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Subject - Law of Evidence

Topic - E VIDENCE O F
A CCOMPLICE

P R O J E C T S U B M I TT E D T O : Ms. Neetu
(Faculty of
LAW )

P R O J E C T S U B M I TT E D B Y : Atul
PAL
ROLL NO.
38
E V I D E N C E O F A C C O M P L I C E : L AW O F E V I D E N C E

VII
SEMESTER, 4nd YEAR
ON THE 27TH
OF September 2010

TABLE OF CONTENTS

EVIDENCE OF ACCOMPLICE : AN INTRODUCTION


THE KNOT
ACCOMPLICE
WHAT IS AN ACCOMPLICE
CATEGORIES OF ACCOMPLICE
1. Principal offender of first degree and second degree
2. Accessories before the facts
3. Accessories after the facts
4. Reliance at the testimony of accomplice
5. Trap and decoy witness and approver
6. Legitimacy of witness
EVIDENCE OF AN APPROVER AND THE CONFESSION OF THE CO- ACCUSED
NATURE OF CORROBORATION
EVIDENCE OF ACCOMPLICE IN CRIME OF RAPE
EVIDENCE OF ACCOMPLICE OF CRIME OF MURDER
EVIDENCE OF ACCOMPLICE AND CONFESSION OF AN ACCUSED
CONFESSIONS OF NALINI, SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR RAJIV
GANDHIS ASSASSINATION
CONCLUSSION
BIBLIOGRAPHY
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EVIDENCE OF ACCOMPLICE: AN
INTRODUCTION

Accomplices are usually interested and always infamous witness and whose testimony is
admitted from necessity, it being always impossible without having recourses to such
evidence to bring up the principal offenders to justice
- Lord Taylor (A Treatise on the law of Evidence)1

An accomplice means a person who has taken part in the commission of a crime. When
an offence is committed by more then more person in concert, every one participating in
its commission is an accomplice. Conspirators lay their plot in secret, in execute it
ruthlessly and do not leave much evidence behind. Often, therefore the police has to
select one of them for the purpose of being converted into a witness. He is pardoned
subject to the condition that he will give evidence against his former partners in the
crime. He is then known as an accomplice, turned witness or approver. He appears as a
witness for the prosecution against the accused person with whom he acted in the
commission of the crime.
The Indian Evidence Act, through section 133 categorically that an accomplice is a
competent witness and the court can convict on the basis of such evidence and the
conviction will not be illegal simply because it proceeds upon the uncorroborated
testimony of an accomplice. The other dealing with the matter is in the illustration (b) to
sec.114 of the aforementioned Act, which says that the Court may presume that an
Accomplice is unworthy of credit unless corroborated in material particulars.
The Supreme Court, dealing with sec.133 and sec.114, illustration(b) observed there is
no antithesis between sec.133 and illustration (b) to sec.114 of the Evidence Act, because
the section only says that the court may presume a certain state of affairs. It does not
seek to raise a conclusive and irrefutable presumption. It is hazardous, as a matter of
prudence, to proceed upon the evidence of a self-confessed, who, so far as n approver is
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1
(1931) Vol 1 Para 967.

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concerned, has to testify in the terms of pardon tendered to him. The risk involved in
convicting the accused on the testimony of an accomplice, unless it is corroborated
immaterial particulars, is so real and patent that what during the early development of law
was felt to be a matter of prudence has been elevated by judicial experience into a
requirement of law. It is necessary to understand what was hardened into the rule of law
is not that this conviction is illegal, if it proceeds upon the uncorroborated testimony of
an accomplice but that the rule of corroboration must be present to the mind of the judge
and that corroboration may be dispensed with only if peculiar circumstances of a case
make it safe to dispense with it. The combined effect of section 133 and 114 illustration
(b) may be stated as follows: according to the former which is rule of law, an
accomplice is competent to give evidence and according to the latter which is a rule of
practice, it is almost always unsafe to convict upon his testimony alone. Therefore,
though, the conviction an accused on the testimony of an accomplice cant be said to be
illegal, the courts will as a matter of practice not accept the evidence of such a witness
without corroboration in material particulars.

THE KNOT

Illustration (b) of section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act says that, an Accomplice is
unworthy of credit unless he is corroborated in material particulars. It means that an
Accomplice is not to be believed unless he is corroborated in material particulars. It is a
rule of prudence and practice which practically amounts to a rule of law that the evidence
of an Accomplice need not be acted upon unless it is corroborated as against the
particulars used in material respects.2 The principal reason for holding that an
Accomplice is unworthy of credit are as follows:
(a) An Accomplice is a participator in a crime and is consequently an immoral
person, and therefore he is likely to disregard the sanctity of oath.
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2
Emperor V. Mataprasad (1982) 45 Bom LR 64, See also; K.Hussain V. State of T.N, AIR 2005 SC
128[Para 23]

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(b) The Accomplice is likely to state falsely in order to shift the fault from his
shoulders.

