The word ‘alibi’ is of Latin origin which means “elsewhere”. It is used by the accused in order to safeguard himself, to show that when the offence took place, he was present elsewhere and that it would be exceptionally unrealistic for him to have been able to reach that specific place where the offence has taken place.
Alibi isn’t an exception (specific or general), as provided by the Indian Penal Code or any other law. It is, however, considered to be a relevant fact with regards to any case since it helps in proving the facts in issue.
Section 11 of the Indian Evidence Act talks about those facts which are conflicting with the fact in issue but are relevant. The burden of proving alibi is on the accused. A plea of alibi, if requested for justification at the earliest opportunity, would receive great weightage in proving the innocence of the accused. In criminal trials, defence of alibi is not generally accepted unless it is supported or backed by other strong and solid evidence.
As per decided cases, there is a general understanding that the plea of alibi which has been taken by the accused needs to be considered only when the burden of proof which lies on the prosecution has been discharged satisfactorily. If the prosecution was not able to discharge its burden of proving the commission of a crime by the accused beyond any reasonable doubt, then it is not necessary to go into the question, whether the accused has succeeded in giving the defence of alibi.
The burden of proving the occurrence of a particular offence by the accused is to fasten the liability of guilt on the prosecution and would not be reduced by the mere fact that the accused had adopted the defence of alibi, it needs to be supported with any other corroborative evidence.
The Plea of alibi taken by the accused should be viewed as just when the burden of proof lies on the accused that has been discharged acceptably and if the prosecution has failed in the discharging its burden of proving the commission of crime by the accused beyond any reasonable doubt, it may not be necessary to go into the question whether the accused has succeeded in proving the defence of alibi. But that as it may, when the prosecution has prevailed with regards to releasing its burden then it is on the accused taking the plea of alibi to demonstrate it with certainty in order to prevent the chance of his presence at the spot and time of the event with all due respect. A commitment is on the Court to take a look at the proof given by the prosecution in demonstrating the blame of the accused and the proof which have been introduced by the accused in demonstrating his safeguard for justification. In the event that the proof introduced in the court by the accused is for such a quality and of such a norm, that the Court may engage to guarantee the sensible uncertainty in regards to his presence at the spot and time of the event, the Court would assess the prosecution proof or the pieces of evidence to check whether the proof given or submitted in the interest of the charge fits the defence of alibi.
Section 103 of the Evidence Act provides that, “The burden of proof as to any particular fact lies on that person who wishes the Court to believe in its existence unless it is provided by any law that the proof of that fact shall lie on any particular person.” However, while weighing the prosecution case and the defence case, pitted against each other, if the balance tilts in favour of the accused, the prosecution would fail and the accused would be entitled to benefit of that reasonable doubt which would emerge in the mind of the Court.
The defence of alibi is a legitimate defence, and, in fact, is often the only evidence to show that a particular person is an innocent man and has not committed any crime.
The burden of proving the happening of any particular offence by the accused is made to fasten the process of the liability of guilt which is on the prosecution. The plea of alibi is taken by the accused which only needs to be considered only when the burden lies on the prosecution that needs to be discharged satisfactorily. But once the prosecution succeeds in discharging its burden, and then it is upon the accused who is taking the plea of alibi to prove it with certainty, so as to exclude the possibility of his presence at the place and time of occurrence.
The credibility of an alibi is greatly strengthened, if it is set up at the earlier stage, at the time when the accusation is first made and is consistently maintained throughout the subsequent proceedings, then it will be beneficial for the accused who is taking the defence of alibi. On the other hand, it will be less valued as a defence, if it is made after the charge has been made. Where the accused shows a plea of alibi that he was on duty in some other city on the date of occurrence, the burden of proof lies on him under Section 103 to establish the plea of alibi. It is not on the prosecution to prove that particular fact.
It is well-established that it lies on the accused to prove the case of alibi to the court. It is the basic law which states that in a criminal case the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the accused was present at the scene and has participated in the crime. Once the prosecution succeeds in discharging the burden, it is incumbent on the accused who adopts the plea for alibi to prove it with absolute certainty so as to exclude the possibility of his presence at the place of occurrence.
