The heart-wrenching murder of Shraddha Walker in May 2022 has been uncovered six months after her death. The horrific case dates back to 2019 when Shraddha and Aftab started residing together in a live-in relationship. Shraddha’s nagging to get married and the internal conflict between the two made the situation worse. It was discovered that Aftab had chopped her off into more than thirty pieces. The body was further thrown across various cities of Delhi. During the initial days of the investigation, Aftab tried to hoodwink the Bombay and Delhi Police but following the chain of evidence, the truth steadily started coming into the picture. It is said that he preserved the body in a three hundred liters fridges and used to dump them after 2 AM for consecutive eighteen days. The case might not have been uncovered, had the circumstantial evidence not been substantiated. The establishment of points using the circumstances of a situation has been a way long technique by the lawyers to establish the conviction. However, circumstantial evidence is not always admissible due to inconsistencies and irregularities. Section 5 of the Indian Evidence Act states that
“Evidence may be given in any suit or proceeding of the existence or non-existence of every fact in issue and such other facts as are hereinafter declared to be relevant, and of no others”.
Therefore, the layman’s condition for the admissibility is the relevance of the evidence. Section 6, whereas states that other facts may be demonstrated to be res gestae, but both of these groups of facts must be related to the facts at issue. Even though hearsay is not admissible as evidence, it can be allowed if it is included in the res gestae. This is because there won’t be much time for fabrication as the statement is deemed to be spontaneous and immediate leaving no time for concoction. Therefore, the statement must have been made at the same time as or shortly after the conduct of the crime. Due to these complications, the circumstantial evidence is not taken as the full and final proof to convict the accused. It was held by Supreme Court in Ashok Kumar v. State of Madhya Pradesh that there needs to be a clear sequence of events and proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense without any alternative. Also, in Chenga Reddy and Ors. v. State of A.P. it was held that the circumstantial evidence can be accepted in totality if the following grounds are met –
- The circumstances from which the finality of guilt is to be drawn should be fully interrelated and established.
- The facts should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused.
- The circumstances should be conclusive.
- They should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved.
In the case of Shraddha Walker, the aforementioned four grounds established in the case of “Chenga Reddy and others v. State of A.P.” is fully met, therefore, justifying and not defying the circumstantial evidence.
THE ANALYSIS OF SHRADDHA WALKER’S CASE
The facts are yet to be discovered in totality, however, the evidence which has been unveiled played a pivotal role in connecting the dots. Though the confession of Aftab is already there, the case is far from completion. The confession that Shraddha’s body was disposed of in eighteen days is at the helm of irregularities because less than fifteen parts of her body have been found yet which is why it constitutes a res gestae. The same goes with the Narcos test which is being considered by the officials to fathom the psyche of the accused. However, assessing the previous criminal cases it is ascertained that these do not find a stand in the court due to the physical abilities of the accused to withstand such tests.
Therefore, in the case at hand, the conviction is dependent upon other evidence which is not resed gestae in totality. The electronic devices, the bank transactions, DNA test, the motive of the crime, and the upper hand of circumstantial evidence would act as an edge.
Aftab had iterated that there was no contact between the two after 22nd May, but the bank statement of Shraddha depicts the contradiction between the states. There was a transaction of 54000 from Shraddha to Aftab’s bank account. The cell phone still goes missing. To ascertain the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused whether the body is of Shraddha or not, the officials have also asked for a DNA test to be conducted. Also, the weapon which was used remains missing. However, jotting down the dots of circumstances, the motive, the illicit relationship of the accused, and the bank transactions would help in proving the guilt as the circumstances are of utmost conclusive.
A single bruise of hair can be the death knell for Aftab as Article 20(3) states that no one can be a witness in one’s case. Thus, the confession made by the accused remains immaterial. Also, considering Section 5 of the Indian Evidence Act, the evidence in the case at hand grossly points towards the convict. Therefore, the circumstantial evidence would have leverage over the eyewitnesses.
Murder cases tend to fade from the news, and usually, we forget whether the accused was able to get relief from the court or not. The absence of proof is one of the main factors contributing to the accused getting relief. The defense usually utilizes it to request leniency from the court if the police are unable to gather enough proof. This denies justice to the plaintiff. The facts of this case are quite clear and it is one of the rarest of rare cases where the evidence is at the helm of arcane but the confession of the convict is ascertained. Hence, the circumstantial evidence shall be prioritized and not be abhorrent.
Author’s Name: Niharika Rai