Section 3 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 defines evidence. There are various kinds of evidence to deal with and everyone is equally important to be presentable in the court of law. Although, the definition of evidence in this act is not exhaustive in nature. Thus a fact in issue can be proved either by the direct evidence or by its circumstantial evidence which can only be of relevant facts. Both are important concepts. Direct evidence is essentially categorised by the concept of witness that gives a clear inference about the commission of the act. But the circumstantial evidence includes all the relevant facts related to the case. Usually, circumstantial evidence is applied indirectly with supporting facts.


It is the testimony of the witness as to the principal fact to be proved. For example, a man who says that he saw a commission of the act which constitutes the alleged offence. It includes presentation of original documents in the court of law in support of the accused or appellant. Usually, direct evidence is easy to place as it is considered as an adequate proof. No other fact can intervene the existence of a fact in issue. For example, a person had seen the explosion, that would have been the direct proof of the fact of explosion. A photograph of the happening of a fact shall be considered as a direct evidence unless it is disproved by the other party. When there are a number of witnesses, there must be a string joining evidences of all witnesses so that the test of consistency is satisfied.


There must be a chain of independent evidence interlinked to draw a conclusion that the act committed must be done by the accused in all human probability. Sometimes the facts happens so quickly that it doesn’t leave behind evidence. In such situations, the main event needs to be reconstructed before the court with the help of available circumstances such as the cause and effects of the actual event.

For example, a driver who belongs to the village comes along a road with a lorry for a night. The night on which the truck came, a man from the village was lying dead by the road-side. The position of his body and nature of his injuries creates a doubt that he was dragged by a vehicle for a little distance and then was ran over by him. Usually, the driver chooses that road to enter the village. There was no storm, rain or mist to obstruct visibility. From these circumstances, certain facts may reasonably be inferred and many others can be safely presumed as a matter of probability.[1]

In the case of Khem Karan vs State of U. P[2], the court stated that: “If all the circumstances and the evidence point towards the guilt of the accused and there is no possibility of any other alternative hypothesis then in such a situation only the accused can be convicted solely on the basis of circumstantial evidence”.


Direct evidence is considered to be superior to circumstantial evidence. So, the court of law relies completely on direct evidence without any thinking or reasoning to prove its existence. Circumstantial evidence, to be relied upon must not only point to the inference to be drawn by the court, but it must be of such nature that it can possibly lead to no other inference. For example, the fact that suman saw Ram punch Ravi in the head is the direct evidence of the actus reus but she can also provide circumstantial evidence of the men’s rea because he looked like he was intending to punch him. From this, it can be inferred that ram had the men’s rea. It is very important to use circumstantial evidence for a variety of propositions in a criminal case. Sometimes, the propositions can be strengthened by adding additional facts.


Nowadays, circumstantial evidence is given more priority especially in criminal law cases, as direct evidence is misused and justice gets impaired. But, to the reference of punishment being awarded, however, it makes absolutely no difference whether the evidence is direct or circumstantial once it is accepted as proof of the guilt of the accused. But direct evidence is considered as the highest firm of evidence which has the highest level of truth about the incident.


[1] Prem Thakur v State of Punjab AIR 1983 SC 446

[2] AIR 1974 SC 1567 (3JJ)

Aishwarya Says:

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