He gives evidence under the promise of pardon and on the condition that if he disclosed
all he knows against those with whom he committed the crime and this hope may load
him to favor the prosecution. Although as a matter of law corroboration is not necessary
to convict an accused person on the evidence of an Accomplice, an Accomplice should,
as a rule, be presumed to be unworthy of credit, unless he is corroborated. 3 The
confession of a co-accused cant be used to corroborate the evidence of an Accomplice. 4
The corroboration in the case of an Accomplice must point to the identification of the
person charged with the particular fact with which the direct evidence connects him. 5
Where the evidence of an Accomplice is not totally unapproved by re-assuring
circumstances, the accused could be convicted on the basis of such evidence. 6 Where the
testimony of the approver was corroborated in respect of only the first accused and not in
respect of sound accused, conviction of the former was upheld but the later was given
benefit of doubt.7
Although illustration (b) provides that the court may presume that the evidence of an
Accomplice is unworthy of credit unless corroborated, may is not must and no
decision of the court can make it must. The court is not obliged to hold that he is
unworthy of credit. It ultimately depends upon the courts view as to the credibility of
evidence rendered by an Accomplice.8 One Accomplice cannot corroborate another.
However, if several Accomplices simultaneously and without previous concert give a
consistent account of the crime implicating the accused, the court may act to the several.
Statements as corroborating each other, but it must be established that the several
statements of the Accomplices were given independently and without any previous
concert.9 It is now well settled that the minimum amount of corroboration required to
make it safe to act on the testimony of an approver is that the evidence must be

3
Baburao Sahu V. King AIR 1999 PC 257
4
Provincial Govt.V Raghuram AIR (1942) Ng 799
5
Emperor V. Kalwa AIR (1926) 98 ALL 909.
6
State of T.N V. Suresh AIR 1998 SC 1044
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7
Gajalaxmi V. State of T.N. 1997 5 SCC .
8
K.Husain V. State of T.N (2005) 1 SCC 237.
9
Hussain Umma V. Dalipsinghji, AIR 1970 SC 45.

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corroborated not only as to the corpus delicti but also as to the identity of the accused
person.
Corroboration need not be direct evidence that the accused committed the crime, it is
sufficient even though it is mere circumstantial evidence of his connection with the
crime10
Where the Accomplice is not a criminal but a spy or informer his evidence doesnt
require any corroboration.11 In point of law an Accomplice is a competent witness against
an accused person. But great caution in weighing his testimony is dictated by prudence
and reason. Unless the case is very exceptional one, an evidence of Accomplice should
not be relied and accepted as being sufficient.12

ACCOMPLICE

An accomplice is a person who along with another or others has taken some part-large or
small-in the commission of the crime. It is a general term and is used to designate the
person whom the police for the prosecution. If he is a person induced by the police to
take part in the crime for the purpose of collecting evidence against others, he is called a
trap witness. If he is arrested and thereafter given a pardon, he is referred to as an
approver. That an accomplice, using the term in its general sense to include trap-
witnesses and approvers is a competent witness is provided for by section 133. It says:
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.

In reference to the requirements of corroboration, the word used is may and not must,
and no decision of court can make it must .It ultimately depends upon courts view as to
10
Tribhuvan Nath V. State of Maharashtra AIR 1973 SC 950
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11
C.R.Mehta V. State of Maharashtra 1993 CRlj 2863 (Bom).
12
S.C Bihari V. State of Bihar 1994 CrLJ 327 [Para 93].

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the credibility of evidence tendered by an accomplice .If it is found credible and cogent,
the court can record conviction on its basis even if uncorroborated .Corroboration in
material particulars means that there should be some additional or independent evidence;
(a) Rendering it probable that the story revealed by the accomplice is true and it is
reasonably safe to act upon it;
(b) Identifying the accused as one of those, or among those, who committed the offence?
(c) Showing the circumstantial evidence of his connection with the crime, though it may
not be direct evidence; and
(d) Ordinarily the testimony of one accomplice should not be sufficient to corroborate
that of the other.13

W H AT I S A N A C C O M P L I C E

The word accomplice has not been defined by the act. It is generally understood that an
accomplice means a guilty associates or partner in crime .An accomplice by becoming
an approver becomes a prosecution witness .An approvers evidence has to satisfy a
doubt test :
(1) His evidence must be reliable and
(2) His evidence should be sufficiently corroborated.14

An accomplice cannot corroborate himself; tainted evidence does not lose its taint by
repletion.The danger of acting on his own admission a bad character who took part in
the offence and afterwards to save himself betrayed his former associates and who had
placed himself in a position in which he can hardly fail to have a strong bias in favour of
a prosecution; the real danger is that he is telling a story which in its general outline is
true and it is easy for him to work into the story matter which is untrue. He may implicate
ten people in an offence and the story may be true in allits details as to eight of them, but
untrue as to the other two, whose names have been introduced because they are of the
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13
K.hasim v. state of T.N.,(2005).237 1 SCC 45
14
Shanker v.State of T.N 1994 CrLJ 3071

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approver. This tendency to include the innocent with the guilty is peculiarly prevalent in
India, and it is very difficult for the courts to guard against guilty safeguard against the
risk of condemning the innocent with the guilty lies in insisting on independent evidence
which in same measure implicates each accused.

