The Latin word 'Alibi' meaning 'elsewhere' or 'somewhere else' is used by the
accused as a defence in criminal proceedings. It is the best evidence that can
be used by a man to prove his innocence. Whenever a plea of alibi is raised by
an accused, it means the accused is trying to convince the Court that he/she was
not at the crime spot at the time of commission of crime owing that he/she was
somewhere else at that same time.
According to Black's Law Dictionary, Alibi is
"A term used to express that mode of defence to a criminal
prosecution, where the party accused, in order to prove that he could not have
committed the crime with which he is charged, offers evidence to show that he
was in another place at the time; which is termed setting up an alibi." The term
'Alibi' is not defined either in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, or the Evidence
Act, 1872. It is a Rule of evidence that was recognized in Section 11 of the
Evidence Act that is elaborated as follows:
Sections dealing with Plea of AlibiSection 11 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872:
"When facts not otherwise relevant
become relevant: facts not otherwise relevant are relevant (i) if they are
inconsistent with any fact in issue or relevant fact, (ii) if by themselves or
in connection with other facts they make the existence or non-existence of any
fact in issue or relevant fact highly probable or improbable."
Section 103 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872:
According to this:
"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."
EssentialsSome of the essentials of a plea of Alibi are listed as follows:
- A crime should have been alleged which is punishable by law.
- The person should be accused of the offence to make the plea of Alibi.
- It is a defence plea where the accused states that he/she was not present at the crime spot at the time of the commission of the crime.
- The plea must ensure that it was impossible for the accused to be physically available or present at the crime spot at the time of the commission of the offence.
- Evidence should be provided supporting the claim of the accused in the plea that he/she was not present at the crime spot.
- The exception to the plea of Alibi is that it is not maintainable in all cases such as cases related to defamation, matrimonial, and contributory negligence.
When can the plea of Alibi be taken?
Alibi should be immediate which means at the earliest possible opportunity and
not be an afterthought. The plea of Alibi should be taken at the initial stages
of the preliminary hearing or framing of the charge; therefore, it will have
Delay of raising Alibi: If the accused delays in filing a plea of Alibi then the
credibility of the Alibi decreases because as time goes the possibility of
forgetting the details, what happened a week or month or year ago, are high.
Proving Alibi beyond reasonable doubt helps in getting a person out of the case.
However, the Alibi could not be weakened due to a merely delayed disclosure. The
accused should file a plea of Alibi before the trial so that sufficient time is
available for investigation. If there is no evidence to support the Alibi or the
plea of Alibi found to be false or fabricated then this may go against the
Admissibility of Alibi: The plea of Alibi is supported with evidence and
witnesses which means witnesses who testify and evidence such as photos, GPS,
videos, etc. will strengthen or weaken the Alibi. The credibility of the
evidence and witnesses is decided by the judges after hearing the testimonies.
Friends and families of the defendant could also testify. However, it weakens
the evidence but that could not be wholly discarded. A failed attempt to prove
the Alibi does not ensure that the person was present at the crime spot during
the commission of crime.
Who can raise the plea of Alibi?
A plea of Alibi can be raised by the accused of an alleged offence. In order to
make this plea, the accused should be at a place that is far away from the place
of commission of the crime and cannot be physically available at the crime spot
at that time. The credibility of the plea of alibi increases, if the accused
takes the plea at an earlier stage of judicial proceedings. This stage could be
at the stage of framing of charge or preliminary hearing. Moreover, if the plea
is not supported by appropriate evidence then there is a rare chance that it
would be accepted.
Who carries the Burden of Proof?
When the prosecution has proved the charges against the defendant and has
discharged the burden then the defendant can raise a plea of Alibi to prove
his/her innocence. After taking the plea of Alibi, according to the Evidence
Act, the burden of proof is on the accused. The accused has to prove his/her
presence at a place that is far away from the crime site. The time when the plea
of alibi is raised ensures its reliability whereas an unreasonable delay in
raising the plea creates doubts and suspicion.
