Is Circumstantial Evidence Enough to Prove A Person Guilty?

Evidence plays a vital role in the criminal justice system. It is considered as the whole and sole of the system because every action of the judges depends on evidence.

There are several types of evidence mentioned under the Indian evidence act, 1872. Some of them are oral evidence, documentary evidence, Direct evidence, indirect evidence, etc.

The conviction of any defendant depends upon the evidence presented by the prosecution side. In cases where evidence directly leads to the occurrence of crime then it becomes easier for the judge to make a conviction. On the other hand, there comes a situation where the evidence does not lead to the occurrence of crime but the certain situation does then the decision-making bodies face difficulties in delivering justice.

Circumstantial evidence is evidence which strongly suggests something but does not exactly prove it. On the other hand, it relies on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact which requires some reasoning or inference in order to prove a fact.

For example, A, B, and C are Flatmates. Someday A listen some Noise coming from B’s and C’s room and when A arrived there he sees B lying on the floor and bleeding out and C has a knife in his hand in this case A didn’t see C hurting B but he was holding a knife and circumstances are saying that C hurt B.

There are popular misconceptions surrounding the validity of circumstantial evidence, as many people believe it is not as convincing as direct evidence. In reality, circumstantial evidence is an important tool used by prosecutors to convict people. The conviction can be made on circumstantial evidence alone because it can be derived from a variety of sources, can be used to lay a foundation of belief, and backed up by witness testimony and direct evidence for credibility.

Circumstantial evidence came into the picture for the first time in English common law in the year 1730-1740. The first conviction made on the basis of circumstantial evidence was Scott Peterson murder conviction case, in this case, he was convicted for the murder of his wife and on the other hand Friends and family said they didn’t believe Scott would murder his wife, but he eventually became a suspect, as he began giving police inconsistent information. In January, police discovered that Scott had engaged in several affairs, the most recent being with a woman named Amber Frey. Frey approached police after learning Scott was married to the missing pregnant woman. Soon after, police taped phone calls between Frey and Scott in hopes they would hear a confession. The only thing they learned from the taped conversations was that Scott had planned on taking Frey out of the country on vacation, only days after Laci went missing.

Laci’s body, and the body of a fetus, were found in April of 2003, washed up on shore in Richmond, California. This was the same shoreline where Scott reported going fishing the day the Laci disappeared. After discovering the bodies, police searched Scott’s truck, his boat, and his home, as well as the area where they believed Laci’s body had been dumped, but nothing turned up.

On April 18, 2003, San Diego police arrested Scott. He had altered his looks and had belongings on him that led police to believe he would flee the country. The media closely followed the subsequent murder trial, in which there was virtually no direct evidence, but a long string of circumstantial evidence pointing to Scott Peterson’s guilt. Such evidence included the inconsistencies in Scott’s stories, his admitted affair with Frey, the fact that he sold Laci’s car soon after she disappeared, that he had expressed an interest in selling the house right away, and a 6-inch long, dark hair found on a pair of pliers located in his boat.

Although the defense attempted to explain away each piece of circumstantial evidence, the jury was convinced that Scott Peterson had murdered his wife and unborn child. Peterson received the death penalty and awaits execution in California’s San Quentin prison.

On the other hand in India in the famous case of Nalini, The judge observed that the rule governing circumstantial evidence is that each and every incriminating situation must be clearly established by reliable evidence and the circumstances must prove the chain of events from which the only guilt of accused should be drawn.

In the other landmark judgment of Bodh raj v state of Jammu & Kashmir, the court held that circumstantial evidence can be the sole basis of conviction after the fulfillment of these conditions.

  1. The circumstances must be fully proved from which the guilt is established.
  2. All the facts must be consistent with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused.
  3. It should be of conclusive nature.

Similarly in Priyadarshani Matto’s murder case, the defendant was held not guilty by the session judge due to lack of direct evidence and later on The Delhi high court said that overall analysis of the circumstances proved beyond doubt and the evidence is unimpeachable that Singh has committed rape and murder. There are a plethora of cases present in India in which convictions are made on circumstantial evidence only.

On the whole, we can say that there is a popular misconception about circumstantial evidence being less valid or less important than direct evidence which is not fully true direct evidence is generally considered more powerful but successful criminal prosecution often relies on circumstantial evidence. As it was said that.

Man can lie, women can lie but circumstances won’t.

This Article is Authored by Priyadarshan Kumar, 3rd Year B.A. LL.B, Student of Jemtec School of Law Ip University.

Also Read – Forensic Significance of Physical Evidences in Crime Scene Investigation.

Law Corner

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