Rules of Evidence in Civil and Criminal Proceedings
Written by: K. RAJEEV REDDY
In criminal and civil proceedings, the law of evidence has many purposes. However, due to the different nature of civil and criminal cases, the rules applicable to them may be different. The civil case is one established by the individual to seek redress for wrongdoing, which has been done against him, and if he succeeds, he will be given money or other personal relief. At the same time, a penalty case is being pursued by the government to safeguard its compliance with its laws by punishing or amending the law. Therefore, since the scope of relief and the establishment of civil and criminal cases are different, it seems appropriate to have a strict-ness related distinction of clear rules applicable to both cases.
Generally, the purpose of the express rule is to assist the court in establishing the truth between the parties’ conflicting versions of the case. However, the law of evidence in criminal cases has a more important purpose, namely, the protection afforded to the accused concerning his right to a fair trial. The defence of the accused against the case, impartial to his right to a distant trade, is one of the main reasons why the Law of Criminal Evidence contains many provisions, excluding the relevant evidence to be presented before the court.
For example, the general rule that the defendant’s misconduct or the evidence of his previous allegations are not admissible at trial, such as the various privileges granted to witnesses, etc. The court may exercise its discretionary power to uphold the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
When in civil proceedings, relevant and probable evidence is generally admissible for a fact to be proved to the court. There are no mandatory provisions to exclude testimony in civil cases. This issue reflects the main difference between civil and criminal proceedings. Therefore, we can say that a fair trial arrangement is not important in a civil case because there is greater equality in the resources between the parties rather than criminal proceedings, on the one hand, there is a whole government of power and weak criminals on the other.
Moreover, if a civil case is lost, the claimant or defendant will suffer serious damages to his financial resources or property, he will not lose his free life or suffer the same social stigma of a person convicted of a criminal offence. This is one of the reasons for the huge difference in the level of coercion required in civil and criminal cases.
The burden of proof in criminal and civil proceedings
The general rule in criminal cases is that the State imposes the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt and defines the substantive law as to what the prosecution must prove in order to convict the defendant. It usually contains elements of mens rea and actus reas, for example, when pursuing a penalty for theft, the state must prove all elements of the offence classified by the criminal code.
Although the rules of civil testimony do not incorporate the same engaging principles in criminal litigation, the “well-established public rule on the legal burden of proof” in civil proceedings must be asserted by the plaintiff. The legal burden of proving a fact at trial is on the affirming party, so in civil litigation, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, however, if the defendant admits the allegations and makes a positive error such as a “counter-claim“, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant. The burden always lies on the defendant.
In civil proceedings, if a party formally acknowledges the facts of a case, it ceases to be in dispute between the particles of the facts, and any evidence that proves the truth is irrelevant to the adjudication. In other words, judicial admissions in civil cases are final. Courts are obliged to make rulings based on such consent without producing additional evidence. Judicial admission in criminal cases is not final.
Of course, when the perpetrator confesses every element of the alleged offence without reservation, the court may enter the guilty plea and immediately convict the accused. However, the court may demand that such evidence be prosecuted because it deems it necessary and the perpetrator may be allowed to call the witnesses. Unlike civil cases, the task of determining the determinants of judicial admission in criminal cases is left to the discretion of the court.
Judicial admissions are not conclusive in criminal cases
In criminal cases, the issue may be the question of life and death. So, the court shall take due care that an innocent person not be convicted and punished. So that, the courts are expected to critically examine the reasons behind the confession. Because a sometimes innocent person may admit the commission of a crime to cover another person, for fame, or to be known throughout the world by his criminal act.
In criminal cases, admission shall be made without reservation. When we say the accused admitted, we are saying that he admitted each and every criminal element of the alleged offence usually comprising elements of the men’s rea and actus reus. However, in civil proceedings, the party may admit the truth of the whole or any part of the case of the other party. For instance, the plaintiff has instituted a suit against the defendant on breach of contract for the value of 10,000 Rs/-. Here, the defendant may admit half of the plaintiff’s claim and deny the rest.
Classification of Evidence
Evidence of whether or not controversial facts exist can lead directly or indirectly to the required conclusion. Thus, the evidence is divided into two: direct and circumstantial. If believed, direct evidence directly establishes a fact at issue. The fact at issue is that one party accuses the other, that the other party denies that this is a controversial fact, which can only be resolved with the help of evidence.
Direct evidence is provided by witnesses giving oral testimony of something they felt was their own. It is also provided with the documents, photographs & the like that the judge needs to interpret with his or her intelligence, and the testimony box includes the witness’s physical presence, assessed by the judge of the witness’s credibility. This includes admission to an indictment by a party in the case.
However, circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence that tends to establish a conclusion by inference. It does not directly tell you or prove the existence or absence of alleged or controversial truth. But when you put them together, they form a chain that leads to a logical conclusion. For this reason, criminal cases structured on the basis of circumstantial evidence are very difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Situational evidence is needed for the judge to draw generalizations from commonly held assumptions about human nature. For example, in a murder case, the evidence that a defendant lied to the police about the time involved and the violent dispute with the victim a few days before the murder would be the relevant circumstantial evidence for the accused’s guilt. This assumption is based on the general assumption that murderers usually have a motive for murder and generally cover their tracks by lying.
Can a wrong inference be made from circumstances?
Since most crimes are executed in a very sophisticated manner, direct evidence is difficult to obtain. In that case, we have the option of proving the controversial fact by circumstantial evidence. However, such scenarios are likely to make false assumptions. For example, in a murder case, if you only consider footprints, it could be someone’s footsteps from the victim’s home. And that does not mean that anyone buying a pistol or knife has the intention of killing a person.
Therefore, circumstances must be taken as a whole and not isolated from one another. Where facts merge, they lead to a certain logical conclusion. The circumstances should not be self-contradictory, which is consistent with the innocence of the accused, while others are consistent with his or her guilt. If they contradict, the ability to prove decreases with an increase in the odds. That is why; We have said that the court should be careful when rendering a verdict based on circumstantial evidence.