It is settled position of law that circumstances howsoever strong cannot take place of proof and that the guilt of the accused have to be proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt. At this juncture, let us regurgitate, the golden principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Sharad Birdhichand Sarda vs. State of Mahashtra reported in 1984 (4) SCC 116. The Supreme Court while drawing the distinction between “must be” and “may be” observed as under in para 153:
“153. A close analysis of this decision would show that the following conditions must be fulfilled before a case against an accused can be said to be fully established:
(1) the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully established.
It may be noted here that Supreme Court indicated that the circumstances concerned “must or should” and not “may be” established. There is not only a grammatical but a legal distinction between “may be proved” and “must be or should be proved” as was held by Supreme Court in Shivaji Sahabrao Bobade v. State of Maharashtra [(1973) 2 SCC 793 : 1973 SCC (Cri) 1033 : 1973 Crl LJ 1783] where the observations were made.
Certainly, it is a primary principle that the accused must be and not merely may be guilty before a court can convict and the mental distance between ‘may be’ and ‘must be’ is long and divides vague conjectures from sure conclusions.
(2) the facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, that is to say, they should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty,
(3) the circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency,
(4) they should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved, and
(5) there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused.”
It was further observed in Para-158 to 160 as under:
“158. It may be necessary here to notice a very forceful argument submitted by the Additional Solicitor General relying on a decision of Supreme Court in Deonandan Mishra v. State of Bihar [AIR 1955 SC 801 : (1955) 2 SCR 570, 582 : 1955 Cri LJ 1647] to supplement his argument that if the defence case is false it would constitute an additional link so as to fortify the prosecution case. With due respect to the learned Additional Solicitor-General we are unable to agree with the interpretation given by him of the aforesaid case, the relevant portion of which may be extracted thus:
“But in a case like this where the various links as stated above have been satisfactorily made out and the circumstances point to the appellant as the probable assailant, with reasonable definiteness and in proximity to the deceased as regards time and situation,. . . such absence of explanation or false explanation would itself be an additional link which completes the chain.”
It will be seen that Supreme Court while taking into account the absence of explanation or a false explanation did hold that it will amount to be an additional link to complete the chain but these observations must be read in the light of what Supreme Court said earlier viz. before a false explanation can be used as additional link, the following essential conditions must be satisfied:
(1) various links in the chain of evidence led by the prosecution have been satisfactorily proved,
(2) the said circumstance points to the guilt of the accused with reasonable definiteness, and
(3) the circumstance is in proximity to the time and situation.
If these conditions are fulfilled only then a court can use a false explanation or a false defence as an additional link to lend an assurance to the court and not otherwise. On the facts and circumstances of the present case, this does not appear to be such a case. This aspect of the matter was examined in Shankarlal case [(1981) 2 SCC 35, 39 : 1981 SCC (Cri) 315, 318-19 : (1981) 2 SCR 384, 390 : 1981 Cri LJ 325] where Supreme Court observed thus : [SCC para 30, p. 43 : SCC (Cri) p. 322]”
“Besides, falsity of defence cannot take the place of proof of facts which the prosecution has to establish in order to succeed. A false plea can at best be considered as an additional circumstances, if other circumstances point unfailingly to the guilt of the accused.”
The said principles have been restated in catena of decisions. In State of U.P. vs. Ashok Kumar Srivastava (1992) 2 SCC 86, it has been observed in para 9 that:
”9. Supreme Court has, time out of number, observed that while appreciating circumstantial evidence the Court must adopt a very cautious approach and should record a conviction only if all the links in the chain are complete pointing to the guilt of the accused and every hypothesis of innocence is capable of being negatived on evidence. Great care must be taken in evaluating circumstantial evidence and if the evidence relied on is reasonably capable of two inferences, the one in favour of the accused must be accepted.
The circumstance relied upon must be found to have been fully established and the cumulative effect of all the facts so established must be consistent only with the hypothesis of guilt. But this is not to say that the prosecution must meet any and every hypothesis put forward by the accused however far-fetched and fanciful it might be. Nor does it mean that prosecution evidence must be rejected on the slightest doubt because the law permits rejection if the doubt is reasonable and not otherwise.”
Again in Majendran Langeswaran vs. State (NCT of Delhi) & Anr. (2013) 7 SCC 192, Supreme Court having found the material relied upon by the prosecution inconsistent and the infirmities in the case of the prosecution, considered number of earlier decisions, and held that the conviction can be based solely on circumstantial evidence but it should be tested on the touchstone of law relating to the circumstantial evidence that all circumstances must lead to the conclusion that the accused is the only one who has committed the crime and none else.