Every judicial investigation is aimed at enforcing some right or liability, which is invariably contingent on specific details. A system of rules for discerning the controversial questions of facts in judicial inquiry is the law of evidence. The law of evidence is related to a judicial investigation in the same way logic is related to thinking. The law of evidence is primarily procedural (adjective) and has no bearing on the parties’ substantive rights. It does, however, have substantive law overtones. The law of estoppel, for example, can nullify a man’s right. The word “evidence” comes from the Latin word “evidentia,” which means “to show clearly, to discover clearly, to ascertain, and to prove.” The purpose of evidence rules is to assist courts in determining the truth, to minimise extended enquiries, and to prevent judges from being confused as a result of excessive evidence acceptance.
The term “evidence” is defined in Section 31 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 as both oral and written evidence. Oral evidence refers to all remarks that witnesses are allowed or required to make before the court in regard to the facts under investigation. All documents, including electronic records, produced for court examination are considered documentary evidence. Any information that a party to a lawsuit offers to prove or disprove on a particular subject in a particular case is referred to as proof. It is a set of rules and norms or an arrangement of principles and standards, that is used to determine which certainties should be accepted, and to what extent a judge or jury should consider those realities as proof of a particular problem in litigation. There are diverse types of evidence, including eyewitnesses, prior Statements by the defendants, documents, physical evidence, and scientific evidence such as fingerprints, DNA, etc. Apart from these, there are two basic types of evidence that cover all of the aforementioned types of evidence. They are as follows: Direct Evidence and Circumstantial Evidence commonly called Indirect Evidence.
“Direct Evidence” refers to evidence that establishes a specific fact without requiring an inference to link the evidence to the fact. It immediately supports the truth of an assertion (in criminal law, an assertion of guilt or innocence) without requiring an intermediate inference. It demonstrates or disproves a fact directly. So, direct evidence is real, physical, or clear evidence of a fact, occurrence, or item that does not require any thought or consideration to establish its presence. The conclusion is reached without the use of any logic or inference. The Supreme Court in the case of Awadh Bihari v State of MP, observed, “direct evidence is sometimes referred to as ‘original evidence’.”
The Supreme court of Canada in the case of R v Baldree noted that direct evidence is first-hand information which is reliable and original. Here the witness owns responsibility for what he deposes, the oath administered to the direct witness carries some sanctity in that he undertakes to speak the truth about what he deposed. A direct witness is liable for perjury if he speaks falsehood about what he testified Direct witness can be properly cross-examined.
Direct Evidence Example
Assume P killed Q by shooting him, and the following are the prosecution witnesses who are testifying about the murder: R claims he witnessed P murdering Q. S claims that he did not witness P murdering Q, but that he did witness both of them arguing over money the day before the murder, and that P vowed to kill Q one day. T claims that on the day of the murder, he observed P fleeing from Q’s residence with a gun in his hand. According to U, the doctor performed an autopsy or postmortem on P’s body and discovered that Q died of gunshot wounds. V, the ballistics expert, claims that he test-fired the gun used in the crime and found that the markings on the bullet were identical to those found in P’s body. As a result, the murderer used the same gun. V, the fingerprint specialist, claims that he compared A’s fingerprints to those found on the gun and found them to be identical. In this case, R witnessed the major event of P killing Q, and his testimony is referred to as direct evidence. If the court believes the witness is credible, the court can declare P guilty right away.
It is a well-established legal principle that a witness may lie, but not about the circumstances. It is not necessary to have direct eye evidence to prove who committed the crime. In the case of Vilas Pandurang Patil v State of Maharashtra, it was laid that circumstantial evidence can also be used to prove a person’s guilt. However, in the case of Dharyashil v State of Maharashtra, it was held that the court must proceed with caution when relying solely on circumstantial evidence to reach a decision. The court noted in the case of Mananiga Digal v State of Orissa that there is no distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence in terms of evidence. The sole difference is that the former establishes the commission of the crime directly, whereas the latter does so by putting conditions in place that lead to an inescapable inference of guilt.
In Liyakat v State of Uttaranchal noted, circumstantial evidence is a type of indirect proof that is based on facts that are closely related to the fact in question. A series of Supreme Court rulings have set the standard of proof required to convict someone based on circumstantial evidence. According to that criterion, the facts relied on to support the conviction must be completely established, and the chain of evidence provided by those circumstances must be so comprehensive as to leave no reasonable justification for a judgement inconsistent with the accused’s innocence, and it must also indicate that the conduct must have been committed by the accused within all human likelihood.
The Supreme Court used some of these concepts in Hanumant Govind Narjundkar v State of M.P. The court said: In dealing with circumstantial evidence the rules especially applicable to such evidence must be borne in mind. The crime scene must be handled scientifically and without error. In criminal prosecutions, particularly those dependent on circumstantial evidence, forensic science can help establish the element of crime, identify the culprit, and determine the accused’s guilt or innocence. One of the major responsibilities of the investigating officer on the scene is to conduct a thorough search for any evidence that can be used to prove the crime. Physical evidence contamination, which might grow at the crime scene during collecting, packaging, and transmission, may be avoided by the investigating officer.
In the case of Dharam Deo Yadav v State of UP the court noted, to preserve evidence, proper precautions must be taken, as well as to guard against any attempt to tamper with the material or cause contamination or damage. It is not essential for each of the proven facts to be decisive of the accused’s culpability or to point clearly to his guilt. As a result, when determining sufficiency, the court must assess the overall cumulative effect of all proven facts, each of which reinforces the judgement of guilt. In the case of Mahmood v State of UP the court explained the requirements as to circumstantial evidence and noted that the court must be wary of permitting conjecture or suspicion to take the place of valid proof in such circumstances.
