Legal Maxim

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Literal Meaning

Elsewhere/ at another place

Origin

Latin

In the 18th century alibi meant ‘an assertion by a person that he or she was elsewhere’. However, in the 20th century, a new sense arose to the meaning as ‘an excuse’.

Explanation

It is a defense used in Criminal procedure wherein an accused person attempts to prove that they were somewhere else at the time of an alleged offense was committed. In simple terms, it is a claim that a person cannot be held guilty of a crime because he/she was somewhere else when the crime was committed. It is different from all the other defenses, in the way that it is based upon the premise that the defendant is truly innocent. Since alibi involves evidence of innocence rather than guilt, the privilege against self-incrimination is not implicated.

A person’s alibi is the evidence that proves his innocence. However, the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt always remains with the prosecution.

Illustration

A is charged with killing B. However, A offers a shred of evidence that he was in class on the day and at the time of the murder. The evidence could be in the form of witnesses who were in class along with A, or an attendance sheet showing him in class, among other things. Thus, the evidence demonstrates an alibi of A.

Case Laws

In Bikau Pandey And Ors vs. the State Of Bihar, the Supreme Court of India held that “So far as the question of alibi is concerned, when the presence of the concerned accused is satisfactorily established, the Court would be slow to believe the counter-evidence unless it is of such quality as would create a reasonable doubt on the minds of the Court that the prosecution version was not cogent.”

In Karim @ Abdul Karim vs. the State of Karnataka, the Karnataka High Court held that “It is a basic law that in a criminal case, in which the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the accused was present at the scene and has participated in the crime. 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.”

In Ram Singh vs. the State of Maharashtra And Anr., the Bombay High Court held that “The prosecution cannot rely upon the false defense as the piece of evidence against the accused. The defense may be that of alibi or of any other type. In matters of circumstantial evidence, the defense taken by the accused would be taken into consideration as an additional piece of evidence, only if the prosecution has established, on its own evidence, the case against the accused. The false defense taken by the accused or failure of the accused to prove the defense of alibi cannot by itself be a ground for conviction.”