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Benefit of doubt – Principle

June 18, 2021

Introduction: “Criminal proceedings” means a criminal enquiry or a trial before a court and the “accused” means a person actually arraigned, that is, put on a trial, Laxmipat Choraria v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1968 SC 938: (1968) 2 SCR 624: 1968 Cri LJ 1124. The word ‘accused’ denotes different meanings, sometimes the said word is employed to denote a person arrested, sometimes a person against whom there is an accusation, but who is yet not put on trial and sometimes to denote a person on trial and so on, Directorate of Enforcement v. Deepak Mahajan(1994) 3 SCC 440: 1994 SCC (Cri) 785. 2. The expression “accused person” describe the person against whom evidence is sought to be led in a criminal proceeding, State of U.P. v. Deoman Upadhyaya, AIR 1960 SC 1125: (1961) 1 SCR 14: 1960 Cri LJ 1504. Trial means act of proving or judicial examination or determination of the issues including its own jurisdiction or authority in accordance with law or adjudging guilt or innocence of the accused including all steps necessary thereto, Union of India v. Maj. Gen. Madan Lal Yadav(1996) 4 SCC 127. The use of the word “doubt” in a reference is also not a constitutional command or mandate. Needless to emphasise that the expression “doubt”, which refers to a state of uncertainty, may be with regard to a fact or a principle. Natural Resources Allocation, In re, Special Reference No. 1 of 2012(2012) 10 SCC 1.

Benefit of doubt:-

If the said evidence really raises a reasonable doubt in the mind of the court regarding the participation in the crime by the first respondent, that doubt must be resolved in his favour. It was quoted in Himachal Pradesh Administration v. Om Prakash, 1972 SCR (2) 765: “The benefit of doubt to which the accused is entitled is reasonable doubt — the doubt which rational thinking men will reasonably, honestly and conscientiously entertain and not the doubt of a timid mind which fights shy — though unwittingly it may be — or is afraid of the logical consequences, if that benefit was not given; or as one great Judge said it is ‘not the doubt of a vacillating mind that has not the moral courage to decide but shelters itself in a vain and idle skepticism,” State of U.P. v. Iftikhar Khan(1973) 1 SCC 512.

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