Supreme Court on Principles Regarding the Plea of Alibi

Plea of alibi is a defence where an accused asserts they were at a distant location during a crime, making their involvement highly unlikely.

The Latin word alibi means “elsewhere” and that word is used for convenience when an accused takes recourse to a defence line that when the occurrence took place he was so far away from the place of occurrence that it is extremely improbable that he would have participated in the crime.

The Indian judiciary treats it as an evidence rule, not under IPC’s General Exceptions. The prosecution must first establish presence and participation before an alibi is considered. The defendant bears the burden of proving it with stringent evidence to wholly negate their presence at the crime scene. (Supreme Court, Binay Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar)

The principles regarding the plea of alibi, as can be appreciated from the various decisions of this Court, are:

19.1 It is not part of the General Exceptions under the IPC and is instead a rule of evidence under Section 11 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

19.2 This plea being taken does not lessen the burden of the prosecution to prove that the accused was present at the scene of the crime and had participated therein.

19.3 Such plea is only to be considered subsequent to the prosecution having discharged, satisfactorily, its burden.

19.4 The burden to establish the plea is on the person taking such a plea. The same must be achieved by leading cogent and satisfactory evidence.

19.5 It is required to be proved with certainty so as to completely exclude the possibility of the presence of the accused at the spot of the crime. In other words, a standard of ‘strict scrutiny’ is required when such a plea is taken.

Supreme Court
Binay Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar (1997) 1 SCC 283