Question: Who is an accomplice? Describe the relevancy- of Evidence of an accomplice support your answer with the help of statutory provisions also. [U.P.P.S.C.J. 2016, U.P.C.J. 1987, 2018] Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Who is an accomplice? Describe the relevancy- of Evidence of an accomplice support your answer with the help of… Read More »

Question: Who is an accomplice? Describe the relevancy- of Evidence of an accomplice support your answer with the help of statutory provisions also. [U.P.P.S.C.J. 2016, U.P.C.J. 1987, 2018] Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Who is an accomplice? Describe the relevancy- of Evidence of an accomplice support your answer with the help of statutory provisions also. [U.P.P.S.C.J. 2016, U.P.C.J. 1987, 2018]] Answer The definition of an accomplice is not given in the...

Question: Who is an accomplice? Describe the relevancy- of Evidence of an accomplice support your answer with the help of statutory provisions also. [U.P.P.S.C.J. 2016, U.P.C.J. 1987, 2018]

Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Who is an accomplice? Describe the relevancy- of Evidence of an accomplice support your answer with the help of statutory provisions also. [U.P.P.S.C.J. 2016, U.P.C.J. 1987, 2018]]

Answer

The definition of an accomplice is not given in the Evidence Act 1872. Accomplices are criminals who take part in the commission of a crime.

The definition of the term was given in the case of R.K. Dalmia v. Delhi Admin [AIR 1962 SC 1821], in that case, it was said that an accomplice is a person who is a particeps criminal, except where he was a receiver of stolen property or an accomplice in a previous similar offence committed by the accused when evidence of the accused having committed crimes of identical type on other occasions was admissible to prove the system and intent of the accused committing the offence charged.

A person cannot be said to be an accomplice unless he consciously does the crime with the accused for which he could be convicted for the criminal act. A person who did not take part in the offence but was just present at the time of the commission of the crime and did not make any attempt in order to report about the commission of the crime nor did he make any attempt to prevent the crime cannot be said to be an accomplice to the crime.

The type of accessories, based on their time of participation in the crime makes them falls into mainly three categories i.e.: Principals in the first and second degree, Accessories before the fact, and Accessories after the fact.

Principals in the first and second degree

A principal of the first degree is one who actually commits the crime. A principal of the second degree is a person who is present and assists in the perpetration of the crime. These persons are undoubtedly under all the circumstances accomplices.

Accessories before the fact

All accessories before the fact who participated in the crime are accomplices to the crime. But if their participation is only to the extent of knowledge that the crime will be committed then they will not be called as accomplices to the crime. For being an accomplice to the crime a person has to take part in the same offence as that of the accused.

In the case of Dhanapati De v. Emperor [ILR (1944) 2 Cal 312], the court said that a witness who helped in the commission of a crime by keeping a lookout whether police are approaching or not is said to be an accomplice.

Accessories after the fact

For a person to be the accessory after the fact, the following three things are necessary as mentioned in the judgement of State of Bihar v. Srilal Kejriwal [AIR 1960 Pat 459]

  1. the felony must be complete;
  2. the accessory must have knowledge that the principal committed the felony; and
  3. the accessory must harbour or assist the principal felon.

Relevancy of evidence of an Accomplice

Section 133 of the evidence act states that “An accomplice shall be a competent witness against an accused person, and a conviction is not illegal merely because it proceeds upon the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice.”

Section 114 illustration (b) of the Indian evidence act states that an accomplice is unworthy of evidence unless corroborated in material particulars. This section states that it is not illegal if the conviction is done even without corroboration.

The reason for not trusting the testimony or evidence given by an accomplice is the nature of the evidence. The evidence by an accomplice is already tainted since:

  1. he is a person of low character who has participated in a crime and is therefore likely to have no regard to the sanctity of his oath;
  2. he is interested in falsely destroying the facts in order to shift the guilt from himself; and
  3. that he has the inducement of either a promised or implied pardon for his own part in the crime and is therefore likely to be biased in favour of the prosecution.

In the case of Queen Empress v. Chagan Dayaram [ILR (1890) 14 Bom], the Bombay high court observed that “The rule in Section 114 and that in Section 133 is part of one subject and neither section is to be ignored in the exercise of judicial discretion. The illus. (b) of section 133 is, however, the rule, and when it is departed from, the court could show, or it should appear, that the circumstances justify the exceptional treatment of the case.”

A statement to this effect to be found in the judgment of Supreme Court in Dagdu v. State of Maharashtra [(1977) 3 SCC 68]

“There is no antithesis between Section 133 and illustration (b) to Section 114 because the illustration only says that the court ‘may’ presume a certain state of affairs. It does not seek to raise a conclusive and irrebuttable presumption.

Reading the two together the position which emerges is that though an accomplice is a competent witness and though a conviction may lawfully rest on his uncorroborated testimony yet the court is entitled to presume and may indeed be justified in presuming that no reliance can be placed on the evidence of an accomplice unless that evidence is corroborated in material particulars, by which it meant that there has to be some independent evidence tending to incriminate the particular accused in the commission of the crime.

It is hazardous, as a matter of prudence, to proceed upon the evidence of a self-confessed criminal, who, in so far as an approver is concerned has to testify in terms of the pardon tendered to him.”

Reading section 133 and Illustration (b) to section 114 of the Evidence Act, 1872 together, the courts in India have held that while it is not illegal to act upon the uncorroborated testimony of the accomplice, the rule of prudence so universally followed has to amount to the rule of law, that it is unsafe to act on the evidence of an accomplice unless it is corroborated in material aspects, so as to implicate the accused.

The reasons for requiring corroboration of the testimony of an accomplice are that an accomplice is likely to swear falsely in order to shift the guilt from himself and that he is an immoral person being a participator in crime who may not have any regard to any sanction of the oath and in the case of an approver, on his own admission, he is a criminal who gives evidence under a promise of pardon and supports the prosecution with the hope of getting his freedom.


Important Mains Questions Series for Judiciary, APO & University Exams

  1. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-I
  2. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-II
  3. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-III
  4. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-IV
  5. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-V
  6. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-VI
  7. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-VII
  8. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-VIII
  9. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-IX
  10. Law of Evidence Mains Questions Series Part-X
Updated On 2021-10-26T06:02:39+05:30
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