An accomplice is a person who participates in the commission of the actual crime


charged against an accused. He is to be a participes criminis . There are two cases
however in which a person has been held to be an accomplice even if he is not a
participes criminis. Receivers of stolen property are taken to be accomplices of the
thieves from whom they receives goods, on a trial for theft. Accomplices in previous
similar offences committed by the accused on trial are deemed to be accomplices in the
offence for which the accused is on trial when evidence of the accused having committed
crime identical type on other occasions be admissible to prove the system and intent of
the accused in committing the offence charged. 15 A witness, who is not a guilty associates
in crime and who does not sustain such a relation to the criminal act that he could be
jointly indicated sent .A witness who only happens to be conversant with a crime or who
makes no attempt to prevent it or who does not disclose it, is not an accomplice and the
rule of practice as to corroboration does not apply to his evidence.16
There is no warrant for the position that if a man sees the perpetration of a crime and does
not give information of it to anyone else, he might well be regarded as an accomplice.17

18
The privy Council has down in Mahadeo v king ,which is a decision on appeal from
Fiji islands ,were the English law of evidence is in force ,that the evidence of an
accessory must be corroborated in some particular not only bearing upon the facts of the
crime but upon the accused implication in it. It further holds that this principle the house
of lords have again emphasized that this rule of corroboration, which was long a rule of
practice, is now virtually a rule of law. In keeping with this principle the House of lords
have again emphasized that a clear warning must be given to the jury that it is dangerous

15
RK Dalmia v delhi administration ,AIR 1962 SC 1821
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16
Dhanapati de v emperor ,1994 2 Cal 312.
17
Vemi reddy sathyanarayan reddy v state of hyedrabad 1956 Hyd 386
18
1936 38 Bom lr 1101

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to convict and not merely telling them to proceed with causation .The facts of R.v
Bagshaw 19 were virtually repeated in R v Spencer.20
In State v Muli,21 a person who is present at the commission of the crime and who is
interested is not disclosing the commission of the crime is a person who is in the position
of an accomplice.

C AT E G O R I E S O F A C C O M P L I C E

An accomplice may come under any of the categories:

(1) P R I N C I PA L O F F E N D E R O F F I R S T D E G R E E A N D
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 circumstances,
accomplice.

(2) A C C E S S O R I E S B E F O R E T H E FA C T S :
Accessories before the facts are persons who abet, incite, procure or counsel for
the Commission of a crime and they do not themselves participate in the commission of
the crime of these persons, those who counsel, incite encourage or procure the
commission of the crime are certainly accomplices . As for the persons who the fact, if
they participates in the preparation of the crime are accomplice committed they are not
participating in the commission of the same crime as the accused person in a trial are
charged.

(3) A C C E S S O R I E S A F T E R T H E FA C T S :
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19
1984 1 All er 971.
20
1985 1 All er 673.
21
AIR 1959 All 53

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Accessories after the fact are persons who receives or comfort or protect persons
who have committed the crime of felony knowing that they have committed the crime of
felony. If accessories help the accused in escaping from punishment or help him from not
being arrested, such person are known as horboures and these persons and these persons
can be accomplices because all of them are participants in the commission of the crime in
some way or the other.
If a man sees the perpetration of the crime and does not give information of it to any one
else, he might well be regarded in law as an accomplice. Such person though technically
not an accomplice, his position is not superior to that of an accomplice.

(4)R E L I A N C E A T T H E T E S T I M O N Y O F A C C O M P L I C E :
Section 133 of the evidence act lays down that an accomplice is a competent
witness and a conviction based on the sole of testimony of an accomplice is not illegal,
contrary to the provision of section 133, section 114, illustration (b) says the court may
presume that an accomplice is unworthy in material particulars.
In Emperor V. Srinivas krisna22 it has been laid down that section 133 is the only absolute
rule of law as regard the evidence of an accomplice. In Haroon Haji Abdullah v State of
Maharashtra: The Supreme court in this case held that:
The Indian Evidence Act in section 133 provides that an accomplice is a competent
witness against an accused person and that a conviction is not illegal merely because it
proceeds upon the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice .The effect of this
provision is that the court trying an accused may legally convict him on the single
evidence of an accomplice. To this there is a rider in illustration (b) to section 114 of the
act which provides that the court may presume that an accomplice is unworthy of credit
unless he is corroborated in material particulars. This cautionary provision incorporated a
rule of prudence because an accomplice who be of credit unless he is corroborated in
material particulars. This cautionary provision incorporated a rule of prudence because an
accomplice who betrays his associates is not a fair witness and it is possible that he may,
to please the prosecution, weaves false details into those which are true and his whole
story appearing true, there may be no means at hand to sever the false from that which is
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22
1950(7) bom lr 969

