Tag Archives: reasonable doubt

Reasonable Doubt

In State of U.P. v. Krishna Gopal, (1988) 4 SCC 302, it was held as under:
Doubts would be called reasonable if they are free from a zest for abstract speculation. Law cannot afford any favourite other than truth. To constitute reasonable doubt, it must be free from an overemotional response. Doubts must be actual and substantial doubts as to the guilt of the accused person arising from the evidence, or from the lack of it, as opposed to mere vague apprehensions. A reasonable doubt is not an imaginary, trivial or a merely possible doubt; but a fair doubt based upon reason and common sense. It must grow out of the evidence in the case.
The concepts of probability, and the degrees of it, cannot obviously be expressed in terms of units to be mathematically enumerated as to how many of such units constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt. There is an unmistakable subject element in the evaluation of the degrees of probability and the quantum of proof. Forensic probability must, in the last analysis, rest on a robust common sense and, ultimately, on the trained intuitions of the Judge. While the protection given by the criminal process to the accused persons is not to be eroded, at the same time, uninformed legitimization of trivialities would make a mockery of administration of criminal justice. Mritunjoy Biswas v. Pranab. (2013) 12 SCC 796.

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Residual Doubt

“Residual Doubt” is a mitigating circumstance, sometimes used and urged before the jury in the United States and, generally, not found favour by the various courts in the United States. In Franklin v. Lynaugh, 101 L Ed 2d 155: 487 US 164 (1988), while dealing with the death sentence, the Court held as follows:
“The petitioner also contends that the sentencing procedures followed in his case prevented the jury from considering, in mitigation of sentence, any ‘residual doubts’ it might have had about his guilt. The petitioner uses the phrase ‘residual doubts’ to refer to doubts that may have lingered in the minds of jurors who were convinced of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but who were not absolutely certain of his guilt.”
In California v. Brown, 93 L Ed 2d 934 : 479 US 538 (1987), and other cases, the US courts took the view, “residual doubt” is not a fact about the defendant or the circumstances of the crime, but a lingering uncertainty about facts, a state of mind that exists somewhere between “beyond a reasonable doubt” and “absolute certainty”. Ashok Debbarma v. State of Tripura, (2014) 4 SCC 747.

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Suspicion – Cannot take place of Proof

Suspicion, however grave it may be, cannot take the place of proof, and there is a large difference between something that “may be” proved and “will be proved”. In a criminal trial, suspicion no matter how strong, cannot and must not be permitted to take place of proof. This is for the reason that the mental distance between “may be” and “must be” is quite large and divided vague conjectures from sure conclusions. In a criminal case, the court has a duty to ensure that mere conjectures or suspicion do not take the place of legal proof. The large distance between “may be” true and “must be” true, must be covered by way of clear, cogent and unimpeachable evidence produced by the prosecution, before an accused is condemned as a convict, and the basic and golden rule must be applied. In such cases, while keeping in mind the distance between “may be” true and “must be” true, the Court must maintain the vital distance between conjectures and sure conclusions to be arrived at, on the touchstone of dispassionate judicial scrutiny based upon a complete and comprehensive appreciation of all features of the case, as well as the quality and credibility of the evidence brought on record. The court must ensure that miscarriage of justice is avoided and if the facts and circumstances of a case so demand, keeping in mind that a reasonable doubt is not an imaginary, trivial or a merely probable doubt, but a fair doubt that is based upon reason and common sense. Raj Kumar Singh v. State of Rajasthan, (2013) 5 SCC 722

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