Brief note on “PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE” under Criminal laws in India


The term prima facie evidence refers to a legal scenario in which the prosecutor presents sufficient evidence to prove the defendant guilty. If you work in the legal field or are familiar with legal terminology, you’ve probably heard the term. Whether you are a small business or a large corporation, understanding such legal terms and what they mean is essential. For this reason, we will examine the basics of this term and try to understand its meaning in court.

What is Prima facie

Prima facie may be used as an adjective meaning “sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted.” An example of this would be to use the term “prima facie evidence.”

It may also be used as an adverb meaning “on the first appearance but subject to further evidence or information.” An example of this would be to use the term  “prima facie valid.”

A prima facie case is the establishment of a legally required rebuttable presumption.  A prima facie case is a cause of action or defence that is sufficiently established by a party’s evidence to justify a verdict in his or her favour, provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party.

In an adversary proceeding, the party or plaintiff bringing the action is tasked with producing prima facie evidence, i.e., providing the ruling authority with sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations the ruling authority is making. If the plaintiff successfully establishes and asserts prima facie evidence, the burden of proof shifts to the other party. The other party must  provide evidence to refute the plaintiff’s allegations. However, if the plaintiff fails to produce prima facie evidence, it is the duty of the person making the claim to produce and substantiate the evidence, so the opposing party does not even have to prove anything else, and can make a favorable decision. you may be able to get

Prima Facie Case and Criminal Law

The prosecution in a criminal case carries the burden of proof (with the exception of affirmative defenses, which the defendant must prove). This means that the prosecution has to present a prima facie case that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged. If the prosecution cannot present evidence supporting each element (part) of a crime, the defendant must be acquitted (even without having presented any evidence).

Say a prosecutor charged a defendant with burglary. The prosecution must present evidence that the defendant entered the premises without authorization. If the prosecution can only show that the defendant was found sometime after the burglary in possession of items stolen from the premises, this evidence alone will not support a burglary charge. In fact, the defendant wouldn’t need to offer any evidence but could request an acquittal based on the prosecution’s failure to make out a prima facie case of burglary.

But, where a prosecutor has evidence of the defendant’s presence within the premises, such as the testimony of an eyewitness, the prosecution has satisfied the requirements of a prima facie case as to that element of the crime. Even a defendant who has evidence that an eyewitness was mistaken cannot immediately move for a verdict but must present that evidence in rebuttal.

Getting From a Prima Facie Case to a Conviction

A prima facie case is an early screen for a court to determine whether the prosecution can go forward to try the defendant fully for the crime. As such, the standard of proof that the prosecution must satisfy at the prima facie case stage is lower than that for proof that the defendant is guilty.

In order to establish a prima facie case, a prosecutor need only offer credible evidence in support of each element of a crime. By contrast, a prosecutor must prove defendant’s guilt as to each element beyond a reasonable doubt to win a conviction.

So, even if a prosecutor can present enough evidence to establish a prima facie case as to all elements of a crime, the prosecution must nevertheless still prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a constitutional requirement.

Prosecution’s Case

If a prosecutor cannot establish a prima facie case, that almost certainly means she did not have probable cause to support the arrest of the defendant. That, in turn, means that the charges would be dismissed even before getting to the stage of the prosecution offering her prima facie case. As a result, the prosecution in most criminal trials has no difficulty establishing a prima facie case because the defendant would have already been released otherwise.

Defendant’s Case

The defendant has the opportunity to offer evidence disputing each element of the crime that the prosecution has established in its prima facie case. And, the prosecution must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, so the defendant’s main goal is usually just to cast doubt upon the prosecution’s proof. If the defendant succeeds in doing so, he should be acquitted.

How is prima facie different from res ipsa loquitur?

Another important point to be noted when talking about prima facie is that it is often confused with the term res ipsa loquitur. The latter phrase means, “The thing that speaks for itself”, or “the thing itself speaks”. It is a common law doctrine that when a fact has made itself evident that a fault lies with a party, there is no need to produce extra details to prove that fault or negligence. This is because any reasonable person would easily find the facts. Although this may seem similar to prima facie, both these terms are different from each other.

The main difference between prima facie and res ipsa loquitur is that, the term prima facie means that there is enough evidence for the case to be valid and go into trial, whereas, res ipsa loquitur means that, the facts of the case are so obvious that there is no need of producing extra evidence to make them any more clear. You can better understand this difference with the help of an example.

For example, there is a prima facie case made against the defendant by the plaintiff that claims that the defendant caused a fire to break out in the plaintiff’s garage. The prima facie is made on the basis that the defendant had access to the plaintiff’s garage. The case becomes res ipsa loquitur when the plaintiff was out of town and had left the control of the garage with the defendant.

The concept of prima facie may be a little confusing if you have little or no knowledge about how the law works. However, by looking at the realistic examples and reading about the basics behind this concept, it becomes a little easier to understand.

