This article is written by T.PREETHI, a student of government law college, Tirunelveli. In this article the student had discussed about whom an accomplice is, the evidence provided by an accomplice and its applicability in a trial.
Accomplice is a person who knowingly, voluntarily and with a common interest unites with/gets along with the principal offender in committing a crime. He is some way or the other concerned or associated with the commission of crime. He/she is guilty of complicity in the crime charged, either by being present in that place and aiding or abetting it.
An accomplice may assist or encourage the principal offender to commit a crime. He/she may not be present in the place when the actual crime is committed. However, if a person is present in the place of crime without any criminal intent, then that person won’t be considered as an accomplice, no matter how reprehensible her/his inaction.
An accomplice is usually subjected to the same degree of punishment as the principle offender. In legal terms- 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.
The evidence by an accomplice might be lacking confirmation or evidence and seems to be untrustworthy because, he is also a silent part of the criminal act, yet it will be taken into consideration as they help to form the basis for a conviction under important circumstances, because it isn’t a easy job to convict the main accused without having enough resources. Though evidence of accomplice lack trustworthiness, it helps in detecting a crime, solving it. Therefore, it is treated as a beneficial and invaluable tool.
Who is an accomplice?
There isn’t any definition for the word “accomplice” under the evidence act, thus it is taken in an ordinary/ normal sense. In general terms he is a person concerned in the commission of a crime. Partner in a crime or associated with the criminal act with guilty intent.
A testimony of an accomplice is usually doubted for its trustworthiness and can’t be used against another accused. The reason why the testimony of an accomplice needs a proper confirmation is that
- First of all, he might shift guilt from his side to other
- Second of all, he is also a guilty person.
But under one circumstance it will be considered; that is if at all he turns into an approver, on his own will, he will be considered as a criminal who is providing evidence and supporting the prosecution with a promise of pardon and hope of getting his freedom. The approver’s testimony should pass the double test;
- Firstly, It should be reliable
- Secondly, It should be sufficiently corroborated
An accomplice can’t corroborate himself; contaminated evidence can’t lose its taint by repetition. He is a particeps criminis. However, in two circumstances a person will be held as an accomplice
- A receiver who receives a stolen property- he will be treated as an accomplice of the thieves on a trial for theft.
- The person who was an accomplice previously on trial are deemed to be an accomplice for committing the crime of the similar type or identical type. On another occasion be admissible to prove and intent of the accused in committing the offence changed.
A person will be considered as an accomplice when he participates in the same crime as that of the others. There are two major categories of modes of participation in crime.
- The principals in the first degree or second degree, and
- Accessories before the fact, or after the fact
Principles in the First and Second Degree
The person who actually commits the crime in the first place comes under the first degree and the person who assists the crime in any means comes under the second degree.
Accessory before the Fact
A person becomes accessory before the fact if he is involved in the preparation of the crime. That is if he motivates, encourages or counsels for the commission of the crime. Moreover to be an accomplice, he must participate in the same crime as that of the principal offender.
Accessory After the Fact
A person becomes an accessory after the fact when he extends a helping hand in comforting the accused person with the knowledge that he was accused or assists him in escaping from the punishment or escaping the arrest.
There are three conditions that are to be fulfilled in order to be an accessory after the fact.
- The crime should have been completed;
- The person who is helping the accused must have the knowledge that the person he is helping has been accused of committing a criminal act;
- The actions of the person helping the accused should result in either escape of the accused or avoid the consequences of the principle crime.
An accomplice will be considered as a witness as far as he Is not co-accused with the other under trial in the same case. An accomplice becomes a competent witness by accepting the pardon under section 306 CrPC and will be examined like any other witness on oath. Article 20(3) of the constitution of India, states that no accused shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. But an accomplice on his own and accepting the pardon will be a competent witness under the condition of true disclosure, in his own interest and isn’t compelled to give self-incriminating evidence. Therefore, a pardon accused need to fully disclose everything about the crime and if he fails to do so, he’ll be tried for the offence that he was originally charged for and his own statement may be used against him under section 308 of CrPC.
Competency of a Witness
Section 118 of the Indian evidence act says that any person is competent to be testified unless they are
- Not able to understand the question put in front of them
- To give answers to the questions owing to
Disease in mind or body
As well, under section 133 competency of an accomplice to be a witness is, he/she should be co-accused under trial in the same case.
Accomplice as Approver
An accomplice can be taken as an approver also. An approver is a person, who has been tendered pardon by the court on a primary condition that he’ll disclose the whole circumstances of the case. In Ravindra Singh vs. State of Haryana the court held that an approver gets his immunity so, he is entitled to prove his credibility in court. This is fulfilled by
- Firstly, if the incident he relates involves him in the offence and appears intrinsically to be a natural and probable catalog of events that had taken place.
- Secondly, the story that is given by the approver so far as the accused on trial is concerned should implicate him in such a way that it gives a conclusion of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Accomplice in Sexual Crimes
The supreme court in Rameshwar kalian Singh vs. The state of Rajasthan, laid that, in case of rape, the prosecutrix can’t be treated as an accomplice as an accomplice. The court had insisted the need for corroboration of the evidence given by the prosecutrix as a matter of practice, but as a matter of fact, the evidence act does not say anything of this sort.
Need for Corroboration
Reading section 133 along with section 114 (b) gives a crystallized view about the issue involved with respect to the accomplice evidence. Therefore, even If a communication can be based on uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice, but as a rule of prudence, it is not safe to rely on evidence that lacks confirmation. So, judges and juris when dealing with such cases should be extremely cautious and should take extreme care while considering uncorroborated accomplice evidence.
Nature and Extent of Corroboration
The Supreme Court has laid down four principles with regard to nature and extent of corroboration. They are
- That it is not necessary that there should be independent confirmation of every material circumstances in the sense that the independent evidence in the case, apart from the testimony of the complainant or the accomplice, should in itself be sufficient to sustain conviction; all theta is required is that there must be some additional evidence rendering it probable that the story of the accomplice is true and that it is reasonably safe to act upon it.
- That independent evidence must not only make it safe to believe that the crime was committed, but must in some way reasonably connect or tend to connect the accused, with it by confirming in some material particular the testimony of the accomplice or complainant that the accused committed the crime.
- That the corroboration must come from independent sources and thus ordinarily the testimony of one accomplice would not be sufficient to corroborate that of another.
- 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 courts while taking evidence provided by an accomplice must look up with great suspicion, because it could be decisive in securing conviction if it is found to be trustworthy.
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