If the Court feels that at some point the Alibi was thought of and planned then
the Court can reject the plea as per the facts and circumstances of the Court. A
plea of Alibi is always accepted but if the accused is not able to make the
judge believe that his alibi is true then the plea is rejected and Court becomes
cautious throughout the proceedings.
Failure of plea
Even if the evidence provided were not true or the accused is not able to
establish the plea of alibi or there is no evidence to prove the Alibi then it
cannot be confirmed whether the accused was present at the crime spot or not. If
the plea of Alibi is raised by the accused, the prosecution must prove it by
positive evidence. Through this, it can be determined that the accused's failure
to prove Alibi does not conclude that the person was present at the crime spot.
It has been observed that sometimes the accused raises a false plea of Alibi as
a defence to protect him/ her against criminal proceedings. However, the Courts
will not consider the accused guilty of the crime if he/she raises a false plea
of Alibi but it negatively impacts the accused. A false alibi plea and giving
false evidence to prove it leads to suspicion and the Court becomes more
cautious throughout the proceedings. This will further change the entire
State of Rajasthan vs. Mahavir Alias Mahavir Prasad (1998)
The accused (Mahavir) committed the death of his wife, Radha (a punishable
offence under Section 302 IPC). The prosecution alleged that the accused was
ill-treating his wife on the grounds that sufficient dowry was not given. The
trial Court stated that the respondent-accused was alone responsible for the
death of his wife and did not accept the plea of alibi submitted by the
respondent. Also, the trial Court sentenced him to life imprisonment with a fine
of 500 rupees.
The High Court acquitted the respondent stating that the prosecution miserably
failed to establish that the accused committed the murder. Further, the Supreme
Court said that "the plea of alibi of the respondent is an afterthought attempt;
therefore, the trial Court was right in rejecting the plea of alibi and High
Court has committed an error while accepting the said plea."
Gurpreet Singh vs. State of Haryana (2002)
In this case, the parties (deceased and appellant) made a joint petition seeking
divorce by mutual consent. Both were living together till with breathed her
last. The appellant was put on trial for a punishable offence for the murder of
his wife. The High Court rejected the contentions and stated that there was
sufficient circumstantial evidence on record to connect the accused with murder.
It also disbelieved the accused's plea of alibi. The case was further presented
before the Supreme Court where the bench stated that the accused did not provide
any reason or explanation except a plea of alibi which the High Court
disbelieved. The top Court further said "...there seems to be sufficient
evidence on record to connect the appellant with a brutal killing of a wife�"
The appeal was then dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Darshan Singh vs. State of Punjab (2016)
The accused herein was convicted by the High Court and sentenced to imprisonment
of life with a fine of 5000 rupees for committing murder. After carefully going
through the statements of defence witnesses and other evidence, it was
determined that the accused took a false plea of alibi. Also, it was determined
that the plea of alibi of the accused was vacillating. The Supreme Court said,
"The plea of alibi is not one of the General exceptions contained in Chapter IV
It is a rule of evidence recognized under Section 11 of the Evidence Act.
However, the plea of alibi taken by the defence is required to be proved only
after prosecution has proved its case against the accused." It added that after
scrutinizing all the evidence, no illegality was found in the appreciation of
evidence, and the appeal was dismissed.
Pappu Tiwary vs. State of Jharkhand (2022)
In this case, the Supreme Court held that "The burden of establishing the plea
of alibi lay upon the appellants and the appellants have failed to bring on
record any such evidence which would, even by reasonable probability, establish
their plea of alibi. The plea of alibi in fact is required to be proved with
certainty so as to completely exclude the possibility of the presence of the
accused at the place of occurrence and in the house which was the home of their
To conclude, it has been determined that the plea of alibi is raised by the
defendant or accused to convey or convince that he was somewhere far from the
crime spot at the time when the crime was initiated. It is to be notified that
the accused claimed the plea of alibi and the chance of committing the murder is
not reduced but the accused is burdened to prove his innocence against the
obligations imposed by the prosecution.
It is worth mentioning that the prosecution has to independently prove that the
accused has committed the crime because according to Indian law, "presumed
innocent until proved guilty". The plea of alibi must be established beyond
reasonable doubt that it was not possible for the accused to be physically
present at the crime site during the commission of crime.