|Justice Dr. BS Chauhan|
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court in a recent decision, in State of Rajasthan v. Talevar & Anr., has examined whether an adverse inference could be drawn against an accused merely on the basis of recoveries made on their disclosure statements and whether the same attracts the presumption under Section 114 illustration (a) of the Indian Evidence Act. The relevant extracts from the judgment are reproduced hereinbelow;
7.1. In Gulab Chand v. State of M.P., AIR 1995 SC 1598, this Court upheld the conviction for committing dacoity on the basis of recovery of ornaments of the deceased from the possession of the person accused of robbery and murder immediately after the occurrence.
7.2. In Geejaganda Somaiah v. State of Karnataka, AIR 2007 SC 1355, this Court relied on the judgment in Gulab Chand (supra) and observed that simply on the recovery of stolen articles, no inference can be drawn that a person in possession of the stolen articles is guilty of the offence of murder and robbery. But culpability for the aforesaid offences will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case and the nature of evidence adduced.
It has been indicated by this Court in Sanwat Khan v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1956 SC 54, that no hard and fast rule can be laid down as to what inference should be drawn from certain circumstances.
7.3. In Tulsiram Kanu v. State, AIR 1954 SC 1, this Court has indicated that the presumption permitted to be drawn under Section 114, Illustration (a) of the Evidence Act 1872 has to be drawn under the 'important time factor'. If the ornaments in possession of the deceased are found in possession of a person soon after the murder, a presumption of guilt may be permitted. But if a long period has expired in the interval, the presumption cannot be drawn having regard to the circumstances of the case.
7.4. In Earabhadrappa v. State of Karnataka AIR 1983 SC 446, this Court held that the nature of the presumption under Illustration (a) of Section 114 of the Evidence Act must depend upon the nature of evidence adduced. No fixed time-limit can be laid down to determine whether possession is recent or otherwise. Each case must be judged on its own facts. The question as to what amounts to recent possession sufficient to justify the presumption of guilt varies according "as the stolen article is or is not calculated to pass readily from hand to hand". If the stolen articles were such as were not likely to pass readily from hand to hand, the period of one year that elapsed could not be said to be too long particularly when the appellant had been absconding during that period.
7.5. Following such a reasoning, in Sanjay @ Kaka etc. etc. v. The State (NCT of Delhi), AIR 2001 SC 979, this Court upheld the conviction by the trial court since disclosure statements were made by the accused persons on the next day of the commission of the offence and the property of the deceased was recovered at their instance from the places where they had kept such properties, on the same day. The Court found that the trial Court was justified in holding that the disclosure statements of the accused persons and huge recoveries from them at their instance by itself was a sufficient circumstance on the very next day of the incident which clearly went to show that the accused persons had joined hands to commit the offence of robbery. Therefore, recent and unexplained possession of stolen properties will be taken to be presumptive evidence of the charge of murder as well.
7.6. In Ronny Alias Ronald James Alwaris & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1998 SC 1251, this Court held that apropos the recovery of articles belonging to the family of the deceased from the possession of the appellants soon after the robbery and the murder of the deceased remained unexplained by the accused, and so the presumption under Illustration (a) of Section 114 of the Evidence Act would be attracted :
It needs no discussion to conclude that the murder and the robbery of the articles were found to be part of the same transaction. The irresistible conclusion would therefore, be that the appellants and no one else had committed the three murders and the robbery."
(See also: Baijur v. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1978 SC 522; and Mukund alias Kundu Mishra & Anr. v. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1997 SC 2622).
7.7. Thus, the law on this issue can be summarized to the effect that where only evidence against the accused is recovery of stolen properties, then although the circumstances may indicate that the theft and murder might have been committed at the same time, it is not safe to draw an inference that the person in possession of the stolen property had committed the murder. It also depends on the nature of the property so recovered, whether it was likely to pass readily from hand to hand. Suspicion should not take the place of proof.