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Motive Preparation and Previous or Subsequent Conduct

Written by: Abhirup Ghosh - III Year Student, Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat
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The current article deals with the topic Motive, Preparation and Previous or Subsequent Conduct which finds specific reference in Indian Evidence Act of 1872 (hereinafter referred to as the Act). From the phrase Motive, Preparation and Previous or Subsequent Conduct, it becomes apparent that this phrase is made up of certain segments like Motive, Preparation, Previous and Subsequent conduct. It is thus necessary to ensure that each of these parts have been separately dealt upon and efforts have been made to establish their interrelation along with their significance as being relevant evidence under the act. In the current article necessary attention has been paid up to ascertain the above proportion.

Section 8 of the Act[1]: Motive, Preparation and Previous or Subsequent Conduct Any fact is relevant which shows or constitutes a motive or preparation for any fact in issue or relevant fact.

The conduct of any party, or of any agent to any party, to any suit or proceeding, in reference to such suit or proceeding, in reference to any fact in issue therein or relevant thereto, and the conduct of any person an offence against whom is the subject of any proceeding, is relevant, if such conduct influences or is influenced by any fact in issue or relevant fact, and whether it was previous or subsequent thereto.

Explanation 1.the word conduct in this section does not include statements, unless those statements accompany and explain acts other than statements; but this explanation is not to affect the relevancy of statements under any other section of this Act.

Explanation 2.When the conduct of any person is relevant, any statement made to him or in his presence and hearing, which affects such conduct is relevant.

The main principle
This section talks about the significance of motive, preparation, previous or subsequent conduct as relevant evidence in various cases. As we know that before deliberate commission of a crime the offender must have some motive behind that. To achieve the motive the offender must have taken some preparations. The conduct of the accused before or after the crime is also very relevant as circumstantial evidence. From the circumstantial evidences available before it, the Court can draw inferences and arrive at its conclusion. Therefore this section is very important in those cases where evidence is not clear and direct.

Meaning: Motive, generally means that which moves or induces a person to act in a certain way; a desire, fear, reason etc. which influences a person’s volition; motive is productive of physical or mechanical motion.[2] The words like motive, Object, purpose are in application to practical matters difficult strictly to define or distinguish. Sometimes mere animus such as spite or ill-will, malevolence or a wanton desire to harm without any view to personal benefit is meant. But motive is often used as meaning, purpose, something objective and external as contrasted with a mere mental state.[3] The Supreme Court of India has said motive is something which prompts a man to form an intention and knowledge, is an awareness of consequences of the act.[4] Motive is a moving power which impels action for a definite result or to put in differently, motive is that which incites or stimulates a person to do an act.[5] In law, especially criminal law, a motive is the cause that moves people and induce a certain action. Motive in itself is seldom an element of any given crime; however, the legal system typically allows motive to be proven in order to make plausible the accused's reasons for committing a crime, at least when those motives may be obscure or hard to identify with.[6]

Relevance of Motive under the Act: As in the above discussion we have already seen that motive is the main moving force which leads a person to do some act. In other words motive can be said to be a reward that the offender wants to satisfy. There can hardly be any action without motive. If the offence has been committed voluntarily then presence of motive can not be declined. Since motive sometimes play a very important role in criminal cases, its relevancy is drawn by the courts and supplied as evidence. In a case where there is a clear proof of motive for the commission of crime, it supports the findings of the Court proving the accused guilty of the charges leveled against him or her. Evidence of motive becomes very important when a case is based on circumstantial evidence only. In such cases if the accused can show absence of motive then it becomes positive evidence in his favour.[7] In the version of Supreme Court if the eye witnesses are trustworthy, the motive attributed for the commission of crime may not be of much relevance.[8] The same was the position in the another case where it was found that if the participation of the accused in the crime has been well proved by the eye witness then value of motive tarnishes and can not justify the accused to have acquittal.[9]

Motive and Intention: While talking about motive, it comes inevitably that one should try to distinguish between intention and motive. They though look somewhat similar but there is line of difference existing. From purely criminal point of view motive assumes lesser importance. But from evidence point of view motive can be given more importance. By intention we mean a pre-calculation in the mind of the accused and the knowledge as to what is going to be the likely result. Sometimes motive behind committal of a crime may be good but intention is always bad; guilt oriented.[10]

