Report No. 69
I. General Rule
16.49. The general rule at common law is that a judgment given by a criminal court is not relevant in a civil case for proving the facts decided in the judgment. Thus, if A has been convicted of grievous hurt by causing fracture of B's bone then, in a subsequent civil suit by B for damages for assault against A, the previous judgment of the criminal court is not relevant.
16.50. This rule, as settled in England by the case of Hollington,2 may, so far as India is concerned, be taken as settled by the Supreme Court in Anil Behari's case1. In that case, the question arose in a civil case whether one C had murdered the testator (the civil case bing a proceeding for revocation of probate). The court held that the conviction and sentence passed on C in a criminal trial was no evidence of the fact that C was the murderer. In England, the law has been modified by statute3, to which we shall refer later.
1 See below-"English case law."
2 Anil Behari v. Latika Bala, AIR 1955 SC 566.
3. Sections 11 to 13, Civil Evidence Act, 1968 (English), infra.
II. Case Law
16.51. Prior to the decision of the court of Appeal in Hollington's case1 there were some decisions of the (English) Divorce Court which lent support to the view that a previous judgement founded on the adultery of X could be used in a subsequent proceeding as evidence of adultery, even though the parties are not the same in the subsequent proceeding.
The relevant cases were-
(1) Partington v. Partington, 1924 Probate 34, in which a co-respondent in a suit for divorce filed on the ground of adultery of the wife, put in evidence by way of defence, a decree in a former suit in which the husband had himself been found guilty, as a co-respondent, of adultery (the parties were entirely different). Horridge, J. admitted this evidence, (counsel for the husband does not seem to have raised an objection to the admission).
(2) O'Toole v. O'Toole, (1926) 42 ITLR 245,-Evidence of the conviction of the respondent for prejury, in falsely swearing that he had not sexual intercourse with a woman was, after some hesitation, admitted by Hill, J. (on the authority of Partingtons' case cited above)2 to prove the commission of adultery by him.
(3) Little v. Little, 1927 Probate 224,-In this case, the wife was the petitioner for divorce on the ground of adultery, and Hill J. admitted evidence of a finding of adultery against the husband in a former divorce suit in which he had been co-respondent (The question of admissibility does not appear to have been argued).
1. Hollington's case, infra.
2. Partington, supra.
16.52. English law under Holdington's case.-
The Court of Appeal, however, in Hollington v. Hewthorn, 1943 KB 587 (596): (1943) 2 AER 35 (CA) disapproved of the principle underlying the first case 'Partington) cited above. In Hollington's case, damages were claimed in respect of collision between two motor cars. The first defendants, Hewthorn and Co.,'were the owners of a car involved in the collision and driven by the second defendant, Pall. The plaintiff wanted to tender, as evidence of negligence, a conviction of the defendant Pall of careless driving at the time and place of the collision. The court of Appeal held that the conviction was inadmissible in evidence. The judgment of Goddard L.J. gives detailed reasons for the conclusion which can be summarised as follows:-
(a) The evidence in question is not legally relevant.
(h) The issues in the criminal and Civil proceedings are not identical.
(c) The evidence in question is opinion evidence.
(d) The evidence is hearsay.
(e) If a conviction is admitted, evidence of acquittal will have also to be admitted which would be preposterous.
(f) The authorities were against admissibility. (As regards the last reason given by Goodard, L.J., it may be noted that in a number of cases.-2-3 it had been held that a conviction in criminal court is not admissible in a civil suit.)
(e) If a conviction is admitted, evidence of acquittal will have also to b admitted which would be preposterous.
(f) The authorities were against admissibility. (As regards the last reason given by Goodard L.J., it may be noted that in a number of cases1-2-3 it hat been held that a conviction in criminal court is not admissible in a civ: suit.)
1. March v. March, (1858) 28 LJ (P&M) 30.
2. Castrique v. Imrie, (1870) 4 HL 414 (434).
3. Layman v. Latimer, (1878) 3 Exch Div 362 (354).
16.53. There is one matter of detail which may also be mentioned. Where the criminal court has convicted a person of adultery, and that person subsequently becomes the defendant to a matrimonial cause founded on adultery, the common law rule is that the matrimonial court has to again record the same evidence and decide the question afresh. (This applies to other matrimonial offences also). In England, the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce1 recommended that a previous conviction of adultery should be admissible in a civil case. The matter is now dealt with by statute2 to which we refer later.
1. Report of the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce (1951-55), paras. 929-931.1
2. See Civil Evidence Act, 1968, infra.