Evidence Act 1872

How to discharge burden of proof- Give example

Burden of proof may be stated thus:

 In K. M. Nanavati Versus State of Maharashtra

In India, as it is in England, there is a presumption of innocence in favour of the accused as a general rule, and it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused; to put it in other words, the accused is presumed to be innocent until his guilt is established by the prosecution. But when an accused relies upon the General Exceptions in the Indian Penal Code or on any special exception or proviso contained in any other part of the Penal Code, or in any law defining an offence, S. 105 of the Evidence Act raises a presumption against the accused and also throws a burden on him to rebut the said presumption. Under that section the Court shall presume the absence of circumstances bringing the case within any of the exceptions, that is, the Court shall regard the non-existence of such circumstances as proved till they are disproved. An illustration based on the facts of the present case may bring out the meaning of the said provision. The prosecution alleges that the accused intentionally shot the deceased ; but the accused pleads that, though the shots emanated from his revolver and hit the deceased, it was by accident, that is, the shots went off the revolver in the course of a struggle in the circumstances mentioned in S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code and hit the deceased resulting in his death. The Court then shall presume the absence of circumstances bringing the case within the provisions of S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code, that is, it shall presume that the shooting was not by accident, and that the other circumstances bringing the case within the exception did not exist; but this presumption may be rebutted by the accused by adducing evidence to support his plea of accident in the circumstances mentioned therein, This presumption may also be rebutted by admissions made or circumstances elicited by the evidence led by the prosecution or by the combined effect of such circumstances and the evidence adduced by the accused. But the section does not in any way affect the burden that lies on the prosecution to prove all the ingredients of the offence with which the accused is charged:that burden never shifts.

The alleged conflict between the general burden which lies on the prosecution and the special burden imposed on the accused under S.105 of the Evidence Act is more imaginary than real. Indeed, there is no conflict at all. There may arise three different situations ;

(I) A statute may throw the burden of proof of all or some of the ingredients of an offence on the accused: (see Ss. 4 and 5 of the Prevention of Corruption Act).

(2) The special burden may not touch the ingredients of the offence, but only the protection given on the assumption of the proof of the said ingredients: (see Ss. 77, 78, 79, 81 and 88 of the Indian Penal Code).

(3) It may relate to an exception, some of the many circumstances required to attract the exception if proved affecting the proof of all or some of the ingredients of the offence ; (see S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code), In the first case the burden of the proving the ingredients or some of the ingredients of the offence, as the case may be, lies on the accused. In the second case, the burden of bringing the case under the exception lies on the accused, In the third case, though the burden lies on the accused to bring his case within the exception the facts proved may not discharge the said burden, but may affect the proof of the ingredients of the offence. An illustration may bring out the meaning.

The prosecution has to prove that the accused shot dead the deceased intentionally and thereby committed the offence of murder within the meaning of S, 300 of the Indian Penal Code; the prosecution has to prove the ingredients of murder, and one of the ingredients of that offence is that the accused intentionally shot the deceased; the accused pleads that he shot at the deceased by accident without any intention or knowledge in the doing of a lawful act in a lawful manner by lawful means with proper care and caution:the accused against whom a presumption is drawn under S. 105 of the Evidence Act that the shooting was not by accident in the circumstances mentioned in S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code, may adduce evidence to rebut that presumption. That evidence may not be sufficient to prove all the ingredients of S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code, but may prove that the shooting was by accident or inadvertence, i.e., it was done without any intention or requisite state of mind, which is the essence of the offence, within the meaning of S. 300, Indian Penal Code or at any rate may throw a reasonable doubt on the essential ingredients of the offence of murder. In that event, though the accused failed to establish to bring his case within the terms of S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code, the Court may hold that the ingredients of the offence have not been established or that the prosecution has not made out the case against the accused. In this view it might be said that the general burden to prove the ingredients of the offence, unless there is a specific statute to the contrary, is always on the prosecution, but the burden to prove the circumstances coming under the exceptions lies upon the accused. The failure on the part of the accused to establish all the circumstances bringing his case under the exception does not absolve the prosecution to prove the ingredients of the offence:indeed, the evidence, though insufficient to establish the exception, may be sufficient to negative one or more of the ingredients of the offence.