Alibi should cover the time of the alleged offence. In proving his alibi, the accused should not be required to prove the exact time or every moment of time involved in order to sustain his defence. On the other hand, it is sufficient for him to raise a reasonable doubt of his presence at the scene of the crime at the time that it was committed. But, it must cover the time, when the offence is shown to have been committed, so as to preclude the possibility of the accused present at the place of the crime at the relevant time. For, if it were possible that he could have been at both places, the proof of the alibi is absolutely valueless. The failure to establish a plea of alibi does not give rise to a presumption as to his complicity in the crime. But, when all is said against an adverse inference, Judges and Juries being after all human, it is difficult to ignore the subtle effect of a plea of alibi which has utterly broken down and deliberate fabrication of evidence which is always a circumstance pointing, though never conclusively, to the guilt of the accused.
According to the Supreme Court, the prosecution cannot be said to have proved its case merely because the evidence in support of the plea of alibi taken by the accused is found to be untrustworthy.
ESSENTIALS OF PLEA OF ALIBI
- The accused must have allegedly committed an offence which is punishable under the law. For example- the plea of alibi is not maintainable in different defamatory suits or in any matrimonial suit.
- The person who is making the plea of alibi must be the accused.
- According to the plea of alibi, the accused raises a reasonable doubt in the mind of the judges of the court that he is not present at the place where the crime has been committed at that particular time.
- The plea needs to be supported by any other strong evidence.
PLEA OF ALIBI UNDER THE INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT
(a) Who can take the defence of the plea of Alibi?
Plea of Alibi is the defence taken by the accused to show that he is present somewhere else when the crime has been committed. It means that he was not physically present at the time of the scene of the crime and he can prove that by reason of his presence at another place. The burden of proving alibi is on the accused. A plea of alibi if raised at the earliest opportunity would receive great trust. The accused must be so far away at the relevant time when the crime or the offence has been committed that he could not come at the place where the crime was committed. In criminal trials, defence of alibi is not generally accepted unless supported by strong and solid evidence.
(b) Accused must not be present at the place where the crime was committed
The accused must plead his presence elsewhere, at the time of the commission of the particular offence. When the accused took the plea of alibi the burden of proof lies on him, according to Section 103 of the Indian Evidence Act. If a person is charged with the murder of someone then he has to prove that he was elsewhere at the time of the murder of that individual. The plea of alibi has to be taken at the earliest opportunity as the earlier it will be made the court will trust it more and it has to be proved for the satisfaction of the court.
(c) Accused should not be able to reach the place of the offence
It should be impossible for the accused to reach the place of occurrence at the time of the commission of the offence. Therefore, the plea should cover the whole time of the alleged offence.
(d) The plea should be raised at the earliest opportunity
The plea of Alibi must be raised by the accused at the earliest possible time. In the court when the trial begins the first thing the court asks is whether at the time of the offence the accused was present at the place of crime or not. If the accused is taking the plea of alibi, he has to prove at that time only that he was elsewhere when the crime was committed, not after when the charges have been made.
(e) The plea must be supported by other proof
Plea of alibi is considered the weakest type of plea. Therefore, cogent, convincing and plausible evidence is needed to prove it. Hence, other solid proof should be made under the court to express that the accused is absent at the place where crime has been committed at a specific time when the offence has been committed. It says that the justification ought to be upheld by another solid proof as the plea of alibi is referred to as one of the weakest types of pleas.
(f) Burden of Proof lies on the accused
As indicated by Section 119 of the Indian Evidence Act, it is expressed that it is the standard proof that value the evidence on the blamed to confirmation the protection for the request of justification which is to be demonstrated as per law, and the plea of alibi should be demonstrated with supreme certainty and accurateness, to identify properly about the accused that when and where he was at the time of the occurrence of the crime.
(g) Quantum of Proof is different in each case
The quantum or the level of confirmation required to demonstrate a plea of alibi is different from case to case. Sometimes the accused taking the plea of alibi need not to strictly prove his plea, as the creation of doubt in the mind of the court is sufficient. But in most of the cases where the accused is taking the defence of alibi, it needs to be strictly proved.
