Updated: Dec 29, 2019
Burden of proof means the obligation to prove the truth or falsehood of a fact or proposition. Proof, however, does not mean proof in the rigid, mathematical sense, because that is not possible.
The burden of proof is used in two distinct senses, namely, the burden of establishing a ease and the duty to adduce evidence, The burden of proof in the former sense is fixed by law and always rests upon the person, whether plaintiff or defendant, who substantially asserts the affirmative of the case.
On the other hand, the burden of adducing evidence is unstable and may shift from one side to the other during the course of the trial and lies on the person who would foil if no evidence is given on either side.
In a criminal case, burden of proof means such evidence as would induce a reasonable man, in the particular circumstances of the case in which the claim arises, to act upon the supposition that it exists.
Generally, the burden of proof rests upon the person who substantially asserts the affirmative and not upon the person who denies it. The rule has its origin in the Roman maxim ei qui a format non ei qui negat incumbit probation namely, he who seeks the aid of a court should be the first to prove that he has a case and that in the nature of things it is more difficult to prove negative than the affirmative.
The burden of proof may, however, be shifted by action of the parties and by statutory enactment. The standard or the degree of proof also varies according to the nature of the proceedings.
For instance, in case of civil proceedings a mere preponderance of probability is sufficient, whereas in criminal proceedings proof beyond reasonable doubt is required for conviction. There must be a high degree of probability than what is implied in the discharge of the burden of an issue in a civil case.
The rule as to burden of proof in criminal cases is that the onus of proving that the accused not only committed the guilty act, but also did so with a guilty mind, necessary to constitute the crime charged, rests upon the prosecution throughout a criminal charge and never shifts to the defence.
In other words, it is left to the prosecution to prove the existence of all facts necessary to constitute the offence charged beyond reasonable doubt, and if there is any reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of a person charged with a crime, the benefit of it is given to the accused, for instance, in a case, Bibuishan v State of Maharashtra, (2007) 12 SCC 390 : 2007 (11) SC 545 : 2007 (11) Scale 276 in 2007, the Supreme Court, while allowing the appeal reversing the order of the High Court convicting the accused for rape under section 376 read with section 511 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 held that the benefit of doubt should be applied in favour of the accused where the charges against him are not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
However, the burden of proving the exemptions from criminal liability is on the person who wants to bring his case within any one of such exceptions.
Thus, it is the accused who is required to show that his case falls within one of the general exceptions provided in Chapter IV, or within any special exceptions), or proviso contained in any other part of IPC, 1860 or any law defining the offence.However, the burden is no higher than that which rests upon a party to civil proceedings.
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