Plea of Alibi : Detailed Analysis

Plea of Alibi

Author : Adv. Binay Adhikari

The term ‘Alibi’ is a Latin word which means ‘elsewhere’ or ‘somewhere else’. In criminal proceedings alibi is used as a form of defence by the accused against the commission of an alleged offence. When an accused makes a plea of alibi in a court he or she attempts to prove that he or she was in some other place at the time the alleged offence was committed. In general, a plea of alibi implies that the accused was physically not present at the scene and time of the commission of an offence due to the reason that he was present somewhere else.

Definition of Plea of Alibi:

Duhaime’s Law Dictionary defines Alibi as a defence to a criminal charge to the effect that the accused was elsewhere than at the scene of the alleged crime.

The Criminal Law Deskbook of Criminal Procedure states: Alibi is different from all other defences; it is based upon the premise that the defendant is truly innocent.

Essentials of Plea of Alibi:

Precisely, to essential components involves the disclosure of an alibi – adequateness, and timeliness. In general, some other factors have to adhere as well:

  • There must be an alleged offence punishable by law.

However, it must be noted that the plea of alibi is not maintainable in all the cases. Some of them are as under:

  1. This plea is not maintainable in tort. For instance in a defamation suit, contributory negligence cases.
  2. A plea of alibi is not applicable in matrimonial cases. For instance, suit for maintenance, suit for divorce.
  3. In some jurisdictions, a plea of alibi operates as an exception to the Right of Silence. Example of Canadian Common Law.
  • The person making the plea of alibi must be an accused in that offence.
  • Alibi is a plea of defence (in respect of innocence of accused) by which the accused suggests to the court that he was somewhere else at the time of the commission of the alleged offence.
  • The plea must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that it was impossible for the accused to be physically present at the scene of the offence.
  • The plea must be backed by evidence supporting the claim of the accused.

Who may take a plea of alibi?

As a general rule, a person taking a plea of alibi must be accused of an alleged offence. The accused must plead his presence elsewhere at the time of the commission of the alleged offence.

When to raise the plea of alibi:

In order for a plea of alibi to be effective, it is always wise to make the plea at the earliest possible time in the initial stage of a case; this stage 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 have held an opinion that the mandatory early disclosure of alibis is unfair, possibly even unconstitutional.

Sections dealing with Plea of Alibi:

Plea of alibi is a rule of evidence recognized under Section 11 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

“When facts not otherwise relevant become relevant: facts otherwise not relevant are relevant

  1. If they are inconsistent with any fact in issue or relevant fact;
  2. If by themselves or in connection with other facts they make the existence or non-existence of any fact in issue all relevant fact highly probable or improbable.”

Further, Section 103 of the Evidence Act provides for Burden of proof as to a particular fact which states that the burden of proof as to any particular fact lies on that person who wishes the Court to believe in its existence unless it is provided by any law that the proof of that fact shall lie on any particular person.

Example: the question is, whether A committed a crime at Calcutta on a certain day. The fact that, on that day, he was in New Delhi is relevant.