Case Laws:
1. Kundula Bala Vs State of A.P: In this case the son-n-law before his marriage to the demanded a piece of land from the deceased. The connivance of the mother-n-law was also there before this demand. The marriage took place but the deceased refused to transfer the property in the name of the accused and wanted to give it to the daughter. That infuriated the accused and crime was committed. It was held that there was a strong motive for the accused to commit the crime.[11]

2. Gurmej Singh Vs State of Punjab: The deceased had successfully contested election against the accused. Few months before the incident, they had a quarrel with one another. The reason behind that the accused diverted dirty water towards the house of the deceased and the deceased frustrated his efforts. It was also on evidence that proceedings under Cr.P.C were pending between them and the dirty water issue added a new level to it. The Court concluded that incident over the passage of dirty water could be the motive for the murder and the same is not very weak as not to encourage the accused to kill the rival.[12]

3. Rajendra Kumar Vs State of Punjab: In this case the Court held that where the prosecution fails completely to prove motive and evidence regarding commission of the offence is not definite then accused can not be convicted.[13]

4. State of M.P. Vs Dhirendra Kumar: In this case a person called Munnibai was killed. From the evidence it appeared that the respondent had an evil eye on her. Respondent was also the tenant in the house of father in law of the deceased. The deceased reported the matter to her mother-n-law who in turn told the same to her husband. In the consequence the respondent was asked to vacate the tenancy. The Court recognized that this thing may be taken as evidence.[14]
Critical Analysis: As per the principle laid down under section 8 the Act motive is no-doubt an important aspect of evidence but it is very difficult to prove it as mental state of affairs of the accused can not be seen from outside. Motive is useful evidence only when it is apparent that the crime took place for a particular motive. The question of motive is vital when a case is based on no direct evidence and the Court is to infer it from the given circumstances. In these kinds of cases inadequacy of motive can be pleaded as defense if motive is made doubtful then it goes in favour of the accused. But the prosecution is not bound to prove that motive was there when cogent evidence has been supplied. In such cases absence of inadequacy of motive becomes of very small importance.[15]


Meaning: The cognitive process of thinking about what you will do in the event of something happening. In one word it would mean homework.[16] In other words it would mean things done to ready something.[17] The Supreme Court of India interpreted the word preparation as the word preparation denotes not only to action or process of preparing the components to produce the compound, but also that which is prepared.[18] Preparation consists in arranging or devising the means necessary for the commission of a crime. Every crime is necessarily preceded by preparation.[19] To commit a crime, an offender requires various means. Preparation can be said to the process through which such means are arranged to drive them in order to achieve the ultimate aim that is the motive behind such act.

Relevance of Preparation under the Act: preparation for the commission of any crime would indeed be very relevant as evidence under this Act. When a question as to whether a person has done a particular act or not, the fact that he made certain preparations which is related to his act, would certainly be relevant for a purpose of showing that he did it. The illustrations (c) and (d) as given in the explanation attached to section 8 would be very relevant to be referred. Illustration (c) reads A is tried for the murder of B by poison. The fact that, before the death of B, A procured poison similar to that which was administered to B, is relevant. The given illustration is self explanatory and clearly reveals the importance of preparation as relevant evidence.[20] The preparation on the part of the accused may be reflected in various stages namely to accomplish the crime, to prevent the discovery of crime or it may be to aid escape of the criminal and avoid suspicion.[21]

Case Laws:
1. Mohan Lal Vs Emperor: The accused was charged with cheating for importing goods in Karachi port without paying the proper custom duty. Evidence was adduced of previous visit of the accused to the port of Okha, where it was said he tried to make some arrangements with the customs whereby he could import other goods without payment of proper duty. The evidence was held to be admissible as they were the preparation being made out by the accused in order to do the wrongful act.[22]

2. Appu Vs State: There was a burglary. The four accused conducted a meeting to make arrangements of the crime. A bar of iron and pair of pincers were necessary and these were brought by the accused. These facts were admitted as they showed preparation on the part of the accused. The preparation manifested clearly that an intention to commit the offence of burglary was framed and that intention prevailed in the minds of the accused until they were grabbing any opportunity to put the preparation into the execution.[23]

Critical Analysis:
Evidence tending to show that the accused had prepared for the crime is always admissible. But preparation does not depict the whole scenario of the crime but only the arrangements made in respect. Further there is no mandate that preparation is always carried out but it is more or less likely to be carried out.[24] Therefore it is very difficult to prove preparation concretely though it is a physical fact. From the given facts Court is required to draw inference that certain facts could be said to constitute preparation of the crime committed.

