The legal position with respect to the sufficiency of the circumstantial evidence for sustaining criminal conviction is well settled. The circumstances established on the record according to the law of evidence must be consistent only with the guilt of the accused and wholly inconsistent with his innocence. The chain of evidence furnished by those circumstances must be complete and leave no reasonable ground for a conclusion consistent with his innocence.

In M. G. Agarwal v. State of Maharashtra (1962): Court observed:

“It is well-established rule in criminal jurisprudence that circumstantial evidence can be reasonably made the basis of an accused person’s conviction if it is of such a character that it is wholly inconsistent with the innocence of the accused and is consistent only with his guilt. If the circumstances proved in the case are consistent either with the innocence of the accused or with his guilt, then the accused is entitled to the benefit of doubt.

There is no doubt or dispute about this position. But in applying this principle, it is necessary to distinguish between facts which may be called primary or basic on the one hand and inference of facts to be drawn from them on the other. In regard to the proof of basic or primary facts the Court has to judge the evidence in the ordinary way, and in the appreciation of evidence in respect of the proof of these basic or primary facts there is no scope for the application of the doctrine of benefit of doubt.

The Court considers the evidence and decides whether that evidence proves a particular fact or not. When it is held that a certain fact is proved, the question arises whether that fact leads to the inference of guilt of the accused person or not and in dealing with this aspect of the problem, the doctrine of benefit of doubt would apply and an inference of guilt can be drawn only if the proved fact is wholly inconsistent with the innocence of the accused and is consistent only with his guilt.”

Retracted confession

In Pyare Lal Bhargava v. State of Rajasthan Court observed:

“A retracted confession may form the legal basis of a conviction if the Court is satisfied that it was true and was voluntarily made. But it has been held that a Court shall not base a conviction on such a confession without corroboration. It is not a rule of law but is only rule of prudence. It cannot even be laid down as an inflexible rule of practice or prudence that under no circumstances such a conviction can be made without corroboration, for a court may, in a particular case be convinced of the absolute truth of a confession and prepared to act noon it without corroboration;

but it may be Said down as a general rule of practice that it is unsafe to rely upon a confession, much less on a retracted confession, unless the court is satisfied that the retracted confession is true and voluntarily made and has been corroborated in material particulars.”