An example of prima facie evidence in a civil case 

An ABC Bookstore may file a claim against one of its suppliers, XYZ, if XYZ fails to deliver an order of books, causing the bookstore to lose customers. The company needs to demonstrate “at the initial or prima facie stage” that the supplier violated the contract, affecting the company and its customers. Once ABC Bookstore has successfully established a prima facie case, the burden of producing evidence or proof shifts from ABC Bookstore to supplier XYZ. Now, supplier XYZ must demonstrate that the allegations levelled against him are baseless or insufficient to warrant a conviction. For example, he can present supporting evidence to show that, according to the contract, the payment had to be made in advance for the order and that only after the payment was made would he supply the books, implying that the ABC bookstore did not make the full advance payment by the date specified in the contract, and hence he did not supply the books.

Prima facie evidence in criminal cases

In a criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden of proof (with the exception of special cases like cases under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA)Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS) etc., in which the defendant must ‘prima facie’ demonstrate his innocence). This implies that the prosecution must demonstrate this beyond a reasonable doubt in order to proceed with the trial of the defendant for the offence. As a result, the level of proof that the prosecution must meet in the prima facie case stage is lower than the requirement for proving the defendant’s guilt. A prosecution simply needs to present credible evidence in support of each element of a crime to establish a prima facie case.

A prima facie case is an early assessment for a court to assess if the prosecution may proceed to fully prosecute the defendant for the crime. However, in order to get a conviction, the prosecutor must establish the defendant’s guilt on each of the factors beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, even if a prosecutor can build a prima facie case on all components of a crime at the pre-trial stage, the prosecution must still show the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at the trial stage.

According to Section 226 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 when the accused appears or is brought before the Court in pursuance of a commitment of the case, the prosecutor shall open his case by describing the charge brought against the accused and stating by what evidence he proposes to prove the guilt of the accused. Also, Section 161 of the same Code, titled “Examination of witnesses by police” provides for oral examination of a person by any investigating officer when such person is supposed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case. The object and purpose of Section 161 are to collect evidence regarding the commission of an offence by examining and recording the statements of the material witnesses in respect of the commission of the offence.

Case laws for prima facie

Some of the important case laws with regard to prima facie evidence are as follows:

  • Supreme Court of India in Marin Burn Ltd. v. R.N. Banerjee (1958)  pronounced that when determining whether a prima facie case has been established, the relevant consideration is whether it was possible to arrive at the conclusion in question based on the evidence presented and whether that was the only conclusion that could be reached based on that evidence. 
  • The Supreme Court of India inJayendra Saraswati Swamigal v. State of Tamil Nadu (2008), held that one person’s confession that he was involved in the conspiracy along with others is not sufficient toestablishg a prima facie case.
  • In the General Electric Company of India Ltd. v. the Fifth Industrial Tribunal, West Bengal and Ors. (1990), it was stated that the phrase “prima facie” means at first sight or as far as it can be judged from the first disclosure. A prima facie case means that the evidence presented on the record would allow the plaintiff’s desired conclusion to be reached. A prima facie case has progressed through sufficient proof to the point where it would support a finding if contrary evidence is ignored.
  • Supreme Court of India in Kehar Singh and Ors v. State (Delhi Admn.) (1988) that the fact that the two defendants who caused the death were seen isolating themselves on the roof and trying to hide as well as their conversing about the assassination with the family members, was enough to form a prima facie case. This is the case of the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi. 

Implications of prima facie evidence 

The implications of prima facie evidence are as follows:

  • The plaintiff ought to gift prima facie evidence and ought to gift a practicable sufficient case to continue to trial.
  • If the plaintiff does now no longer gift good enough proof that against the law became dedicated or might have been dedicated via way of means of the defendant, the celebration being sued, then the decide can brush aside the case.
  • The perception of prima facie isn’t always restricted to the pre-trial segment of a case. It may be used as a preferred of proof.
  • The purpose of this segment of the trial isn’t always to show that the defendant is guilty, it’s miles simply to expose the courtroom docket must continue with the trial. Consequently, the decide simply makes a decision whether or not the case will visit trial without making any type of judgement approximately the guilt of the defendant.
  • While the usual of evidence for prima facie proof is low, it’s miles though an critical a part of the criminal process. By making the plaintiff gift a primary model in their cases, human beings are included towards frivolous or abusive lawsuits.
  • In each civil and criminal cases, the defendant is being given extra criminal protection. In criminal cases, the defendant is included from abuse via way of means of regulation enforcement and the state. In civil cases, the defendant is included from their fellow citizens’ frivolous suits. This is particularly critical to hold individuals who are rich or socially privileged from intimidating or coercing individuals who are greater prone thru the risk of litigation. Several prima facie examples display how this preferred of proof may be used.
  • A litigant searching for discretionary alleviation consisting of a brief injunction ought to additionally display a prima facie case, for which the courts are best obligated to look at the crucial statistics and now no longer dive into the deserves of the case.


The Indian judiciary has elaborated at the which means of the phrase ‘prima facie case’ to the factor wherein it now has a criminal which means and standing. Despite this, the diploma of what constitutes a prima facie case varies from case to case and lacks a concrete definition because of the reality that every case is unique. What constitutes a prima facie case is decided via way of means of a courtroom docket of law’s discretion due to the fact a judicial officer adjudicating a remember should be happy with the averments made and proof provided via way of means of a litigant/State. To determine whether or not a prima facie case has been established, the applicable thing is whether or not the belief in query changed into potential primarily based totally at the proof provided, in preference to whether or not that changed into the most effective end result that might be reached primarily based totally on that series of facts.

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