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Balancing The Scale Of Justice By Unveiling The Alibi Defence

The plea of Alibi is a requisite element of criminal law which protects the individual against the wrongful conviction. This defence serves an appropriate justice to the innocent person who is not involved in the crime in any matter. This research paper explores the impact, relation and involvement of plea of alibi for balancing the justice system.

It also includes the historical evolution of the defence as well as the legal evidentiary standard and implications of the same. This research article also throws light on some practical challenges faced by this defence which are associated with the strategy of the defence for establishing all possible doubts by helping as a corroborative-evidence.

This paper explores those legal procedures and standards which preside over the admissibility of this Alibi evidence, inclusive of distinctive rules and obligations. It also addresses the limitation and challenges faced by the party at the time of asserting this defence.

Moreover, this paper highlights those high-profile and leading cases where the alibi defence had played a vital role along with the legal precedents to deliver an appropriate verdict. By holding the integrity or togetherness of India, this article is enlightening the major value of Plea of Alibi in defending the right of accused which helps for a fair trial.

Literature Review:
Deepti Josephine Arul & Arun Kumar N.R., "Alibi As One Of The Best Forms Of Evidence To Prove The Innocence Of The Accused", volume.2, issue.2, Indian journal of integrated research In law, ISSN:2583-0538

This paper has been tried to establish a strong meaning of plea of alibi as per the Indian justice system by associating the elements and admissibility of the same. It has also been discussed in this paper about the challenges and credibility of the evidence. this paper also highlights some high-profiled case laws related to this defence and about the impact of this defence in the case by delay or by raising false plea of alibi.

Sanjeev Sirohi, "A Brief Analysis Of Plea Of Alibi Used As A Shield Of Defence By Accused", Legal service India.

This article has enlightened upon how the alibi defence is used as a shield by the accused. It also talks about the key points of the defence along with some high profiled cases which are associated with the defence.

Anvitha Rao, PLEA OF ALIBI, Prime legal

This article gives a brief yet significant summary of plea of alibi. It tries to cover various aspect of the defence like, definition, awareness, essentials, components, challenges, and limitation which are connected with it etc.

Vaibhav Sharma, Ruchika Chaurasia, "PLEA OF ALIBI AND ITS RELEVANCY IN CRIMINAL TRIALS", Lawfoyer International Journal of Doctrinal Legal Research, vol.1, issue.2, ISSN:2583-7753

This research study investigates the significance of the alibi plea in criminal prosecution. It investigates the historical back drops, legal ramification, evidence standards, and practical difficulties connected with these defensive tactics. This research article dives into legal requirements and processes that regulates the admission of alibi defence and reliability of alibi witnesses.

Research Objective:
  • How plea of alibi plays a vital role to give acquittal to the defendant?
  • Importance of plea of alibi in legal system to balance the scale of natural Justice.
  • What are challenges and possibilities of misuse of the defence when there is a delay in the presentation of plea of alibi?
Crime, means and includes any action or omission which results into breaking the rules which are prescribed by the legal system of the country and being punishable for the same. So, as per the rules of legal system there must be some proof or evidence for proving a person as an accused. As there are certain rules or doctrines to prove someone guilty, there are also some defences to prove the guiltlessness of a person as well. one of the finest doctrines under Indian legal system by which one person can show his clean hand is Plea of Alibi.

The Latin term 'Alibi,' signifies 'elsewhere' or 'somewhere different,' is employed by the accused as a defence in criminal proceedings, serving as the most compelling evidence to establish their innocence. When an accused raises an alibi plea, it essentially means they are attempting to persuade the court that they were not present there at the time it occurred because they were in a different location simultaneously.

According to Black's Law Dictionary, alibi is defined as "A term used to describe the defence strategy in a criminal prosecution where the accused party, in order to demonstrate their inability to commit the alleged crime, presents evidence indicating they were elsewhere at the time. This strategy is known as establishing an alibi."

Neither the IPC, 1860, nor the IEA, 1872, provides a specific definition for the term 'Alibi.' Instead, it's a principle of evidence that finds recognition in Section 11 of the IEA. So simply the term 'ALIBI' is not mentioned anywhere under Indian legal system.

In the realm of criminal cases, asserting an alibi serves as a pivotal defence strategy capable of substantiating the innocence of the accused. This defence is sanctioned by Section 11 of the IEA, 1872 and can be invoked right at the outset of a legal matter. The introduction of an alibi represents a fundamental legal maneuverer employed by individuals facing criminal allegations. This plea asserts that the defendant was conspicuously absent from the location where the alleged crime transpired at the precise time it occurred.

Legal Provision For This Defence:

Doctrine of Plea of Alibi is having very less provisions under the Indian legal system. They are as follow;

Section 11 of IEA, 1872 addresses about the relevancy of facts that are not inherently significant. It outlines that such facts become relevant when (i) they're at odds with any fact under consideration or a pertinent fact, or (ii) when taken on their own or in conjunction with other facts, they substantially sway the likelihood of the existence or absence of any fact that's under consideration or pertinent.

