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INTRODUCTION

As per the Statutory mandate under the Indian Evidence Act, courts can draw two kinds of presumption i.e., presumption of law and presumption of fact.

A presumption is a rule of law that courts or juries shall or may draw a particular inference from a particular fact or from particular evidence, unless and until the truth of such inference is disproved.

The Indian Law recognizes presumption of two kinds, presumption of law and presumption of fact.

A statutory presumption cannot be sustained:

  • If there be no rational or perceptible connection between the fact proved and the ultimate fact presumed;

Or

  • If the inference of the one from proof of the other is arbitrary because of lack of connection between the two in common experience.

PRESUMPTION of FACT

Presumptions of fact are those inferences which are naturally and logically derived on the basis of experience and observations in the course of nature or the constitution of the human mind or springs out of human actions. These are also called as material or natural presumptions. These presumptions are in general rebuttable presumptions.

Court may presume existence of certain facts. The Court may presume the existence of any fact which it thinks likely to have happened, regard being had to the common course of natural events, human conduct and public and private business, in their relation to the facts of the particular case. Presumption of facts is inference from certain facts drawn from experience and observation of the common course of nature, the constitution of human action, usage and habits of society and ordinary course of human affairs. Presumption of fact takes into consideration common usage, peculiarity of events, and socio economic condition of the victims in general before arriving to the presumption of guilt.

It needs to be borne in mind that such presumptions are rebuttable in nature.

PENAL LAWS and STATUTORY PRESUMPTION

  1. Legislative Intent vis-à-vis Dowry Death

The Legislative intent is to curb the menace of dowry deaths with a firm hand. We must keep in mind this legislative intent. It must be remembered that since crimes    are generally committed in the privacy of residential homes and in secrecy, independent and direct evidence is not easy to get. That is why the legislature has by introducing sections 113A and 113B in the Evidence Act, tried to strengthen the prosecution hands by permitting a presumption to be raised if certain foundational facts are established and the unfortunate event has taken place within seven years of marriage.”1

  1. Presumption as to Abetment of Suicide by a Married Woman

In this provision of the Evidence Act, the Parliament in its wisdom did not leave it at that by using the expression ‘may presume’ alone, but has supplemented the same by using the further expression “having regard to all the other circumstances of the case” which casts a positive responsibility on the Court to take into consideration all the other circumstances which may be there besides the two basic circumstances mentioned in the section itself which are suicide within seven years of marriage and proof of cruelty, in deciding whether the presumption of abetment of suicide should be drawn in a particular case.

Supreme Court’s view on Presumption related to different cases:

  1. Bride burning, bride killing cases are on the increase and therefore serious view has to be taken.2
  2. Undue sympathy would be harmful to the cause of justice. It may even undermine the confidence in the efficacy of law. 3
  3. It would be a travesty of justice if we were to disbelieve her version which would render the amendment and incorporation of Section 114A into the Indian Evidence Act as a futile exercise on the part of the Legislature which in its wisdom has incorporated the amendment in the Indian Evidence Act clearly implying and expecting the Court to give utmost weightage to the version of the victim of the offence of rape which definition includes also the attempt to rape.4
1 Paragraph 4, State v. Iqbal Singh 1991 AIR 1532
2 Hem Chand v. State of Haryana (Crl.) 690 of 1994
3 Paniben (Smt.) v. State of Gujarat 1992 AIR 1817

CONSTITUTIONALISING of PRESUMPTION of INNOCENCE

A Five Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held “The object of Art. 20(3)….. is in consonance with the basic principle of criminal law accepted in our country that an accused person is entitled to rely on the presumption of innocence in his favour 5.”

Also, the Hon’ble Bombay High Court, while discussing the scope of Article 20 vis-à-vis the Constitutional Assembly Debates has observed, “So in our opinion what was intended by the framers of the Constitution was to give constitutional protection from testimonial compulsion, even though such protection was already available under the Evidence Act or under the Cr.P.C. In our opinion, therefore the Constituent Assembly debated the grant of protection to an accused from being compelled to be a witness against himself. The entire debates discloses that what the framers of the Constitution had in mind was protection from testimonial compulsion or the protection to an accused or witness, from being compelled to be a witness against himself.”6

4 Puran Chand vs State of H.P( CRL) APPEAL No. 1708 OF 2010
5 K. Joseph Augusthi v. Narayanam, AIR 1964 SC 1552
6 Ramchandra Ram Reddy Vs. The State of Maharashtra 2004 All MR (Cri) 1704

In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India7, a Seven-Judge bench of the Supreme Court clearly laid down that the procedure contemplated in Art. 21 to deprive a person of personal liberty has to be a “right, just, fair and reasonable” one.

Krishna Iyer, J. in Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration8, declared that after the Maneka Gandhi decision, the due process clause should be read into Art.21 with Art. 14.

Thus, presumption of innocence until proven guilty has become the cardinal principle of our system owing to the wide interpretation of Article 21.

Presumption of innocence also finds support in International Convention of Civil and Political Rights, 19639 and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, 1948.10

Thus, the both being a part of customary international law and ratified by the Parliament as well has a binding force, and thus Article 21 has to be interpreted harmoniously with the International conventions.

CONTRARY VIEW VIS-À-VIS ARTICLE 21 OF THE CONSTITUTION of INDIA

The State is casted a duty upon the Sate to maintain peace and security to the citizenry which is a pre-requisite to maintain Right to life in its true essence. For the purpose, the State is bound to take preventive and punitive measures to maintain the same.

It needs to be understood that with advancement of technology and devices of criminality, the offences are committed in secrecy. Also, due to the difficulty in collecting evidences and witness turning hostile during the course of trial, the injustice occurring was rampant.

Thus, with the advent of 70’s, legislature decided to shift the burden of proof on the accused as he is the best source of information regarding commission of an offence.

CONCLUSION

Every Statutory Presumption should satisfy the test under Article 21 of The Constitution of India which is “procedure established by law”.

Thus, it has to satisfy the tests laid and has to be just, fair and reasonable. It is when the balance between the intention of our constitution makers and the requirement of the changing times shall be effectively managed.

7 AIR 1978 SC 597
8 (1978) 4 SCC 409
9 Art. 14(2). 10 Art. 11(1).
10 Art. 11(1).

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