The Ayodhya Verdict-Are Findings Recorded By The Constitutional Bench of
The Supreme Court In Civil Case Binding on Pending Criminal Case?
The final Judgement in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, popularly
called the Ayodhya case,
was declared by the Supreme Court of India on 9
November 2019. The dispute emanated from the fundamental belief and assertion
that Lord Ram was born 9,00,000 years ago in the Treta Yuga, in a room located
under what was the central dome of the Babri Masjid.
The Masjid was built on the orders of Mughal emperor Babur in the 16th century
and occupied 1,482.5 square yards before its demolition by Kar Sevaks on
December 6, 1992.
The Supreme Court ordered the land to be handed over to a trust to build the
Hindu temple. It also ordered the government to give an alternate 5 acres of
land to the Sunni Waqf Board for the purpose of building a mosque.
The bench delivering the verdict also mentioned about the demolition of the
Babri masjid on December 6, 1992. Justice would not prevail if the court were
to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims, who have been deprived of the
structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a
secular nation committed to the rule of law, the bench observed. …The entire
structure of the mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a
place of public worship, it said. The Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a
mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago.
The said demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, and the criminal
conspiracy that led to the demolition is being heard by a Lucknow court.
This is the other Ayodhya case. It is important to understand the significance
and impact of the Apex Courts words in one Ayodhya case on the other Ayodhya
The two Ayodhya cases are distinctive by their very nature. One is a title
dispute related to ownership of the land, and the second a criminal trial
arising out of FIRs filed by the CBI in relation to the demolition of the Babri
Masjid at Ayodhya, which goes beyond ownership. One pertains to civil matter and
the other criminal.
Now talking of civil and criminal matters, certain offences are more serious in
nature and due to their negative reflection of the character of the offender in
question and the societal implications of the offence being committed; the State
took the responsibility of arguing such cases of criminal nature. An implication
of the serious nature of criminal proceedings is the higher degree of proof that
is required to convict a human being of a crime.
It is established that civil proceedings use the system of preponderance of
probabilities to determine the rights and liabilities of individuals whereas
criminal proceedings require the accused persons offence to be proved
beyond reasonable doubt
The question arises-can the findings or judgement of civil case be used as
evidence in criminal proceedings? To speak legally, one is referring to
inter-admissibility of civil judgments in criminal proceedings and vice-versa. X
is convicted of rape case. Y, a magazine editor, publishes a report stating that
X is a rapist. When X sues Y for libel, can Y adduce evidence of Xs conviction
in support of his plea? Now if X is acquitted of rape charge, can he use his
acquittal in subsequent proceedings to support denial of rape?.
In M/s Karamchand Ganga Pershad & Anr. Vs. Union of India & Ors
1971 SC 1244, Supreme Court, while dealing with the same issue, held as under:
"It is well established principle of law that the decisions of the civil courts
are binding on the criminal courts. The converse is not true."
The said Judgment was delivered by a three-Judge Bench of without taking note of
the Constitution Bench Judgment in M.S. Sherrif Vs. The State of Madras &
, AIR 1954 SC 397 on the same issue, wherein it was held as under:
"As between the civil and the criminal proceedings we are of the opinion that
the criminal matters should be given precedence. There is some difference of
opinion in the High Courts of India on this point.
No hard and fast rule can be laid down but we do not consider that the
possibility of conflicting decisions in the civil and criminal courts is a
relevant consideration. The law envisages such an eventuality when it expressly
refrains from making the decision of one court binding on the other, or even
relevant, except for certain limited purposes, such as sentence or damages. The
only relevant consideration here is the likelihood of embarrassment.
In K.G. Premshankar Vs. Inspector of Police & Anr.
, AIR 2002 SC 3372, the
Supreme Court placed reliance upon the Judgment of the Privy Council in
Emperor Vs. Khwaja Nazair Ahmad
, AIR 1945 PC 18 wherein it has been held as
It is conceded that the findings in a civil proceeding are not binding in a
subsequent prosecution founded upon the same or similar allegations. Moreover,
the police investigation was stopped and it cannot be said with certainty that
no more information could be obtained. But even if it were not, it is the duty
of a criminal court when a prosecution for a crime takes place before it to form
its own view and not to reach its conclusion by reference to any previous
decision which is not binding upon it.