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true. It is for this reason that courts, before they act on accomplice evidence, insist on
corroboration in material respects as to the offence itself also implicating in some
satisfactory way however small, each accused named by the accomplice. In this way the
commission of the offence is confirmed testimony of the accomplice and the inclusion by
the accomplice of an innocent person is defeated. This rule of caution or prudence has
become so ingrained in the consideration of Accomplice evidence as to have almost the
consideration of Accomplice evidence as to have almost the standing of a rule of law. The
corroboration of evidence could be direct or circumstantial. One such circumstance may
be the making of a number of confession by the co-accused. But before even a number of
such confession can be used each such confession must inspire confidence both in its
making and when there is a single retracted confession corroborating other accomplice
evidence the caution must necessarily be still greater and the probative value smaller.

(5) T R A P A N D D E C O Y W I T N E S S A N D A P P R O V E R :
An accomplice in its general sense includes trap witness and approver. If an
accused person is arrested and there after given a pardon, he is referred to as an approver.
He is one that, confessing felony committed by himself accused others to be guilty of the
same crime .When an accomplice terms as a witness on accepting the pardon granted by
the court under section 306 Criminal Procedure Code to speak the facts relating to the
offence, he is called an approver. If a person is induced by the police to take part in the
crime for the purpose of collecting evidence against others he is called a trap-witness.

(6) L E G I T I M A C Y O F W I T N E S S :
The difference between the evidence of an approver and the confession of a co
accused is that in the first case, it is evidence given on oath and subject to cross-
examination by the accused against whom it will be used; where as in the case of a co
accused against whom it is sought to be used or from the dock at the time of the trial. In
either case, it cannot be subjected to cross-examination.

Chandan and others v The state of Rajasthan: So far as the question about the
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conviction based on the testimony of the accomplice is concerned the law is settled and it

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is established as a rule of prudence that the testimony of accomplice if it is thought


reliable as a whole conviction could only be based if it corroborated by independent
evidence either direct or circumstances connecting the accused with the crime. Thus
where in a murder case there was no direct evidence and the only available was that of
the approver and other evidence regarding recovery of articles, but so far as the
identification the articles at the parade was not examined at the trial, his evidence could
not be ensued to corroborate the evidence of the approver because:

(i) what he identified and stated to the Magistrate who conducted the identification
parade is only be used to corroborated his testimony if he was examined at the trial and;
(ii) what he stated to the Magistrate at the time of the test identification parade is not
subjected to cross-examination was at the back of the and hence could not be used as
evidence against by the approver did not approve, to be natural, the conviction of the
accused was, therefore, liable to be set. So, far as the question about the conviction based
on the testimony of the accomplice is concerned the law is settled and it is established as
a rule of prudence that the testimony of accomplice it is thought reliable as a whole
conviction could only be based if it is corroborated by independent evidence either direct
or circumstantial connecting the accused with the crime .
Haroon Haji Abdulla v State of Maharastra: 23
An accomplice is a competent witness and his evidence could be accepted and a
conviction based on it if there is nothing significant to reject it as false. But the rule of
prudence, ingrained in the consideration of accomplice evidence, requires independent
corroborated evidence the accused against when the accomplice evidence is used with
crime.
Ravinder singh v state of Haryana:24
An approver is not most unworthy friend, if at all and be, having bargained for his
immunity, must prove in the court. This test is fulfilled, firstly, if the story he relates
involved to be a natural and probable catalogue of events that had taken place. The story
if given of minute details according with reality is likely to be same if from being rejected
previously. Secondly, once that hurdle is crossed, the story given by any approver so far
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23
1968 2 SCR 641
24
1975 3 SCR 435

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as the accused on trial is concerned, must implicate him in such a manner as to give rise
to a conclusion of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In a rare case taking into consideration
all the factous circumstance and situations governing a particulars case, conviction based
on the uncorroborated evidence of an approver confidently held to be true and reliable by
the court may be permissible. Ordinarily, however, an approvers statement has to be
corroborated in material particulars binding closely the disclose between the crime and
criminal. Certain clinching features of involvement disclosed by an approver appertaining
directly to an accused if reliable, by the touchstone of other independent credible
evidence, would give the needed assurance for acceptance of his testimony on which a
conviction may be based.

