It is the duty of the public prosecutor to prove the whole case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt. In other words, the ‘burden of proof’ is on the state. The accused is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty.
It is not enough for the prosecutor to provide circumstantial evidence to prove some fact in the case. If there is one hole in the prosecution story or if there is one missing link in the chain of events which cannot be explained, the whole charge falls.
Usually the defence tries to punch such a hole somewhere in the police version. If the defence succeeds in it, the accused can be sure of being acquitted.
This is because the law would let ten guilty persons escape but would not let one innocent suffer.
Arthur Koestler once stated that even if the court is 95 percent sure that a person is guilty, an average of 95 percent certainty means, according to the law of averages, that every twentieth man convicted on circumstantial evidence is a victim of miscarriage of justice.
If circumstantial evidence is to be used to prove a crime, it must lead only to one guilty explanation and not to any other alternative possibilities.
Elements of Crime:
The prosecutor must prove two things before an offender could be held guilty by the court. There are: a guilty mind, and a guilty act. Both these must exist together. However, the IPC lists cases in which a person is exempted from criminal responsibility. There are some of the exceptions.
A person who makes a mistake of fact is exempted from criminal responsibility. But the mistake must be reasonable. Firstly, a person cannot say that he thrust a knife into another believing that the knife had magical powers and it would cure the other person of an incurable disease.
Now can a thief say that he took gold ornaments believing from to be silver? Secondly, a mistake of law is not exempted.
If a person is found with equipment to counterfeit coins, he cannot excuse himself by claming that he thought that possession of such equipments was legal. But he can argue that he did not know the equipments were for counterfeiting coins.
If an act is done under duress, it is exempted from criminal liability. For example, a smith compelled to take his tools and force th door of a house for dacoits to enter and loot it is not committing an offence.
If an act is done in the exercise of private defence, it cannot be a crime. Every person has a right to defend his own and another’s body and to protect property whether it is his or another’s.
The right to self-defence may extend even to kill a person if the situation warrants it, like an assault to commit rape, abduct or kidnap, in the case of robbery or house-breaking at night.
But this right should not be used excessively. A person who catches a pick-pocket in the act cannot cause grievous hurt to the offender on the excuse of private defence.
A person incapable of understanding the consequences of an act, like child below seven years, or person of unsound mind, or a drunken man, cannot commit an offence. A drunken man is exempted only if he was given the liquor without knowledge or against his will.
A crime may be committed by one person or by more than one, each one contributing to it in varying degrees. If two persons murder a man, one holding the victim and the other plunging the knife, both are principals in a crime.
But if a third person only stands by and encourages them, he is an abettor. A person who instigates or aids crime is also an offender.
It is not necessary that the crime should be committed. If Chotu instigates Laloo to murder a woman, and Lalloo refuses, still Chotu is guilty of abetment. Since abetment is an offence, abetment of an abetment is also an offence.
When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to e done, an illegal act, such agreement is a criminal conspiracy.
An agreement to do an act which is not illegal by illegal means is also criminal conspiracy. Mere agreement constitutes Crime. It is not necessary to commit the Crime.