Citations: (2009) 3 SCC 799

Date of Judgement: 20 February, 2009

Equivalent Citations: 2009 AIR SCW 278, (2009) 1 Crimes 383, (2009) 2 SCC (Cri) 28, (2009) 2 All Cri R 1440

Case No: Criminal Appeal No. 337/2009

Case Type: Criminal Appeal

Petitioner/Appellant: Anand Kumar

Defendant/ Respondent: State of Madhya Pradesh

Bench: Hon’ble Justices, Dalveer Bhandari & Harjit Singh Bedi

Court: Supreme Court of India

Statutes Referred:

  • Section 113A of Indian Evidence Act, 1872
  • Section 113B of Indian Evidence Act, 1872
  • Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  • Section 306 of Indian Penal Code, 1860
  • The Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Cases Referred:

  • State of Punjab Vs. Iqbal Singh and Others, (1991) 3 SCC 1


  • Karuna, deceased and the Appellant Anand Kumar were married in the year 1981 while she was a child.
  • The gauna of the deceased, however, took place on 13th May 1986 and a month thereafter she visited her parents’ home to attend a family wedding and on 18th June 1986, returned to her matrimonial home accompanied by her brother-in-law.
  • She, however, consumed aluminium phosphide (Sulphas) tablets on 28th June 1986 and in a precarious condition was moved to Kothi hospital from where she was referred to the Civil Hospital, Satna for further treatment.
  • The Naib Tehsildar- cum-Executive Magistrate was called by the doctor who recorded her dying declaration.
  • Karuna, however, died soon thereafter. Information was sent to Police Station City Kotwali, Satna on 29th June 1986 and a case under Section 498A and 306 of the Indian Penal Code,1870 and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 was registered.
  • On the completion of the investigation, the four accused i.e., the Appellant, his father Manmohan Gautam, mother Ramdulari and brother Anoop Kumar Gautam were committed to face trial and duly charged for the offences, as above mentioned.
  • The trial court after recording the evidence of 20 witnesses and taking into account, in particular the ocular evidence, acquitted the parents and brother of the Appellant but placing reliance on a letter (Ext.P20) dated 27th February 1986 allegedly written by the Appellant to his father-in-law held the case against the Appellant proved and accordingly convicted and sentenced him, as already indicated above.
  • In Appeal the High Court confirmed the order of conviction and sentence. It is in these circumstances that the matter is before the Apex court for Special Leave.

Issues Involved:

  • Is the conviction of the Appellant on the basis of ocular evidences and the letter (Ext.P20) alone legally binding, while the validity of the letter itself is yet to be proven?
  • Is the interpretation of Section 113-A and Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 with regard to the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code,1860 correct?

Contention of Petitioner/Appellant:

Counsel: Mr. Tankha

The counsel for the Appellant contended that:

  • As per the findings recorded by the Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court, the evidence adduced by the Prosecution was unreliable so as to involve the three accused who had been acquitted although the ocular evidence if at all pointed directly towards Karuna’s in-laws rather than at the Appellant as being the guilty party.
  • The fact that the State had not chosen to challenge the acquittal of the three, it had to be held that the evidence with regard to the present Appellant too was ambivalent and insufficient to bring home the charge against him.
  • He has further emphasized that the courts too were conscious of this fact and had accordingly chosen to rely on the letter (Ext. P20) in support of the ocular evidence against the Appellant although the said letter was inadmissible in evidence as it had not been proved, and had on the other hand ignored the dying declaration recorded by the Naib Tehsildar which exonerated all the accused of any wrongdoing.

Contentions of the Defendants/ Respondents:

Counsel: Ms. Makhija,

Contentions of the Counsel for the State were:

  • In the light of the presumption raised under Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and the ocular evidence in the case there was other unimpeachable evidence against the Appellant, even assuming that the letter could not be looked into.
  • Further, relied on State of Punjab Vs. Iqbal Singh and Others, (1991) 3 SCC 1 to support her plea that a presumption had advisedly been raised against an accused in an offence relating to abetment of suicide in view of the malaise of dowry which had afflicted Indian society and if this gross social evil had to be curbed, the court must also lend a helping hand.
  • The counsel has pointed out that even if this letter was ignored, the other evidence against the Appellant was sufficient to maintain his conviction. She has, in particular, relied on the evidence of Arun Kumar Mishra, the brother of the deceased PW-1, a friend of the deceased Sudha Tripathi PW-8, her father Ram Prasad PW-11, and Brij Kumari PW-17 Karuna’s Sister-in-law to submit that their evidence conclusively spelt out the prosecution’s case.
  • The counsel then placed reliance on the presumption raised in a case of abetment of suicide by a married woman, as envisaged under  Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to contend that the onus lay on the accused to prove his innocence.


The argument that the onus shifts exclusively and heavily on an accused in such cases is not entirely correct and in the background of sketchy ocular evidence and the additional fact that the dying declaration recorded by the Naib Tehsildar completely exonerates all the accused of any misconduct, clearly dispels any suspicion with regard to their involvement in this unfortunate incident.

The appeal is allowed, set aside the impugned judgments and direct that the Appellant be released forthwith, if not already on bail.

Ratio Decidendi:

A comparative reading of the provisions Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 would highlight that under Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 the Court `may presume’, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, an abetment of suicide as visualized by Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 but in  Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which is relatable to  Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code,1860 the word `may’ has been substituted by `shall’ and there is no reference to the circumstances of the case. Admittedly, the conviction of the Appellant has been recorded under  Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code,1860  which is relatable to  Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and though the presumption against an accused has to be raised therein as well, the onus is not as heavy as in the case of a dowry death.

Obiter Dicta:



In the above case, the appeal was allowed by the apex court and the decisions of the High court and the trial court were directed to be reviewed considering the fact that the principal evidence upon which the decisions of the High court and the subsequent courts predominantly relied upon was itself not proven to be valid. Also, the court, found from a reading of the testimonies of the Prosecution Witnesses that the problem, if any, laid with Karuna’s mother- in-law Ramdulari and she and nobody else was the villain and general allegations with regard to the other accused find mention only in the statement of Ram Prasad. The court, therefore, came to an opinion that in this background and keeping in view of the fact that Ramdulari has been acquitted, it would not be possible to maintain the conviction of the Appellant on the basis of this evidence.

With regard to the presumption under Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act,1872 the court observed that, the aforesaid provisions do raise a presumption but the facts of the case cannot be ignored. The different terminology of Sections 113-A and 113-B of the Indian evidence Act itself brings out the real purpose behind the two provisions and whereas Section 113-B  places a heavier onus on an accused, the onus placed under Section 113-A is far lighter.

Drafted by: Sana Nazneen, 2nd year L.L.B. student, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.

Edited by: Pooja Yadav, Associate Editor, Law Insider

Published On: January 25, 2022 at 00:05 IST

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