If two viewpoints are feasible on the evidence presented in a case of circumstantial evidence, one pointing to the accused’s guilt and the other pointing to his innocence, the court should take the view that is more favourable to the accused. In circumstances where there is no direct evidence and the decision must be made on the basis of circumstantial evidence, the Supreme Court has repeatedly maintained that such evidence must meet the following criteria: (1) if an inference of guilt is drawn from the circumstances, it is sought must be cogently and firmly established; (2) there must have a definite tendency in those circumstances unerringly pointing towards the accused’s guilt; (3) A complete chain of the circumstances must be form and taken account which is so complete that there is no escape from the conclusion that the crime was committed by the accused and no one else within all human probability; and (4) In order to maintain a conviction, circumstantial evidence must be full and incapable of explanation by any theory other than the accused’s guilt, and such evidence must not only be consistent with the accused’s guilt but also inconsistent with his innocence. The court stated that when a case is to be established exclusively on circumstantial evidence, the accused’s presumption of innocence must take precedence.
The standards for conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence were reaffirmed in the judgments of Musheer Khan v State of MP and Vithal Eknath Adilinge v State of Maharashtra. When two points of view are available, the one that favours the accused should be accepted. According to the findings of Chattar Singh v State of Haryana, the time between when the accused and deceased were seen alive and when they died must be short. Conditions precedent for acting on circumstantial evidence were outlined in the case of Venkatesan v State of Tennessee. The facts arising from the proven circumstances must not allow for any inference other than the accused’s guilt. In the case of Paramjeet Singh v State of Uttarakhand, the absence of the accused does not constitute conclusive proof of guilt. The Supreme Court ruled that the fact that the panchayat met after the occurrence and pardoned the accused was not enough to charge him with the crime.
Though Direct evidence is thought to be superior to circumstantial evidence, one of the key disadvantages of Direct evidence is that it relies solely on the facts to prove its existence without any thought or reasoning. For example, an eyewitness may lie or be unable to understand if the event occurs rapidly or at a time when the eyewitness is under a lot of stress. Also, the eyewitness may maliciously testify, i.e., willfully give false testimony (though he may be punished for perjury, i.e., lying under oath), but this may only happen if the judge or jury orders the witness to be cross-examined.
“Eyewitness testimony” is the most prevalent type of direct evidence, in which the witness tells exactly what happened in the event. For example, a person who is watching out his door and sees someone murdering someone else. If he/she testifies in court, it will be direct proof because he witnessed the murder in front of his eyes and can identify the perpetrator. However, if a person discovers a dead body on the side of the road in the morning and subsequently testifies, his or her testimony will be indirect since he or she has no clear proof of who the murderer is or how the crime occurred.
According to the Indian Evidence Act, “circumstantial proof” is included under the term “relevant facts,” and all “relevant facts” must be proven by some oral or documentary evidence, i.e., by direct evidence. Circumstantial evidence must not only point to the inference to be formed by the court, but it must also be of such a character that no alternative inference can be drawn from it. So Direct Evidence is more valuable than Circumstantial Evidence because, in the aforementioned scenario, there is direct proof of who killed the person, as opposed to the other situation where a body was discovered and no one knew who or how the crime occurred. However, this is not always the case. There have been numerous examples where people have been convicted solely on the basis of circumstantial evidence.
There is often a doubt that someone can be convicted based on just circumstantial evidence. The courts through their judgements have tried to shed some light on this perspective through their judgments. In Chandmal v Province of Rajasthan, the court stated that in cases when the case is entirely based on circumstantial evidence, the following three elements must be met:1) The conditions on which we rely for proof must be solidly established. 2) The requirements must be precise and point to the individual who is being accused of wrongdoing. 3) When all of the requirements are considered together, they should form a whole chain with no escape clause. It must prove that only the person who is being blamed could have committed the wrongdoing and that no one else could have done it. In the case of Sathya Narayan v State, it was held that in certain circumstances where no instant proof or observer is available, the court might give conviction only on the basis of circumstantial evidence if the following five conditions are met. In the case of Khem Karan v State of Uttar Pradesh, the court declared that if all the circumstances and evidence lead to the accused’s guilt and there is no chance of any other alternative hypothesis, then only the accused can be convicted solely on the basis of circumstantial evidence in such a situation.
Direct evidence can be defined as testimony that directly addresses a specific issue of contention and establishes that if that assumption is made without the use of deductive logic or inference. An eye witness to a murder, for example, can be deemed direct evidence. Circumstantial evidence describes a situation in which a witness is unable to immediately advise you of a fact that must be established. Rather than providing direct knowledge, the witness provides proof of particular facts that can assist the fact-finder in reaching a reasoned judgement. This can assist in proving the claim that needs to be proven. The purpose of this research paper is to examine the various components of direct and circumstantial evidence, as well as how they are employed in various cases to reach a decision in the case and the conviction of the accused. In the case of Aarushi Talwar, a breakthrough case in which a conviction was reached based on circumstantial evidence rather than direct evidence. If no direct evidence is available and only circumstantial evidence is available in relation to the case, a conviction can be made purely on the basis of circumstantial evidence. The courts apply direct evidence and the circumstances in each case based on the facts and circumstances.
In today’s scenario, circumstantial evidence is also given importance in order to deliver justice properly and to stop the misuse of direct evidence. There are major differences in both the evidence and the reliability if each one of them depends on the facts and the circumstances of each case law. In practice, if there is direct evidence as well as circumstantial evidence, the court feels confident in convicting the accused. However, in any scenario where there is no direct evidence and only indirect evidence is available, the court analyses the evidence with such care that any form of hypothesis in favour of the accused is removed, and the accused is found guilty.
This article is written and submitted by Neha Haldhar during her course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Neha is a B.S.W LL.B (Hons.) student from Gujarat National Law University.