General Meaning of Last Seen Theory
Starting from the very general meaning of the word, Last seen theory, It’s clear that, it means that the theory related to the concept that who we were seen together for the last time. This theory is also known as Last Seen Together theory, and this another name clearly justifies that yes the theory related to the concept that who were seen together for the last time is dealt under this. Under evidence act, it is dealt that how, when two persons are seen together for the last time, acts as evidence.
Definition of Last seen theory under Indian Evidence Act
This theory means that when two persons are seen together for the last time and later it is found that one is dead and another is alive. In case of evidence act, the time gap between both the circumstances i.e. when both the persons were together and afterward when the one out of two was found to be dead plays an important role. If the time gap between both the events are less or small, then the presumption as to who the killer/ murderer is goes on to the another person who is alive and who was seen with the person dead for the last time. So, if the time gap between both the events i.e. both the persons meeting alive and one of them found to be dead is so small that no other events can be caused by someone else, it would be presumed that the person found alive is the culprit. When prosecution does not find any such evidence as to prove that who the culprit is, it plays as the last resort for the prosecution. Its not only the last seen theory, which itself proves that who the culprit is but there must be any such circumstance which would connect the event with the alive person so as to prove that he/ she is the culprit. It can be proved to be more helpful in case of murder, etc.
Essentials of Last Seen Theory
- Two persons meeting together alive
- One person found dead and other alive
- Time gap is so small that no other person or event can take place
- Any circumstantial or any such event which would connect both the events of meeting together and the murder or any such crime taking place
- More useful in case of murder, etc.
In case of Madho Singh V. State of Rajasthan, 2003(2) 111 SC, in the absence of any proof of homicidal death, the accused was convicted on the basis of last seen theory.
In Jaswant Gir v Punjab, in this case the deceased was travelling in a motor vehicle with the accused. The body of the departed was recovered from a drain. The accused was acquitted by the apex court since the time gap between the deceased boarding the car and his body being discovered was not as great, and the other chain of evidences did not add up to condemn the accused. As a result, the accused could not be found guilty purely on the basis of their last seen together.
In State of Maharashtra v. Suresh, Appeal Nos. 1092-1093 (crl.) from 1998 In this case, the respondent had already been convicted of raping an 8-year-old girl. He met Sneha’s (the dead in this case) sibling while incarcerated. They grew to be buddies. The respondent paid numerous visits to Sneha’s home after they were both released from prison. Sneha’s relatives and close friends referred to her as Gangu. He became acquainted with the young lady. She was only four years old at the time. He went to her residence one day. He took Gangu to a nearby store and then to a farm that grew cotton and pulses. He raped and murdered the little girl there, then left her body there.He was convicted for the rape and murder of the child as he was last seen together with her and even other circumstantial evidences were against him.
Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik v State of Maharashtra, 4 SCC 37 (2012) Another horrible and heinous instance of rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl has surfaced. Vandana was the name of the deceased girl. The accused kidnapped the deceased from her house in order to buy her some cookies. Both the accused and the deceased went vanished, never to be seen again. Near a bus stop, the accused was observed with the girl. The girl’s naked body was discovered in a field after a day. The accused was found guilty here under the pretence of last seen together and other chain of evidence. Though he pleaded that it was false implication but all the evidences indicated his guilt.
Though here comes an important aspect of last seen theory in a case resting on circumstantial evidence is the lapse of time between the point when accused and deceased were last seen together wherein decease was found dead. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Bodh Raj Alias Bodha v/s State of Jammu and Kashmir, Rambraksh v/s State of Chhattisgarh , Anjan Kumar Sharma v/s State of Assam has led down following principle of law, in this regard, which is reproduced as under:-
“The last seen theory comes into play where the time gap between the point of time when the Accused and deceased were seen last alive and when the deceased is found dead is so small that possibility of any person other than the Accused being the author of crime becomes impossible. It would be difficult in some cases to positively establish that the deceased was last seen with the Accused when there is a long gap and possibility of other persons coming in between exists. In the absence of any other positive evidence to conclude that Accused and deceased were last seen together, it would be hazardous to come to a conclusion of guilt in those cases”.
In terms of the conclusion, it can be inferred that this rule is used by the court in a wise manner in that the accused is not convicted unless the court finds circumstantial evidence that establishes a link between the two incidents. In this case, the weight of proof is on the accused, which is facing criminal accusations, and it is on the opposing side to sow doubt and profit from it. However, if no link can be established or no circumstantial evidence can be found that demonstrates the accused is the perpetrator, the accused is protected. As a result, establishing the link or providing such circumstantial proof is critical.
But there is a loophole in this that, in many cases, the link may be established but still the accused may not be the actual culprit and so, the one should know where to use and how to use it properly.
Written by Isha Baloni, Law Intern, H.K. Law Offices