In this decision the first test indicated is that if the story given out by the accomplice
appears intrinsically to be natural and probable, then alone that evidence could of some
value and then it is further observed that ordinarily an approvers statement has to be
corroborated. In this view of the settled legal position which was not disputed before us,
it was contended that the evidence about recovery is of no consequences as there is no
consequences there is no evidence of identification but as it was contended. As the
opposition said that, Gyausi lal who is the son of the deceased is not examined at the trial
but he had identified articles at the identification parade and the learned counsel
attempted to contend that this evidence could not be looked into because:

(i) Who he identified and stated to the Magistrate who conducted the identification parade
is only hearsay evidence as that evidence cannot be used to corroborate his testimony if
he was examined at the trial.

EVIDENCE OF AN APPROVER AND THE


CONFESSION OF THE CO-ACCUSED
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Is that in the first case, it is evidence given on oath and subject to cross-examination by
the accused against whom it will be used, where as in the case of a co-accused the
confession is made before the trial, behind the back of the accused against whom it is
sought to be used, or from the dock at the time of the trial. In either case, he cannot be
subjected to cross-examination. That is why it is a week evidence, and, taken into
consideration only in extraordinary circumstance.
In Kashmira Singh case, it was held that:
A co-accused who confesses is naturally an accomplice and the danger of the testimony
of one accomplice to corroborate another has repeatedly been pointed out. The danger is
in no way lessened when the evidence is not on oath and cannot be tested by cross-
examination. The courts have insisted on corroboration in the case an evidence of
accomplice, because:

(i)The evidence of an accomplice is obliviously tainted evidence, he himself being one


who taken a part in the crime
(ii)No harm will come to him whatever part he gives himself, because, either he is not
arrested by the police or if arrested, there is the lender of guilt on to innocent persons
against whom a grudge is borne; and as pointed out in:
Bhuboni Sahu v R.; The real danger is that he is telling a story which in its general
outline is true and it is easy for him to work into the story matter which is untrue.

N AT U R E O F C O R R O B O R AT I O N
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Corroboration is evidence from a source independent of the relevant witness which


implicates the accused by tending to show both that the crime was committed and that the
accused committed it.

Corroboration, more broadly, however, might be taken to apply to any case in which one
item of evidence boosts up the value of another item of evidence higher than it was
before. The following definitions for corroborate are given by the Oxford English
Dictionary: To strengthen (an opinion, statement, argument, etc.) by concurrent or
agreeing statements or evidence; to make more sure or certain; to support, confirm: said
of a person.

The Bombay high court has laid down the following principles with regard to the nature
and extent of corroboration:

(a) That it is not necessary that there should be independent conformation of


every material particular;
(b) That independent evidence should not only make it safe to believe that the
crime was committed, but in some way reasonably connect or tend to connect
the accused with it by confirming In some material particulars the testimony
of the accomplice complainant that the accused committed the crime;
(c) That the corroboration must come from independent sources; and
(d) That the corroboration need not be direct evidence that the accused committed
the crime it is sufficient if it is merely circumstantial evidence of his
connection with the crime.

The corroboration is not necessary of independent nature. Independent corroboration


doesnt mean that every detail given by the Accomplice must be corroborated by the
independent witnesses. All that is required is that there must be some additional evidence
rendering it probable that the story of the Accomplice is true and it is safe to rely on.
In reference to the requirements of corroboration, the word used is may and not must,
and no decision of court can make it must. It ultimately depends upon courts view as to
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the credibility of evidence tendered by an accomplice. If it is found credible and cogent,

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the court can record conviction on its basis even if uncorroborated. Corroboration in
material particulars means that there should be some additional or independent evidence;
(a) Rendering it probable that the story revealed by the accomplice is true and it is
reasonably safe to act upon it;
(b) Identifying the accused as one of those, or among those, who committed the offence;
(c) Showing the circumstantial evidence of his connection with the crime, though it may
not be direct evidence; and
(d) Ordinarily the testimony of one accomplice should not be sufficient to corroborate
that of the other.25

EVIDENCE OF ACCOMPLICE IN CRIME OF RAPE

In the case of rape the evidence of prosecutrix that she had enforceably subjected to
sexual intercourse along with co-accused when her conduct and circumstances indicate
that she was consenting party, has to be disbelieved by court unless there is adequate
corroboration-as held in Jarnail Singh v State of Rajasthan. 26 A prosecutrix cant be
considered as an accomplice and her testimony cant be acquitted with that of an
accomplice in an offence. As a rule of prudence, however, court normally looks for some
corroboration of her testimony, so as to satisfy its conscience that she is telling the truth
and the person accused of rape on her, has not been falsely implicating. 27 She is infact a
victim of crime and her evidence must receive the same weightage as is attached to an
injured complainant or witness. Corroboration is not the Sine Quanon for conviction in
a rape case. The Indian courts refusing to act on the testimony of victim of sexual assault
in the absence of corroboration as a rule, is adding insult to injury. There is no reason
why the evidence of the female who complains of such, should be viewed with the aid of
a spectacle fitted with lenses tinged with doubt or disbelief or suspicion. To do so, is to
justify the charge the charge of male superiority in a male dominated society. 28 There is
no rule of law that her testimony cant be acted upon without corroboration in materials
25
K.hasim v. state of T.N.,(2005).237 1 SCC
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26
(1972) CrLJ 824 (Raj).
27
Supra note 7.
28
Rameshwar Kalyan Singh v State of Rajasthan AIR 1952 SC 54.

