Facts showing the State of Mind

By | January 16, 2020
Facts showing the State of Mind

Certain offences are culpable on the basis of the state of mind of the accused. In order to prove such offences, certain facts which show the existence of a particular state of mind are relevant and admissible as evidence. Section 14 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, embodies this particular rule. It reads as follows, “Facts showing the existence of any state of mind such as intention, knowledge, good faith, negligence, rashness, ill-will or good-will towards any particular person, or showing the existence of any state of body or bodily feeling are relevant, when the existence of any such state of mind or body or bodily feeling, is in issue or relevant.

Explanation 1. –– A fact relevant as showing the existence of a relevant state of mind must show that the state of mind exists, not generally, but in reference to the particular matter in question.

Explanation 2. –– But where, upon the trial of a person accused of an offence, the previous commission by the accused of an offence is relevant within the meaning of this section, the previous conviction of such person shall also be a relevant fact.” Let us discuss its scope and provisions in further detail.

Scope

This section is applicable in cases where the offence alleged to have been committed by the accused is culpable on the basis of the state of mind or feeling of the accused. This includes offences such as slander, false imprisonment, etc. in which malice is the primary requirement for culpability. However, the applicability of the section must not be extended to those cases which are supposed to be decided upon actual facts and not any state of mind or bodily feeling. For instance, in order to prove that a man has committed an offence such as that of theft on one occasion, the fact that he committed similar offences on other occasions is not relevant.[1]

In Sardul Singh Caveeshar v. State of Bombay,[2] the Supreme Court held that the acts, writings and statements of an individual co-conspirator may be used by the prosecution under this section to rebut a probable defence that the participation of the co-conspirator was innocent. Thus, the section may also be invoked when the state of mind has not become a fact in issue or relevant fact but there is high probability of it being such a fact in the course of the proceedings of the case.

Specific state of mind

Per Explanation 1 to the section, the evidence must be pertaining to the specific state of mind that pertains to the case at hand and not that of general reputation. Thus, anything that has a distinct and immediate connection to the case at hand is admissible.[3] In R v. B, [4] the accused was convicted of assaulting his grandsons on the basis of pornographic magazines found in his possession and his sexual proclivities. The subsequent appeal filed by him was allowed and the Court observed that the evidence of pornographic magazines and the subsequent cross-examination of the accused showed a mere tendency and had no probative value due to which it should not have been admitted as evidence in the first place.

Previous Convictions

Per Explanation 2 to the section, in a case where the previous commission of an offence is relevant, the fact that the accused was previously convicted for the said offence would be relevant under the section. However, the question of previous convictions being used in subsequent cases is often debated under various provisions of the Evidence Act. For instance, in Emperor v. Alloomiya Husan,[5] the accused was arrested and convicted under the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act for keeping a common gaming house. The conviction by the Magistrate was based upon the fact that the accused was previously convicted on multiple occasions under the Gambling Act.  Upon appeal, the decision was upheld and the fact pertaining to previous convictions was held to be relevant and admissible under section 14 of the Evidence Act.

The legality of the decision is often doubted by many who argue that the previous conviction is simply evidence showing bad character and is therefore inadmissible under section 54 of the Evidence Act. Thus, the relevancy of previous convictions under section 14 might conflict, on certain occasions, with the rules of exclusion of evidence showing bad character under section 54.

Conclusion

The proof of the existence of a particular state of mind is of extreme importance in certain cases. The overall scope of the section extends beyond questions of previous convictions. However, the section is mostly called for interpretation in cases where it is tendered that the previous conviction of the accused is relevant in deciding upon the case at hand. This might be because the other aspects of the section are already covered by the rest of the provisions of the Evidence Act.


References

[1] Empress v. M.J. Vyapoory Moodeliar, (1881) 6 Cal 655, 659, 660; Gandhi v. The King, (1941) Ran 566.

[2] (1958) SCR 161.

[3] Emperor v. Debendra Prasad, (1909) 36 Cal 573.

[4] R v. B (RA) [1997] 2 Cr App R 88.

[5] (1903) 28 Bom 129: 5 Bom LR 805.


  1. The Law of Evidence: An Introduction
  2. When Facts not otherwise Relevant become Relevant

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