Section 103 of the IEA, 1872, lays down the principle that the responsibility of proving a specific fact- rests upon the party who aims to convince the court of its existence, unless a legal provision mandates that the onus of proving that fact lies with a particular individual.

Elements Of Plea Of Alibi:

  • To begin with, there must be an unlawful act committed that contravenes established laws.
  • The accused individual must not have been present at the location where the crime occurred when it was perpetrated.
  • The accused should have been in a remote location, such that it would have been logistically impossible for them to reach the crime scene at the time the offense was committed.
  • The Plea of Alibi can only be invoked by the accused person.
  • The defence should be promptly raised without any delay.
  • The plea necessitates the provision of evidence that substantiates the accused's claim of not being present at the crime scene.

Admissibility Of Plea Of Alibi:

The strength and weakness of an Alibi rest upon the credibility of the witnesses who testify to it. Friends and family of the defendant may vouch for the Alibi, but there may be doubts about whether their statements are solely aimed at protecting the accused from conviction. Ultimately, it falls to the judge to determine the trustworthiness of the witnesses' testimony after hearing it. The judge's assessment of the family or friends' testimony may weaken the evidence but might not entirely negate the defence.

A witness unrelated to the defendant or unfamiliar with the defence can provide more robust support for the Alibi. When multiple witnesses corroborate the Alibi, its strength is enhanced.

An alibi can be strengthened by corroborating evidence such as photos, videos or GPS data, which are generally considered reliable. However, there may be concerns about the accuracy of this information that need to be confirmed.

If alibi is not proven, the prosecution still has the burden of proving the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to prove an alibi does not by itself prove that the defendant was present at the scene of the crime; He wants the prosecution to present more evidence.

Many factors can affect the admissibility of alibi claims in court proceedings. First of all, there must be an actual crime allegation and the defendant must be charged in connection with the crime. The prosecutor's claim is that the defendant was not at the scene of the crime, which shows that he is lying. The credibility of the witness determines the strength of the alibi, and friends and family may be sceptical.

The judge is important in determining the reliability of the witness. Multiple witnesses can help strengthen an alibi, and corroborating evidence such as photographs or GPS data can help enhance an alibi. If an alibi cannot be clearly established, the prosecution must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; this would require additional evidence linking the defendant to the crime.

When Plea Of Alibi Can Be Taken?

The timeliness of raising the Alibi is of paramount importance, emphasizing that it should be presented promptly and not as an afterthought. To maximize its significance, the plea of Alibi ought to be introduced during the preliminary stages of the legal process, specifically at the initial framing of charges or during the preliminary hearing.

This early presentation carries more weight, underscoring the notion that the Alibi should be invoked at the earliest possible opportunity. In essence, the Alibi must not be delayed and should be an immediate aspect of the defence strategy. This underscores the importance of its early introduction during the legal proceedings, further enhancing its significance.

The court's ruling clarified that the Plea of Self-defence and the Plea of Alibi are distinct and cannot be treated as interchangeable. The plea of Alibi must be raised during the initial stages of the legal proceedings and should not be deferred to a later stage. This judgment underscores the need for timely and distinct presentation of these two legal defences.[1]

Delay In Raising The Plea:

The timing of presenting an Alibi carries significant weight, and a delay in doing so can diminish its credibility. Over time, the likelihood of forgetting intricate details from weeks, months, or even years ago increases, making it essential to establish the Alibi promptly. Proving an Alibi beyond a reasonable doubt is a potent defence, often leading to the exoneration of the accused.

Nevertheless, a delayed disclosure alone is not grounds for undermining the Alibi's validity. The key is not to insist that the disclosure must occur immediately during the initial investigation or upon arrest but rather that the Alibi should be introduced before the trial, allowing ample time for investigation.

If there is no substantiating evidence for the Alibi, or if the Alibi is determined to be false or contrived, it can work against the accused. The credibility of the Alibi naturally diminishes as time passes because the risk of forgetting pertinent details from a week, a month, or a year ago, as well as the potential changes in circumstances such as the death of a person involved, are factors considered by the judge when evaluating the Alibi's reliability. In sum, an Alibi, when incontrovertibly proven, serves as a powerful defence, but its failure to meet that standard can adversely affect the defendant's case.

In the case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee v. State of West Bengal[2] the Supreme Court opines that the Alibi defence must be substantiated with clear & convincing evidence, which serves to eliminate any possible ground of the accused to being present at the location where the crime was committed.

It has also been emphasized that the plea of Alibi needs to be raised at the primary stages of case. If it is presented after a substantial delay, it is regarded as an afterthought, diminishing the credibility of the Alibi. In such instances, the accused can't held acquitted based on the Alibi alone and may face conviction, as the plea of Alibi will not be considered valid.

Raising False Plea Of Alibi:

Raising false plea of alibi means and refers when someone raises a defence to claim that he/she was not there during the commission of the offence to avoid criminal responsibility. As we know Alibi is a legal defence in which defendant tries to showcase that the person was not present at the spot during the scene of crime and therefore, he/she couldn't commit that offence.

