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Citation1970 AIR 535
Date of Judgment15/10/1969
CourtSupreme Court of India
Case Type Criminal Appeal No. 49 of 1969.
AppellantSheo Nath 
RespondentThe State of U.P. 
ReferredSection-114 of Evidence Act, 1872, Section 396,411,412 of I.P.C. 


It was 19th August 1966 when dacoity (around 15 to 20 people involved) was committed at the shop of Ram Murat in Dhaneja Village at about 11:30 PM. Ram Murat got injured in this dacoity because Dacoits were armed with spears, Gandasas, and lathis but one of the dacoits, Ram Shankar armed with a gun. Pancham with two other people came running on heating the noise about the dacoity. Pancham short dead by dacoit Ram Shankar.  The dacoits took clothes, ornaments, cash, etc. with them.  Ram Murt (Owner of the Shop) dictated the whole incident in which lie named Ram Shankar Singh, Jaintri Prasad Singh, Nanhe Singh, and Sulai were accused as having been among the culprits, and this report was sent to the Jalalpur police station, five miles away, where it was received and recorded at 6 a.m. next morning. After Three days, the search occurred on the 22nd August 1966 in which Sheo Nath’s shop was also searched, and three lengths of cloth were recovered by police which were identified by Ram Murat and a tailor Bismillah. 

Whether Sheo Nath could be convicted of dacoity on the basis of the recovery of the stolen cloth from his house or not.


The prosecution argued that the recovery of the stolen cloth from Sheo Nath’s house was sufficient evidence to convict him of dacoity, relying on Section 114, Illustration (a) of the Evidence Act, which states that 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 facts of the particular case. When the fact of the possession of stolen goods soon after the commission of the offence has not been satisfactorily explained, the court may presume that the person in possession of the stolen goods is either the thief or has received the goods knowing them to be stolen.

The Defence argued that the recovery of the stolen cloth from Sheo Nath’s house was insufficient evidence to convict him of dacoity, as Sheo Nath was a cloth merchant and may have acquired the cloth legitimately. The defence also argued that the prosecution had not shown that Sheo Nath was in possession of the stolen cloth soon after the commission of the dacoity.


The Court presumes that-

(a)  A person who has possession of stolen goods is either theft or has received the goods after the theft knowing them to be stolen until and unless he keeps an account of the goods he possesses.

This Court in Sanwal Khan v. State of Rajasthan, after considering some High Court cases, observed :

“the court held that a person in possession of stolen property can’t be held liable for the murder. Recovery of stolen property is the only evidence against the accused which proves to be theft and murder at the same time. It couldn’t be proven that the person in possession of the property is a murderer.  ”

In Wasim Khan v. State of U.P., SC held that the accused was rightly charged with robbery and murder. In this case, the deceased was last found with the accused. The accused travelled alone with the deceased on a bull cart; the deceased never reached his home and was found murdered. After three days, the appellant was found with goods which belonged to the deceased. He made no effort to trace the deceased or his belongings. 

The Court made three presumptions from the recovery of the stolen goods from the appellant three days after the incident of the dacoity in this case:- (1) that the appellant took part in the dacoity; (2) that he received stolen goods knowing that the goods were stolen in the commission of a dacoity; and (3) that the appellant received these goods knowing them to have been stolen.

The Court allowed the appeal and sentenced him under sections 411 instead of 396 of I.P.C. The Appellant had been sentenced to 3 years of rigorous imprisonment.

The court referred Bhurgiri v. State, in this case, the Court convicted a person under section 411 of IPC and the presumption of Section 114  is concerned, that he was guilty. He was only the possessor of the property but he had knowledge that these goods were stolen.



A.I.R. 1956 S.C. 54.

[1956] S.C.R. 191.

I.L.R. [1954] Rai. 476, 482-83

This Article is written by Anirudh Modi of Maharishi University of Information Technology, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, an intern at Legal Vidhya.

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