Meaning: The second paragraph of section 8 of the Act talks about the significance of conduct. The conduct that this section speaks is different from character. Conduct means the external behavior of a person, whereas character can be said to be an impression about a person in the minds of others.[25]

Relevance of Conduct under the Act: The conduct of a person concerned in a crime would become relevant if his conduct is related with the incident. To regard a conduct to be relevant it must be closely connected with the incident concerned. If the Court considers some conduct to be relevant then the conduct must help the Court in arriving to a conclusion in the controversy. The conduct must have a bearing over the decision. If so happens, then, notwithstanding the conduct was previous or subsequent, it shall be thoroughly scrutinized by the Court.[26] A conduct to become relevant under section 8 of need not become simultaneous or spontaneous, that is to say with that very incident. It may become subsequent and previous to the main fact in issue. For example complaints of the deceased made before two months of his death becomes admissible.[27]

Case Laws:
1. Mistri Vs King Emperor: A person was charged for the murder of a girl. During the investigation the accused took the police to a place and pointed out and produced some ornaments which the deceased was wearing at the time of the incident took place. In the trial of the accused the facts that he took the police to locate the place where the ornaments were kept hidden and that the accused given the ornaments to the police were allowed to be proved under section 8 of the Act as these facts showed the subsequent relevant conduct of the accused.[28]
2. Bhamara Vs State of M.P: In this case a person X was cultivating his land. Another person Y was passing by the land. He called X to chat with him. During the interaction some hot words were exchanged and altercation ensued. X battered in the head to Y. Two bystanders namely A & B rushed to that place. Seeing other people coming to that spot X tried to escape but was caught by C. The conduct of escaping of the accused was held a very relevant subsequent conduct.[29]

3. Emperor Vs Moti Ram: In this case one Moti Ram and Rai Singh were tried for the murder of a lady called Sita. The witness soon after the incident found that the lady was lying in the floor with her throat cut and she was bleeding greatly. When the witnessed asked her as to who did this she tried to utter the word Moti. When after she was again asked as to by Moti whether she meant Motiram or not, she nodded her head in a positive manner. She was later transferred to hospital and when the magistrate asked, she explained the incident and pointed the accusation towards Motiram. All these facts were held to be admissible as conduct of the person an offence against whom an inquiry was going on under section 8 of the Act.[30]

Critical Analysis:
Though conduct forms importance evidence under the scope of section 8 but again we must remember that other than direct conduct, if seen by witness, will not be of definite bearing over the case. A conduct which is not directly linked to the facts in issue but some or the other way connected to it is as good as circumstantial evidence which will be difficult for the Court to prove. Therefore it is imperative that the Court scrutinize the conducts mainly previous and subsequent very carefully and thoroughly. If two similar incidents have taken place in similar period of time and a person is connected with one and not the other which has come for decision before the Court, in these circumstances, Court should prepare itself to avoid any kind of judicial errors that may take place.

 Indian Evidence Act is a noble piece of legislation which has completed its centenary and still continuing to be the same. The legislation has made every effort to incorporate as many aspects of evidence as it is necessary and in that way we find that it is a very comprehensive piece of legislation. The relevance of motive, preparation, previous and subsequent conduct has been explained in a very proper way and safeguards have been made inbuilt and that can be found from the illustrations given after the section. From a bare reading it becomes apparent that the section is divided in to certain parts and from our understanding we can deduce that the parts are not separate but interlinked. Therefore the Court while deciding a matter in which section 8 of the Act plays a pivotal role, must proceed with utmost care. When a case is based on circumstantial evidence then it is very likely that evidences are not direct or in other words circumstances available before the Court is unclear. In this case what the Court should do is that it should scrutinize the evidences beyond reasonable doubt. If it is not done then prejudice is likely to be created against the accused and the Court may arrive on the wrong decision and this, in our opinion will not be a fair play. If there remains any reasonable doubt in the evidences then the benefit of doubt must be given to the accused. We should remember the principle that no innocent should be punished wrongfully.