When someone raises false plea of alibi it specifies that he is intentionally trying to create a doubt in the mind of the court about his presence and involvement in that particular crime. However, raising false plea of alibi is a serious offence which will resulted into legal consequences when it will be proved. Alibi is a well founded and justifiable legal strategy which is based on honesty, genuineness and accuracy of the information.

If once the court disbelieves that the plea of alibi has been raised falsely and the accused fails to give any kind of explanation in the support of his statement under section 313 of cr.p.c. The court will draw an adverse inference against the accused and the fact of the case would support the cause of prosecution.[3]

Babu das vs State of MP[4] In this case the SC repeated its point that raise false plea of alibi wont help to prove the innocence of the accused. The guilty of the accused can be proved by the means of corroborative evidence and failure of proving alibi defence will not affect the judgement of the case.

Challenges Faced By The Party While Asserting The Alibi Defences:

The Alibi defence as like any other defence comes with its own challenges and limitations. Proving the alibi defence before the court of law is not so easy. the followings are certain major challenges which are faced by the party while they try to assert the defence:
  • Requirement of timely notice: For raising a plea of alibi there is a requirement of specific time and notice. Various jurisdictions have their own specific time and notice requirements for ascertaining this defense. When the accused wants to take the benefit of this defense, he/she needs to circulate a notice to the prosecution about his intention to rely upon the alibi defense, within a stipulated time period. So for doing these coordinating carefully within the accused and prosecution while fulfilling all those essential requirements to raise an alibi defense is quite challenging.
  • Ability of the witness: When the accused files for a plea of alibi, maintaining the ability or credibility of the witnesses is a vital yet significant challenge. In this, the prosecution will have the chance to cross-examine the witnesses, they will ask any kind of question related to the case to expose the testimonial inconsistencies of the witnesses. The witnesses may be faced questions related to past relationships, personal connection with the accused or victim, etc. So, the defendant must ensure that the witnesses are well prepared to stand firm against those meticulous questioning of the prosecution and will maintain their credibility for the same.
  • Accessibility and dependability of evidence: To access all the evidence to support the plea of alibi and depending upon those evidence are crucial to do so. Gathering all the concrete evidence and producing them in court of law is way too much challenging. So, it is the duty of the defendant to make sure that the investigation has been done thoroughly to collect the evidence and whatever evidence has been recovered, they are completely genuine and legally valid to rely upon.
  • Rebuttal by the prosecution: As we know, rebuttal means contradicting the statement of the opposite party by producing evidence against it. When the accused will try to take the benefit of plea of alibi it is natural that the prosecution will raise a rebuttal against it. So, it is the duty of the defendant to make sure that they are fully prepared to overcome the challenges of the prosecution and to present conclusive evidence to disgrace the rebuttal of the prosecution.

Link Between Fair Trial And Plea Of Alibi:

Right to fair trial is one of the most eminent yet vital principle in the field of Human rights. The right is designed so specially that the accused of a crime, will receive a just, fair and impartial justice during his legal trial process. It ensures the rights of an individual and guarantees to treat him under the principle of Natural justice.

The plea of Alibi is so combinedly linked with right to fair Trials, as it is one of the fundamental rights of the defendant to defend himself against those criminal charges which has been alleged against him.

The plea of Alibi is essential in relation to Right to fair trial as per the following points:
  • The right to fair trial is associated with the presumption of innocence of the party so as plea of Alibi. By producing an alibi, a person introduces a reasonable doubt in the mind of the court that he/she was not there at that time when the offence has been committed by reinforcing the presumption of innocence.
  • Right to fair trial incorporates the right of the defendant to present a defence for him. Alibi is a legitimate yet widely acceptable and legal defence strategy to defend himself.
  • By denying the defendant's opportunity to claim Alibi is the violation of the right to fair trial of the accused.
  • Doctrine of plea of Alibi certifies that all the relevant facts, evidences along with every potential evidence is considered in the court of law is to promote a full and fair legal process.
  • When a person is allowed for plea of alibi, it helps to prevent the wrongful conviction by providing a remedy for ensuring the defendant's claim of his innocence.

So, plea of Alibi is naturally and inherently connected to the right to fair trial by producing a technique to the defendant to take the exception of the prosecution's case by continuing the presumption of innocence and guarantees an extensive yet fair legal process.

Plea of alibi is one of the basic yet fundamental component of criminal justice system and it plays a pivotal role in preserving the rights of accused.

By this research it has been pin pointed that there are a lot of complexities and significance in this defence. It has also been recognized that plea of alibi not only lends a hand to the accused to signify his freedom from blame but also serves as a look over on the capacity of another party to prove the case on the other side of a reasonable doubt.

The examination of this paper throws lights on various opportunities which are associated with plea of alibi. It also provides meaningful insights to the ways in which plea of Alibi ejects with different legal system and cultures.

Furthermore, plea of alibi always remains as a cornerstone of Indian justice system by reflecting to the commitment of Indian constitution to safeguard the rights of the accused by maintaining the integrity of the legal procedure.

  1. Lakhan singh @pappu v The state of NCT of Delhi
  2. AIR 1984 SC 454
  3. Sahabuddin and anr vs state of Assam, 2010
  4. 2003 Cr L J 2536(sc)

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Sushree Sangita Panda
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