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Practice Area

01. Criminal Law



Circumstantial evidence means the evidence of circumstances and is
sometimes referred to presumptive evidence.

Four things essential to prove guilt by circumstantial evidence:


1)  That the circumstances from which guilt is established must be fully proved.

2)  That all the facts must be consistent with the hypothesis of guilt of accused.

3)  That the circumstances must be of a conclusive nature and tendency.

4)  That the circumstances should, to a moral certainty, actually exclude every hypothesis except the one                       proposed to be proved.


           5)  In other words circumstantial evidence must be both exclusive and conclusive, i.e., it must exclude the                                hypothesis of  innocence of the accused and must conclusively establish his guilt. The circumstantial evidence                  should not only be  consistent with the guilt of the accused and inconsistent with his innocence.

In SHARAD BIRDHICHAND SARDA VS STATE OF MAHARASHTRA, a three-judge bench has laid down five golden principles which constitute the “Panchsheel” in respect of a case based on circumstantial evidence:


   1. The circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawnshould be fully established.

   2. The facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused that is to               say should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty.

   3. The circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency.

   4. They should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved.

  5. There must be a chain of evidence so complete as not leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion                    consistent  with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have            been done by the  accused.

Value of Circumstantial Evidence
Ordinarily, circumstantial evidence cannot be regarded as satisfactory as direct evidence, but sometimes circumstantial evidence may be more reliable than direct evidence nevertheless, it should be of a conclusive character and must point towards guilt. Witnesses may lie but circumstances cannot. It is true that the testimony of witnesses may not be credible in some cases.
Therefore, facts are provable not only by witnesses but also by circumstances.

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