1 Aug 2010

No inference of guilt because accused absconding: Supreme Court

In a recent decision in Bipin Kumar Mondal v. State of West Bengal, the Supreme Court has declared that merely because the accused of a crime had been absconding after the alleged commission of the offence cannot lead to any inference as to the guilt of the accused. 

Holding that it was not unnatural for an accused of the crime to abscond, the Bench declared the law in the following terms;
22. In Matru @ Girish Chandra Vs. The State of U.P., AIR 1971 SC 1050, this Court repelled the submissions made by the State that as after commission of the offence the accused had been absconding, therefore, the inference can be drawn that he was a guilty person observing as under:
“The appellant’s conduct in absconding was also relied upon. Now, mere absconding by itself does not necessarily lead to a firm conclusion of guilty mind. Even an innocent man may feel panicky and try to evade arrest when wrongly suspected of a grave crime such is the instinct of self-preservation. The act of absconding is no doubt relevant piece of evidence to be considered along with other evidence but its value would always depend on the circumstances of each case. Normally the courts are disinclined to attach much importance to the act of absconding, treating it as a very small item in the evidence for sustaining conviction. It can scarcely be held as a determining link in completing the chain of circumstantial evidence which must admit of no other reasonable hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused. In the present case the appellant was with Ram Chandra till the FIR was lodged. If thereafter he felt that he was being wrongly suspected and he tried to keep out of the way we do not think this circumstance can be considered to be necessarily evidence of a guilty mind attempting to evade justice. It is not inconsistent with his innocence.”
A similar view has been reiterated by this Court in Rahman Vs. State of U.P. AIR 1972 SC 110; and State of M.P. Vs. Paltan Mallah & Ors. AIR 2005 SC 733.
Abscondance by a person against whom FIR has been lodged, having an apprehension of being apprehended by the police, cannot be said to be unnatural. Thus, in view of the above, we do not find any force in the submission made by Shri Bhattacharjee that mere absconding by the appellant after commission of the crime and remaining untraceable for such a long time itself can establish his guilt. Absconding by itself is not conclusive either of guilt or of guilty conscience.

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