In Wolmington vs. Diretor of Public Prosecutions 1935 AC 462 at p. 481. The headnote in that decision gives its gist, and it reads:

“In a trial for murder the Crown must prove death as the result of a voluntary act of the prisoner and malice of the prisoner. When evidence of death and malice has been given, the prisoner is entitled to show by evidence or by examination of the circumstances adduced by the Crown that the act on his part which caused death was either unintentional or provoked. If the Jury are either satisfied with his explanation or, upon a review of all the evidence, are left in reasonable doubt whether, even if his explanation be not accepted, the act was unintentional or provoked, the prisoner is entitled to be acquitted.”

In the course of the judgment Viscount Sankey. L. C., speaking for the House, made the following observations:

“But while the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner, there is no such burden laid on the prisoner to prove his innocence and it is sufficient for him to raise a doubt as to his guilt ; he is not bound to satisfy the Jury of his innocence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . Throughout the web of the English Criminal Law one golden thread is always to be seen, that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner’s guilt subject to what I have already said as to the defence of insanity and subject also to any statutory exception. If, at the end of and on the whole of the case, there is a reasonable doubt, created by the evidence given by either the prosecution or the prisoner, as to whether the prisoner killed the deceased with a malicious intention, the prosecution has not made out the case and the prisoner is entitled to an acquittal.”

These passages are not in conflict with the opinion expressed by us earlier. As in England so in India, the prosecution must prove the guilt of the accused, i.e. it must establish all the ingredients of the offence with which he is charged. As in England so also in India, the general burden of proof is upon the prosecution; and if, on the basis of the evidence adduced by the prosecution or by the accused, there is a reasonable doubt whether the accused committed the offence, he is entitled to the benefit of doubt. In India if an accused pleads an exception within the meaning of S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code, there is a presumption against him and the burden to rebut that presumption lies on him. In England there is no provision similar to S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code, but Viscount Sankey, L.C., makes it clear that such a burden lies upon the accused if his defence is one of insanity and in a case where there is a statutory exception to the general rule of burden of proof. Such an exception we find in S. 105 of the Indian Evidence Act. Reliance is placed by learned counsel for the accused on the decision of the Privy Council in Attygalle vs. The King, AIR 1936 PC 169 at p. 170 in support of the contention that notwithstanding S. 105 of the Evidence Act, the burden of establishing the absence of accident within the meaning of S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code is on the prosecution. In that case, two persons were prosecuted, one for performing an illegal operation and the other for abetting him in that crime. Under S. 106 of the Ordinance 14 of 1895 in the Ceylon Code, which corresponds to S. 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, it was enacted that when any fact was especially within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact was upon him. Relying upon that section, the Judge in his charge to the Jury said:.

“Miss Maye – that is the person upon whom the operation was alleged to have been performed -was unconscious and what took place in that room that three-quarters of an hour that she was under chloroform is a fact specially within the knowledge of these two accused who were there. The burden of proving that fact, the law says, is upon him, namely that no criminal operation look place but what took place was this and this speculum examination.”

The Judicial Committee pointed out:

“It is not the law of Ceylon that the burden is cast upon an accused person of proving that no crime has been committed. The Jury might well have thought from the passage just quoted that that was in fact a burden which the accused person had to discharge. The summing-up goes on to explain the presumption of innocence in favour of accused persons, but it again reiterates that the burden of proving that no criminal operation took place is on the two accused who were there.”

The said observations do not support the contention of learned counsel. Section 106 of Ordinance 14 of 1895 of the Ceylon Code did not cast upon the accused a burden to prove that he had not committed any crime ; nor did it deal with any exception similar to that provided under S. 80 of the Indian Penal Code. It has no bearing on the construction of S. 105 of the Indian Evidence Act. The decisions of this Court in State of Madras vs. A. Vaidyanatha Iyer (1958) SCR 580, which deals with S. 4 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, and C. S. D. Swamy vs. The State (1960) 1 SCR 461, which considers the scope of S. 5 (3) of the said Act are examples of a statute throwing the burden of proving and even of establishing some of the ingredients of the offence on the accused; and Apex Court held that notwithstanding the general burden on the prosecution to prove the offence, the burden of proving the absence of the ingredients of the offence under certain circumstances was on the accused. Further citations are unnecessary as, in our view, the terms of S. 105 of the Evidence Act are clear and unambiguous.