Plea of Alibi

It is no doubt true that when an alibi is set up, the burden is on the accused to lend credence to the defence put up by him or her. However the approach of the court should not be such as to pick holes in the case of the accused person. The defence evidence has to be tested like any other testimony, always keeping in mind that a person is presumed innocent until he or she is found guilty.
Explaining the essence of a plea of alibi, it was observed in Dudh Nath Pandey v. State of U.P., (1981) 2 SCC 166 that:
“The plea of alibi postulates the physical impossibility of the presence of the accused at the scene of offence by reason of his presence at another place. The plea can therefore succeed only if it is shown that the accused was so far away at the relevant time that he could not be present at the place where the crime was committed.”
This was more elaborately explained in Binay Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar, (1997) 1 SCC 283 in the following words:
“We must bear in mind that an alibi is not an exception (special or general) envisaged in the Indian Penal Code or any other law. It is only a rule of evidence recognised in Section 11 of the Evidence Act that facts which are inconsistent with the fact in issue are relevant.”
Illustration (a) given under Section 11 of the Evidence Act is then partially reproduced in the decision, but it is fully reproduced below:
“The question is whether A committed a crime at Calcutta on a certain date; the fact that on that date, A was at Lahore is relevant.
The fact that, near the time when the crime was committed, A was at a distance from the place where it was committed, which would render it highly improbable, though not impossible, that he committed it, is relevant.”
“The Latin word alibi means “elsewhere” and that word is used for convenience when an accused takes recourse to a defence line that when the occurrence took place he was so far away from the place of occurrence that it is extremely improbable that he would have participated in the crime. It is a basic law that in a criminal case, in which the accused is alleged to have inflicted physical injury to another person, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the accused was present at the scene and has participated in the crime. The burden would not be lessened by the mere fact that the accused has adopted the defence of alibi. The plea of the accused in such cases need be considered only when the burden has been discharged by the prosecution satisfactorily. But once the prosecution succeeds in discharging the burden it is incumbent on the accused, who adopts the plea of alibi, to prove it with absolute certainty so as to exclude the possibility of his presence at the place of occurrence. When the presence of the accused at the scene of occurrence has been established satisfactorily by the prosecution through reliable evidence, normally the court would be slow to believe any counter-evidence to the effect that he was elsewhere when the occurrence happened. But if the evidence adduced by the accused is of such a quality and of such a standard that the court may entertain some reasonable doubt regarding his presence at the scene when the occurrence took place, the accused would, no doubt, be entitled to the benefit of that reasonable doubt. For that purpose, it would be a sound proposition to be laid down that, in such circumstances, the burden on the accused is rather heavy. It follows, therefore, that strict proof is required for establishing the plea of alibi.” Jumni v. State of Haryana, (2014) 11 SCC 355.

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Filed under Criminal Law, Plea of Alibi

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