Criminal Trial – Principle of Issue Estoppel

The rule regarding issue estoppel relates to admissibility of evidence in subsequent proceedings which is designed to upset a finding of fact recorded on the previous occasion and mandates that the finding so rendered on earlier occasion must operate as issue estoppel in subsequent proceedings. It makes it impermissible to lead any such evidence at a subsequent stage or occasion. The law on the point was succinctly stated in Sangeetaben Mahendrabhai Patel v. State of Gujarat, (2012) 7 SCC 621:
“The court has time and again explained the principle of issue estoppel in a criminal trial observing that where an issue of fact has been tried by a competent court on an earlier occasion and a finding has been recorded in favour of the accused, such a finding would constitute an estoppels or res judicata against the prosecution, not as a bar to the trial and conviction of the accused for a different or distinct offence, but as precluding the acceptance/reception of evidence to disturb the finding of fact when the accused is tried subsequently for a different offence. This rule is distinct from the doctrine of double jeopardy as it does not prevent the trial of any offence but only precludes the evidence being led to prove a fact in issue as regards which evidence has already been led and a specific finding has been recorded at an earlier criminal trial. Thus, the rule relates only to the admissibility of evidence which is designed to upset a finding of fact recorded by a competent court in a previous trial on a factual issue. Ashwani Kumar v. State of Punjab, (2015) 6 SCC 308.

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