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particulars. She stands on a higher pedestal then injured witness. In the later case, there is
injury on the physical form, while in the former it is physical as well as physiological and
emotional. However, if the court on facts, finds its difficult to accept her version on its
face value it n=may search for evidence, direct or circumstantial, to lend assurance to her
testimony. Assurance, sought of corroboration, as understood in the context of an
accomplice, would suffice.29
Also in rape case independent confirmation of every material circumstances is not
required and the corroboration of the evidence of the prosecutrix need not be direct
evidence that the accused committed the crime but it is sufficient if it is merely
circumstantial evidence of the connection with the crime.30 Corroboration of evidence of
prosecutrix in trial u/s 366 of IPC is not necessary. 31 What she said at or about time of
occurrence being the part of res gestate can be corroborative evidence of her evidence
and conviction can be based on testimony of the prosecutrix. In the case of rape of a girl
of 7 years whos evidence was changing from time to time her evidence must be
corroborated32 evidence of the girl should carry the more weight then evidence of an
ordinary witness.

EVIDENCE OF ACCOMPLICE OF CRIME OF


MURDER

Conviction of the accused resting primarily on the testimony of the accomplice in a


murder case is valid only if the testimony is reliable and is corroborated in material
29
State of H.P v Shree Kant, (2004) 8 SCC 153.
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30
Sheikh Jakir v State if Bihar AIR 1983 SC 911.
31
Moti Ram Krishna Rao v State of M.P, AIR 1955 Nag 121.
32
Duli Chand v State, AIR 1952 Ajmer 54.

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particulars and in where exculpatory statement of the accomplice which was full of
infirmities and was uncorroborated, there was no evidence on record to show that the
deceased died an unnatural death.33

EVIDENCE OF ACCOMPLICE AND CONFESSION OF


AN ACCUSED

In case of a person confessing who has resiled from his statement, general corroboration
is sufficient, while an accomplices evidence should be corroborated in material
particulars and a co-accused who confessed is naturally an accomplice and the danger of
using the testimony of one accomplice to corroborate another has repeatedly been pointed
out. The danger is no way lessened when the evidence is not on oath and cant be tested by
cross-examination.34 A confession intended to be used against a co-accused stands on a
lower level then accomplice evidence because the latter is at least tested by cross-
examination whilst, the former the is not. The confession of co-accused are not evidence
but if there is other evidence on which a conviction can be based; they can be referred to
as lending some assurance to the verdict.35
An extra-judicial confession made by a person, who was subsequently made a approver,
cant be relied upon. The approver is no better then an accomplice and his testimony
therefore, would need independent corroboration before it can be acted upon.36
Corroboration of an accomplices statement in the court must be found elsewhere and not
in his confession, for an accomplice like an approver does not corroborate himself. But
his confession can certainly be referred to in order to show that his story narrated by him
in the court has in its materials particulars been throughout consistent and the caution
must necessarily be still greater and the probative value smaller, where there is single

33
Banwari Lal v State of H.P, (2004) CrLJ 1067.
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34
Kashmira Singh v State of M.P, AIR 1952 SC 159.
35
Haricharan Kurmi v State of Bihar, AIR 1964 SC 1184.
36
State v Debnu, AIR 1957 HP 52.

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retracted confession corroborating other accomplice evidence.37 None disclosure of the


name of one accused person when questioned by police before he offered to confess, is
not of much consequence when in the confessional statement he implicated himself and
other accused persons. Where a petition for quashing of FIR was moved on the ground
that the involvement of the accused in the offence could not be construed merely on the
confessional statement of the accomplice without any corroboration, it was held that
when the statement of the accomplice itself prima facie made out an involvement of a
petitioner in the alleged offence, the corroboration part of the statement would be a matter
to be embarked upon by the trial court.38

C O N F E S S I O N S O F N A L I N I , S E N T E N C E D T O D E AT H
F O R R A J I V G A N D H I S A S S A S S I N AT I O N (IN HER OWN

WORDS )

May 7, 1991:"Subha, Dhanu and myself (Nalini) surveyed the place and requested some
organisers to allow us to garland V.P. Singh when he comes to the dais. However, the
organisers did not permit us. But Subha and Dhanu managed to reach V.P. Singh and hand
over the garland to him...."