Justice Khastgir, ‘Criminal Manual’, Kamal Law House, Kolkata, 2005
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. II, Third Edition, Clarendon Press, Oxford
Mitra’s Legal & Commercial Dictionary, Fifth Edition, Eastern Law House.
Supreme Court on Wards and Phrases 1950-2004’, Ashoka Law House, Edition 2004, New Delhi.
Motive (law), retrieved from:, visited on 8.07.07.
Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, ‘The Law of Evidence’, 21st Edition, 2006, Wadhwa & Company, Nagpur.
Batuklal, ‘The Law of Evidence’, Sixteenth Edition, Reprinted 2007, Central Law Agency, Allahabad.
Word Web Thesaurus/Dictionary,
Dr. V. Krishnamachari, Law of Evidence, Fifth Edition, Reprinted 2004, S.Gogia & Company, Hyderabad.
Vepa P. Sarathi, ‘Law of Evidence’, Sixth Edition, 2006, Eastern Book Company, Lucknow.
[1] Justice Khastgir, ‘Criminal Manual’, Kamal Law House, Kolkata, 2005, p. 513.
[2] ‘The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary’, Vol. II, Third Edition, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
[3] Crofter Hand Jweed Co. Ltd. Vs Veith, 1942 AC 435 (469) as cited in ‘Mitra’s Legal & Commercial Dictionary’, Fifth Edition, Eastern Law House.
[4] Basudev Vs State of Pepsu, AIR 1956 SC 488 as cited in ‘Supreme Court on Wards and Phrases 1950-2004’, Ashoka Law House, Edition 2004, New Delhi.
[5] Chandra Prakash Shahi Vs State of UP & others, (2000) 5 SCC 152 as cited in ‘Supreme Court on Wards and Phrases 1950-2004’, Ashoka Law House, Edition 2004, New Delhi.
[5] Motive (law), retrieved from:, visited on 8.07.07.
[7] Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, ‘The Law of Evidence’, 21st Edition, 2006, Wadhwa & Company, Nagpur.
[8] State of UP Vs Nawab Singh (dead) and others, JT (2004) 2 SC 79, as cited in ‘Supreme Court on Wards and Phrases 1950-2004’, Ashoka Law House, Edition 2004, New Delhi.
[9] AIR 1998 SC 1328.
[10] Dr. V. Krishnamachari, Law of Evidence, Fifth Edition, Reprinted 2004, S.Gogia & Company, Hyderabad.
[11] 1993 Cr LJ 1635 SC.
[12] AIR 1992 SC 214.
[13] AIR 1966 SC 1322.
[14] AIR 1997 SC 318.
[15] Batuklal, ‘The Law of Evidence’, Sixteenth Edition, Reprinted 2007, Central Law Agency, Allahabad.
[16] Word Web Thesaurus/Dictionary,
[17] Supra note 2.
[18] Union of India & others Vs Formulators Association of India, 2002 8 SCC 410 as cited in ‘Supreme Court on Wards and Phrases 1950-2004’, Ashoka Law House, Edition 2004, New Delhi.
[19] Dr. V. Krishnamachari, Law of Evidence, Fifth Edition, Reprinted 2004, S.Gogia & Company, Hyderabad.
[20] Vepa P. Sarathi, ‘Law of Evidence’, Sixth Edition, 2006, Eastern Book Company, Lucknow.
[21] supra note 10
[22] AIR 1937 Sind 293.
[23] AIR 1971 Mad 194.
[24] supra note 10
[25] Supra note 14
[26] Supra note 15
[27] Supra note 10
[28] AIR 1938 (6) ALJ 839
[29] Bhamara Vs State of MP, AIR 1953 Bhopal 1.
[30] Emperor Vs Moti Ram Singh, AIR 1936 Bom. 372.

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