503
(2006) 10 SCC 681
 1956 SCR 199
 (2015) 4 SCC 393