(h) Absence and Presence of the accused matters
The accused can demonstrate his innocence by indicating his defence of alibi against allegations which have been made on him, the accused is required to bring up the sensible issues about his absence at the place and at the same time at which the commission of offence has taken place. After this, the charges will bring sensible uncertainty up in the mind of the court which discusses his cooperation at the scene where the commission of offence takes place to get the advantage of such uncertainty against the accused.
(i) Consideration of entire Evidence
On account of the plea of alibi, the court takes into consideration the entire proof or distinctive proof like steady proof or supportive evidence and so on to make any decision about the accused who is blamed or the check the honesty of the denounced, regardless of whether he is available at that place at a particular time or not.
(j) Important provisions in the Indian Evidence Act related to the Plea of alibi
- Section 11 of Indian Evidence Act talks about the importance of a class of facts which in themselves are not relevant, but such facts procure relevancy by reason of their association or inconsistency with some other relevant facts on which the prosecution depends for the purpose of proving the case against the accused. This class of fact is exceptionally important to the accused as it helps him to prove the court that he is not guilty because with that specific explanation the accused can prove that prosecution is making false statements. The accused can bring such facts on record either by recommending the presence to the prosecution observers in their cross-examination or by demonstrating it through his own witnesses. At whatever point, any fact is created by the accused, the main question is whether it is relevant, or not. The test to find whether that fact is relevant or not is provided under Sections 9 and 11 of the Indian Evidence Act.
- While Section 7 of the Indian Evidence Act defines the meaning of the term ‘relevancy’, the practical effect of this section is to make every relevant fact, which is related to the case, admissible as evidence. This section attempts to state the general theory of relevancy of different facts and therefore, be described as the residuary section which deals with the relevancy of different facts.
- The meaning of Section 11 must be analyzed from the words of the section. This section requires that the irrelevant facts that need to be introduced in evidence, in order to be relevant, must be inconsistent with the fact in issue or relevant fact or should make the existence or non-existence of such fact highly probable, which means that there should be a very high degree of probability. Facts which are of merely probative force cannot be offered as the evidence under this section.
IS PLEA OF ALIBI A GOOD DEFENCE OR NOT?
The motive behind the plea of alibi is to raise a doubt in the mind of the judge that whether the accused was present or not at the place of the offence at that particular time when the offence has taken place. It only creates doubt, no surety is given in this regard.
If the plea of alibi is made by the accused in initial proceedings, then only, there are chances of acquittal or discharge of accused, if due to some the reasons if it is made after the charges are framed then the plea will not be given a proper acknowledgement and will create a less impact on the judges.
If even any other strong circumstantial evidence was given to the court to establish the particular plea of alibi, still it does not guarantee its acknowledgement by the court. It can be stated as a good defence in some of the cases and it can’t be stated as a piece of good evidence in other cases. If the accused is not guilty he can’t rely only on this plea he has to bring some strong evidence too.
The plea of alibi is not an affirmative defence in the sense that it is an assertion to raise a reasonable doubt as to whether the accused is actually a wrongdoer. It only creates doubt, not proof that the accused is not guilty, unless and until the plea is supported by other evidence.
The defence of proving the plea of alibi means that the accused is present somewhere else at the time when the crime has been committed at the same time. Two important principles about the plea of alibi are that guilt cannot be changed from making a false plea of alibi. Another principle is that accused cannot take benefit through a plea of alibi when reasonable doubt is not created in the mind of the court about the accused’s participation in the commission of the offence. Section 11 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, does not only talk about the Plea of Alibi but it also deals with the inconsistent fact. The burden of proof lies on the accused and the plea should be made as earliest as possible.
 Jayantibhai Bhenkarbhai v. State of Gujarat (2002) 8 SCC 165.
Karanjit Singh v. the State of Jammu and Kashmir 2004 Cr LJ 4139 (J&K).
 Dudh Nath Pandey v. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1981 SC 911.
Binay Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar AIR 1997 SC 322.
Section 11 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Share Your Essays, http://www.shareyouressays.com/120399/section-11-of-the-indian-evidence-act-1872-2 (Last Visited on September 10, 2020).
BY- Akshita Bansal | University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun