Alibi: A riddle between prosecution and accused


Alibi, a Latin word which means elsewhere. It is being used by the accused when he takes the plea that he was elsewhere during the commission of the offence. In such a situation the prosecution has to discharge the burden satisfactorily. Once he is successful in discharging the burden then it is incumbent on the accused to prove it with absolute certainly. It is not an exception envisaged in the IPC or any other law. Rather, It is a rule of evidence recognized by Section 11 of the Evidence Act which states that facts inconsistent with fact in issue are relevant. The burden of proof lies on accused under section 103 of this Act. The plea of alibi has to be taken at the earliest opportunity and it needs to be proved to the satisfaction of the court. The time or place are not material factors and if that person succeeds in establishing that plea technically called the plea of alibi, he will be entitled to an acquittal.

The circumstance under which the plea can be raised

To make it effective, it is always good to make the plea at the earliest possible time and it could be at the stage of framing of charge or preliminary hearing. However, in some jurisdictions, there may be a requirement that the accused disclose a defence prior to the trial. On the contrary, jurists in other jurisdictions are of the opinion that the early disclosure of alibis is unfair and possibly it can be unconstitutional.

The situation when false plea had been raised

When the accused had fails to prove it, then it could not be held that the accused was present at the crime scene but the prosecution needs to prove it by the positive evidence. Thus the mere failure on the part of the accused to establish the plea, shall not lead to an inference that the accused was present at the scene of occurrence. In Sahabuddin and Ors. vs. State of Assam,[1] it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India that “Once, the Court disbelieves the plea of alibi and the accused does not give any explanation in his statement Under Section 313 Code of Criminal Procedure, the court is entitled to draw adverse inference against the accused”.

On whom the burden of proof lies

Once the accused has taken the plea of alibi, as per the Evidence Act, the onus lies on the accused to establish that he was at somewhere else and not at the place where the crime was committed.[2] The accused has to take care of the fact that the defense of alibi taken by him/her is proved with certainty in order to totally exclude the possibility of his presence at the place of occurrence of crime.[3]

In Nirmal Singh and Ors. vs. State of Haryana[4],Court held that “The plea of alibi is a double-edged weapon. In case the accused fails to prove the plea of alibi, his presence at the spot cannot be ruled out”. But it doesn’t mean that if the accused fails to prove his plea then such failure would result in the success of the case of the prosecution as the prosecution will have to prove his case independently beyond reasonable doubt.[5]


In a nutshell, it can be said that the accused as well as the prosecution needs to prove their sides. The accused needs to prove their plea because in Indian laws, the person is presumed to be innocent until the guilt has not been proved. Mere failure on the accused part can’t validate the prosecution contention but the prosecution has to prove that the accused had been present when the offense has been committed.

[1] MANU/SC/1097/2012 : (2012)13SCC213


[2] Section 103 of Indian Evidence Act; Satya Vir vs. State (1958) AIR 746 (All)

[3] Shaikh Sattar v. State of Maharashtra MANU/SC/0649/2010 : (2010) 8 SCC 430

[4] 11.04.2019 – PHHC) : MANU/PH/0340/2019

[5]  ibid

Author: Prity Kumari,
Central University of South Bihar, 2nd year

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