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Report No. 69

Section 7

7.41. Introductory.-

According to section 7, facts which are the occasion, cause or effect, immediate or otherwise, of relevant facts or facts in issue, or which constitute the state of things under which they happened, or which afforded an opportunity for their occurrence or transaction, are relevant. There are three illustrations to the section. Illustration (a) takes these facts. The question is whether A robbed B. The facts that, shortly before the robbery, B went to a fair with money in his possession, and that he showed it, or mentioned the fact that he had it, to third persons, are relevant.

Under illustration (b), where the question is whether A murdered B.-marks on the ground, produced by a struggle at or near the place where the murder was committed, are relevant facts.

Under illustration (c), where the question is, whether A poisoned B, the state of B's health before the symptoms ascribed to poison and habits of B, known to A, which afforded an opportunity for the administration of poison, are relevant facts.

7.42. Illustrations analysed.-

It may be stated that in illustration (a), the facts in question are relevant as giving occasion or opportunity for the fact in issue or as being the cause of the fact in issue. In illustration (b), the facts in question are admissible as effects of the fact in issue. Incidentally, this illustration furnishes an instance of "real evidence". As to illustration (c), the state of B's health before the symptoms ascribed to poison and the habits of B, known to A, constitute the state of things under which the facts occurred, as also an opportunity for the administration of poison.

7.43. Reason for admission.-

The reason for the admission of facts of this nature is that1, if it is desired to decide whether a fact occurred or not, almost the first natural step is to ascertain whether there were facts at hand, which were calculated to produce it or afford opportunity for its occurrence. It is a natural human tendency to look to the cause when an effect is visible, or to look for the effect if the cause is known. Moreover, in order to the proper appreciation of a fact, it is necessary to know the state of things under which it occurred. Knowledge of the circumstances enabling a person to do the act is also relevant. All these facts can be conveniently summed up as "contributory or consequential factors.2

1. Woodroffe.

2. Woodroffe.

7.44. Section 7 compared with section 6.-

In this sense, section 7 embraces a larger area than section 6. While section 6 deals with the transaction itself, section 7 provides for the admission of a variety of facts, which, though not possibly forming part of the transaction, are yet connected with it in particular modes. These modes-occasion, cause, effect, opportunity-are really different aspects of contributory of consequential factors. In the case of the particular person who is a victim of robbery-illustration (a)-it is obvious that his physical presence, within a proper range of time and place, forms one step on the way to the belief that he was robbed. Section 6, broadly speaking, concentrated on the immediate present. Section 7 takes us into the immediate past and the immediate future.

7.45. Principle in relevance.-

In permitting evidence of these facts, the section is, no doubt, faithful to the general principle1 underlying the scheme of the provisions of the Act-the principle of probability. The various contributory and consequential factors2 rendered admissible under section 7, are admitted on the assumption that they render probable the existence of the fact in issue, and their absence may render it improbable.

1. See Chapters.-4, supra.

2. Para. 7.57, supra.

7.46. Opportunity-evidence of.-

In so far as the section enables evidence to be given of facts which afforded an opportunity for the occurrence of a fact in issue, care must be taken against a hasty inference from opportunity for a crime to the commission of a crime. As Norton pointed out,1 there can be no crime without the opportunity, but there is a wide gulf, to be bridged over by evidence, between opportunity and commission.

1. Norton Evidence, 104; cited by Woodroffe Evidence Act, commentary on section 7.

7.47. On the other hand, no circumstances can be more destructive of a criminal charge than that the accused had no opportunity of committing the crime.1 On the strength of this proposition rests the force of a defence founded on an alibi, which is admissible under section 11 read with section 7.

1. Woodroffe.

7.48. Wide language.-

Attention must also be drawn to the rather wide language of the section, in so tar as it provides that facts which are the cause or effect immediately or otherwise of relevant facts or facts in issue, are relevant. These words, if taken literally, would take in the remotest cause, and, if pursued to its logical extreme, such a course would open up a field for endless inquiries. That, however, could not be the intention, nor is the section so interpreted in practice. Presumably, the draftsman has deliberately employed an elastic phraseology in order to avoid any objections being raised to the effect that a particular fact sought to be proved under the section was not the immediate cause of the fact in issue and that some other cause had intervened between it and the fact in issue.

7.49. Variety of use.- Footprints.-

The section could be pressed into service in a variety of situations. An interesting species of evidence admissible under the section is that relating to footprints. The fact that there were footprints at or near the scene of offence, or that they came from or relate to a particular place, is relevant under the section, because they represent the effect of a relevant fact. Illustration (b) to the section, in so far as it relates to marks on the ground produced by the struggle near the place of murder, is itself an illustration of the effect of a fact in issue or a relevant fact.

7.50. Position in England.-

In England also, finger-prints or footmarks1 of an accused found near the scene of the crime are admissible in evidence. In Callis v. Gunn, (1864) 1 Queen's Bench 495, evidence of the defendant's finger-prints was admitted although he had not been cautioned by a police officer when asked to provide his prints. The Court of Criminal Appeal has upheld convictions where the only evidence against the defendant was that of finger-prints.2

1. (a) R. v. Shav, (1830) 1 Law CC 116, per Parke B; (b) R. v. Heaton, (1832) 1 Law CC 116, per Alderson B.

2. R. v. Castieton, (1909) 3 Cr App R 74.

Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Back

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