In Iqbal Singh Marwah & Anr. Vs. Meenakshi Marwah & Anr.
, (2005) 4 SCC
370, the Supreme Court held as under:
"Coming to the last contention that an effort should be made to avoid conflict
of findings between the civil and criminal courts, it is necessary to point out
that the standard of proof required in the two proceedings are entirely
Civil cases are decided on the basis of preponderance of evidence while in a
criminal case the entire burden lies on the prosecution and proof beyond
reasonable doubt has to be given. There is neither any statutory provision nor
any legal principle that the findings recorded in one proceeding may be treated
as final or binding in the other, as both the cases have to be decided on the
basis of the evidence adduced therein."
There are no apparent provisions in civil law in India regarding admissibility
of criminal judgments in civil proceedings. Findings of fact recorded by the
Civil Court do not have any bearing so far as the criminal case is concerned and
vice-versa as standard of proof is different in civil and criminal cases.
There is neither any statutory nor any legal principle that findings recorded by
the court either in civil or criminal proceedings shall be binding between the
same parties while dealing with the same subject matter and both the cases have
to be decided on the basis of the evidence adduced therein. However, there may
be cases where the provisions of Sections 41 to 43 of the Indian Evidence Act,
1872, dealing with the relevance of previous Judgments in subsequent cases may
be taken into consideration.
The Indian Evidence Act, mentions the relevancy of other
when they are admissible in Sections 40, 41, 42 and 43. The scheme of the Act is
such that admissibility of judgments in other proceedings to criminal
proceedings is an exception to the rule, and such exceptional features are laid
out in the aforesaid provisions.
Section 40 -Previous Judgements relevant to bar a second suit or trail
The existence of any judgment, order or decree which by law prevents any Courts
from taking cognizance of a suit or holding a trial, is a relevant fact when the
question is whether such Court ought to take cognizance of such suit, or to hold
such trial. The object of the provision is to avoid multiplicity of the suits
and to save the precious time of the Court.
In Civil Procedure Code Section 11 provides rule of Res Judicata
Cr.P.C and constitution it is provided that no one shall be punished for the
same offense twice i.e. rule of double jeopardy.
Section 41- Relevancy of certain judgements in probate, etc., jurisdiction
A final judgment, order or decree of a Competent Court, in exercise of probate,
matrimonial, admiralty or insolvency jurisdiction, which confers upon or to take
away from any person any legal character, or which declares any person to be
entitled to any such character, or to be entitled to any specific thing not as
against any specified person but absolutely, is relevant when the existence of
any legal character, or the title of any such person to any such thing, is
Such judgment, order or decree is conclusive proof
- That any legal character which it confer accrued at the time when such
judgment, order or decree come into operation;
- That any legal character to which it declares and such person to be
entitled, accrued to that person at the time when such judgment, order or
decree declares it to have accrued to that person;
- That any legal character to which it takes away from any such person
ceased at the time from which such judgment, order or decree declared that
it had cased or should cease.
- And that anything to which it declares any person to be so entitled was
the property of that person at the time from which such judgment, order or
decree declares that it had been or should be his property.
Section 41 deals with what is known as judgement in rem, which not only bind
the parties at the representatives to it, but also are binding as against the
For a judgement to be binding and conclusive proof under section 41 the
following conditions have to be satisfied:
- The judgement must be a final judgement.
- The court delivering the judgement must be competent.
- The judgement must have been delivered by the court in the exercise of
Probate, size of Matrimonial, Admiralty or Insolvency jurisdiction.
- The judgement must confer on or take away from any person any legal
character or declare that any person is entitled to such legal character or
declared that any person is entitled to any specific thing absolutely.
Section 42-Relevancy and effect of judgements, orders or decrees, other than
those mentioned in Section 41
According to Section 42, Judgments, orders or decrees other than those mentioned
in Section 41, are relevant if they relate to matters of a public nature
relevant to the inquiry; such judgments, orders or decrees are not conclusive
proof of that which they state.
