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Report No. 185

Section 54

It reads as follows:

"54: In criminal proceedings, the fact that the accused person has a bad character is irrelevant, unless evidence has been given that he has good character, in which case it becomes relevant."

So far as Section 54 is concerned, it was stated (see page 357) that the substance of the section need not be disturbed but amendment is necessary in respect of some detail because the words "unless evidence has been given that he has good character" can occur by way of evidence extracted during cross-examination of a prosecution witness or of defence witness (see also Section 140 of the Evidence Act) and Section 315 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

(We may, however, add that in a warrant case under ch. XIX and session's trial under ch. XVIII of Cr.PC, when the accused leads evidence of good character by way defence, the prosecution cannot, as of right, lead evidence in rebuttal but the court has, as stated in Ramaswami v. Ramalinga, AIR 1930 Mad 448, a discretion to permit rebuttal evidence under Section 116(4) Cr.P.C. The fact that the person is a habitual offender may be proved by evidence of general reputation or otherwise. Evidence of previous conviction is relevant under Section 109 Cr.P.C. (See Sarkar 1999, 15th Edn. 976, 977).

As to the nature of questions that may be put in cross examination or evidence in rebuttal, various guidelines have been issued in R v. Mcleod: 1994(3) All. ER. 254.

Previous conviction may be relevant otherwise than under Section 54. See ss. 211, 236, 248(3), 298 of CrPC, Section 75 of I.P.C., Article 117 of Indian Articles of War (Act 5 of 1869); Section 14 of Evidence Act, explanation (2); Section 43 of Evidence Act (ill (e), Section 8 of the Evidence Act as showing motive (s 43, ill(f). Bad character is also relevant under Criminal Tribes Act (Act 27 of 1871). (See Sarkar, ibid, p 981).

We agree with the recommendation in the 69th Report that the words:

"whether through witnesses for defence or through cross-examination of witnesses for the prosecution or in any other manner," be added after the words "unless evidence has been given that he has good character", and before the words "in which case it becomes relevant".

Review of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Back

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