May 21, 1991: "I (Nalini) saw Subha was trying to put Dhanu in the crowd of people
waiting to greet Rajiv Gandhi. Once Rajiv Gandhi began to receive shawls from people
the queue broke. Dhanu sneaked into the ladies crowd which surrounded Rajiv Gandhi
and came close to him. When Kokila was reciting her poem, she exploded the bomb...."

Nalini, the 33-year old stenographer, now mother of a five-year old girl born in jail,
proved to be the most vital link for the Special Investigation Team (SIT). She was the
principal accused, the only survivor of the five-member "assault" team which killed Rajiv
Gandhi, whose confessional statement proved to be the clincher for the investigators.
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37
Supra 11.
38
Sureshchandra Bahri v State of Bihar, AIR 1994 SC 2420.

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In all, 17 of the 26 accused persons gave confessions under Section 15 of the Terrorists
and Disruptive (Prevention) Act (TADA). Though all the confessions were retracted later,
they remained admissible evidence and as a reading of the 1,600-page judgment shows,
the versions of Nalini, Murugan, the LTTE militant who indoctrinated and later married
her, as well as that of Santhan, another hardcore LTTE militant formed the core of the
conspiracy case.

It was another Sri Lankan accused, Jayakumar who first speaks of the two "tigresses"
who arrived on May 1, 1991 in Madras as part of the nine-member assassination squad
with Sivarasan. Jayakumar introduces the LTTE's death-squad saying that, "Sivarasan had
lost one eye in the war with IPKF. Subha and Dhanu were trained LTTE tigresses. Both
of them would speak ill of the IPKF and Rajiv Gandhi."

In his confession, Murugan says he knows Dhanu as "Anbu" and had seen her in LTTE
training camps. Giving his profile of the would-be assassin, he says she used to work
with Akila, the head of the LTTE's women's intelligence wing and used to maintain the
files of prisoners. His version finds corroboration in the confession of another accused,
Athirai, who says he had first spotted Dhanu in the LTTE's training camp in Mathaiya.
Dhanu, she recalls, was unmarried, had lost her father, used to drive a moped in Sri
Lanka and spoke very little to the others in the LTTE camps.

The first "dry run" attempted by the LTTE is mentioned in the confession of
Bhagyanathan, Nalini's brother (also sentenced). Even before the death squad had arrived,
Murugan had begun the indoctrination of Nalini and on April 18, when Rajiv Gandhi was
beginning his election campaign, took her along for a rally Rajiv attended along with
Jayalalitha. Bhagyanathan also confesses that it was he who introduced the photographer,
Haribabu39 to the squad.
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39
he was also interested in the LTTE.

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In her lengthy confession, Nalini says she had realised early Murugan and Sivarasan
wanted to use her as a "cover" for Dhanu and Subha. "They had difficulty in
communicating as they spoke in typical Sri Lankan accent. For this reason they needed
my services as a natural cover." But her role as a co-conspirator was also clear to her.
"...by now I had been mentally prepared for retaliatory action including killing of
leaders"- says Nalini.

Nalini makes it evident that the "dry run" conducted by the gang during V.P. Singh's
election rally at Nandanam, Chennai, was their acid test. But they failed - Nalini did not
make it to the dais and Subha and Dhanu could only hand over the garland to him.

Murugan confesses to the blunder later, "I (Murugan) had given Nalini my Yashika
camera to photograph V.P. Singh. But she did not photograph properly due to
nervousness. Subha and Dhanu could not garland V.P. Singh in the neck as he received it
in the hand. Sivarasan scolded everybody for not garlanding on the dais and he warned
that they should not repeat it."

In his judgment, Justice V. Navaneetham has interspersed the versions of the accused
with the corroborative evidence collected by the SIT. Subha and Dhanu, for instance,
mention the "dry runs," in two letters they wrote in mid-May to Pottu Amman, the head
of LTTE's intelligence wing and Akila, the head of the women's intelligence wing from
Madras. In one letter, Dhanu and Subha write, "we are confident of succeeding in our
mission for we had encountered a similar situation. We will complete the mission by the
month end". In the other letter they say: "We believe that the objective for which we have
come here will be accomplished successfully because we had encountered a similar
situation (we went very close to Singh)..."Justice Navaneetham has given the judgment a
fictional tilt by taking the plot back and forth -- using bits of evidence marshalled by the
SIT and, then, the confessional statements. According to him, the plot thickens once
Sivarasan learns from newspapers that Rajiv Gandhi was, finally, arriving in
Sriperumbudur. Nalini recalls that Sivarasan was "very tense and excited. He said they
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had come only for this...I had a strong feeling that Rajiv Gandhi was their final target."