X sues Y for trespass on his land, Y alleges the existence of a public right of
way over the land, which X denies. The existence of a decree in favor of the
defendant, in a suit by X against Z or a trespass on the same land, in which Z
alleged the existence of the same right of way, is relevant, but it is not
conclusive proof that the right of ways exists.
Section 43-Judgements etc other than those mentioned in Sections 40 to 42,
Section 43 states that Judgments, orders or decrees other than those
mentioned in Sections 40, 41 and 42, are irrelevant, unless the existence of
such judgment, order or decree is a fact in issue, or is relevant, under some
other provision of this Act.
- A prosecutes B for adultery with C, As wife. B denies that C is As
wife, but the court convicts B of adultery. Afterwards, C is prosecuted for
bigamy in marrying B during As lifetime. C says that she never was As
wife. The judgment against B is irrelevant as against C.
- A prosecuted B for stealing a cow from him, B is convicted. A,
afterwards, sues C for cow, which B had sold to him before his conviction.
As between A and C, the judgment against B is irrelevant.
- A has obtained a decree for the possession of land against B. C,Bs son
murders A in consequence. The existence of the judgment is relevant, as
showing motive for a crime.
- A is charged with theft and with having been previously convicted of
theft. The previous conviction is relevant as a fact in issue.
- A is tried for the murder of B. The fact that B prosecuted A for libel
and that A was convicted and sentenced is relevant under Section 8 as
showing the motive for the fact in issue.
Thus, under Section 40 of the Act, previous judgments are admissible in
support of a plea of res judicata
in civil cases or of autre fois
or autre fois convict
in criminal cases.
Section 41 of the Act which only makes a final judgment of a competent Court, in
the exercise of probate, matrimonial, admiralty or insolvency jurisdiction,
conferring upon, taking away from or declaring any person to be entitled to any
legal character or to be entitled to any specific thing absolutely, relevant
when the existence of any such legal character or the title to any such thing is
relevant. Section 42 of the Act relate to matters of a public nature. Section 43
of the Act positively declares judgments other than those mentioned in sections
40, 41 and 42 to be irrelevant unless their existence is a fact in issue or is
relevant under some other provision of the Act.
The findings of K.G.Premshankar case (supra) are very relevant here:
- the previous judgment which is final can be relied upon as provided
under Sections 40 to 43 of the Evidence Act;
- in civil suits between the same parties, principle of res-judicata may
- in a criminal case, Section 300 Cr.P.C. makes provision that once a
person is convicted or acquitted, he may not be tried again for the same
offence if the conditions mentioned therein are satisfied;
- if the criminal case and the civil proceedings are for the same cause,
judgment of the civil Court would be relevant if conditions of any of the
Sections 40 to 43 are satisfied, but it cannot be said that the same would
be conclusive except as provided in Section 41. Section 41 provides which
judgment would be conclusive proof of what is stated therein.
- Further, the judgment, order or decree passed in a previous civil
proceeding, if relevant, as provided under Sections 40 and 42 or other
provisions of the Evidence Act then in each case, Court has to decide to
what extent it is binding or conclusive with regard to the matter(s) decided
Hence, in each and every case, first question which would require
consideration is whether judgment, order or decree is relevant?, if relevant its
effect. It may be relevant for a limited purpose, such as, motive or as a fact
in issue. This would depend upon facts of each case.
To conclude, with respect to the applicability and admissibility of civil
judgments in criminal proceedings, the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 sets
parameters to be followed concerning the admissibility of other judgments,
keeping in mind the standards of proof used in civil and criminal proceedings.
With respect to the admissibility of civil judgments in criminal proceedings,
there exists no ambiguity due to the presence of statutory provisions in the
Indian Evidence Act of 1872 that regulate the admissibility of other judgments
but nevertheless make them admissible when they are clearly relevant.
- Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010 & other Suits (Supreme Court of
- The Supreme Court of India in the case of Kishan Singh (D) Thru Lrs vs
Gurpal Singh & Ors on 12 August, 2010
- The Supreme court of India in the case of K.G. Premshankar Vs.
Inspector of Police & Anr., AIR 2002 SC 3372
- Indian Evidence Act , 1872