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The judge uses a bunch of other confessions to describe how the LTTE's squad prepared
for Sriperumbudur. In her confession, Nalini says that one day before the assassination,
Dhanu was complaining of a pain in her ankle and she (Nalini) advised her to get treated
in her mother, Padma's house. "From this conduct of Sivarasan," the judgment notes, "it
can be inferred that Dhanu was going to kill Rajiv Gandhi and that is why Sivarasan
wanted to make her 100 per cent fit before they left for final assault."

It is from the confessions of Vijayan, another Sri Lankan accused, and Nalini comes the
countdown to the tragedy. Vijayan describes how Dhanu and Subha had carefully dressed
for the occasion, Dhanu had applied make-up and was photographed with Sivarasan's
camera. But it is the version of Nalini which is the most incriminating. She confessed
that, "Subha told me thatDhanu was going to create history today by assassinating Rajiv
Gandhi and that I will be very happy if I also participated in that. I agreed. I could also
see that Dhanu was concealing an apparatus inside her dress."
She then describes how before boarding the bus for Sriperumbudur, Dhanu said she
wanted to say her final prayers and was taken to the Pillayar Temple. They then
purchased a garland, had ice-cream and boarded the bus for Sriperumbudur.
Once in the meeting ground, Nalini recalls how Sivarasan was trying to put Dhanu in the
crowd of people surging forward to greet Rajiv Gandhi and trying to talk to two women
in particular - Latha Kanan and her daughter, Kokila who was supposed to read out a
poem to Rajiv Gandhi. On the dais, Rajiv had noticed Kokila. He patted the girl on her
back. Kokila began reciting the poem. Dhanu was standing right behind her. And this
time she did not falter.
Besides the confessions of the 17 accused, the version of one more witness is relied upon
heavily by the judge. It is the evidence given to the court by a former member of the
Rajya Sabha and a member of the DMK party, who has been put on the list of coded
witnesses. The former MP had confessed to having clandestinely visited Jaffna in 1989 to
meet LTTE supremo, V. Prabhakaran and had been video-taped.

The coded witness had also admitted that on July 30, 1987 he had spoken to Prabhakaran
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on telephone from Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi. Prabhakaran had spoken the following

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words, "we have been betrayed by the Government of India and by Rajiv Gandhi. I have
been stabbed in the back."

This according to the judgment is the raison 'd eat of the assassination of the former
prime minister. Later, the former MP had spoken at an international Tamil Conference in
London, where his speech had again been taped. However, as the assassination trial
progressed and the role of the LTTE was established, the former MP turned hostile.

Unwilling to let go evidence which hinted at the motive for the killing, technical experts
from the Indian Institute of Technology, probably for the first time for a criminal trial in
India, did "neutral networking" of the speech and visuals in the cassettes and matched
them with the voice and features of the witness. Thus, besides the versions of the accused
themselves, his evidence remained crucial for the prosecution.

CONCLUSSION
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An accomplice cannot corroborate himself; tainted evidence does not lose its taint by
repletion. The danger of acting on his own admission a bad character who took part in the
offence and afterwards to save himself betrayed his former associates and who had placed
himself in a position in which he can hardly fail to have a strong bias in favour of a
prosecution; the real danger is that he is telling a story which in its general outline is true
and it is easy for him to work into the story matter which is untrue. He may implicate ten
people in an offence and the story may be true in all its details as to eight of them, but
untrue as to the other two, whose names have been introduced because they are of the
approver. This tendency to include the innocent with the guilty is peculiarly prevalent in
India, and it is very difficult for the courts to guard against guilty safeguard against the
risk of condemning the innocent with the guilty lies in insisting on independent evidence
which in same measure implicates each accused
An accomplice means a person who has taken part in the commission of a crime. When
an offence is committed by more then more person in concert, every one participating in
its commission is an accomplice. Conspirators lay their plot in secret, in execute it
ruthlessly and do not leave much evidence behind.
The court seeks corroboration of the approvers evidence with respect to the part of other
accused person in crime, and this evidence has to be of such a nature as to connect the
other accused with the crime. The corroboration need not be direct evidence of the
commission Of the offence by the accused.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
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BOOKS:

R . M . L . N AT I O N A L L AW U N I V E R S I T Y, L U C K N O W
E V I D E N C E O F A C C O M P L I C E : L AW O F E V I D E N C E

S V Joga Rao(Dr), Evidence : Cases and Materials, LexisNexis(A division


of Reed Elsevier Pvt Ltd), New Delhi, India, 2003

Dr. Avtar Singh, Principles of Law of Evidence, sixteenth edition, Central


Law Publication 2007

Vepa P. Sarathi, Law of Evidence, sixth edition Eastern Book Company


Lucknow, 2006

Cross on Evidence, (Collins Thaper ed.),seventh edn.1990

Murphy on Evidence, fifth edition ,1995.

M Monir, commentary on law of Evidence, sixth edition,1989

Cross on Evidence, (Collins Thaper ed),seventh edn,1990

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www.legalserviceindia.com
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