Distinction between Direct and Circumstantial Evidence

In this paper, an attempt is made to clear the concept of direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Evidence is often either direct or circumstantial. The evidence establishes a fact. Samples of evidence are eyewitness statements and confessions. Indirect evidence, on the other side, requires that a judge or jury make an indirect judgment, or inference, about what happened. Direct evidence is often a witness testifying about their direct recollection of events. This will include what they saw, what they heard or anything they observed with their senses. Ultimately, the very fact finder will need to determine by what proportion they need to believe them. Circumstantial evidence is when a witness cannot tell you directly about the very fact that’s intended to be proved.


Every person who come across these words believes that direct evidence is direct in nature and indirect evidence are indirect in nature. But this is often a layman’s definition and it’s inappropriate to use it for such legal terms which have very in-depth significance. Evidence at an attempt or a hearing can include witness testimony, documents, photos, videos, exhibits and any facts that the lawyers have agreed on is true. However, many of us confuse the difference between direct and indirect evidence.

Direct evidence is often a witness testifying about his direct recollection of events. This will include what they saw, heard or anything they observed with their senses. Ultimately, the very fact finder will need to determine by what proportion they need to believe them.

Circumstantial evidence is when a witness cannot tell you directly about the very fact that is intended to be proved. Instead, the witness presents evidence of other facts that supported an inexpensive inference which induce the fact finder to believe the intended fact to be proved. Many people say “this case is weak because it’s a circumstantial case.” This is a dangerous assumption. Although circumstantial cases tend to be weaker than direct cases, the government can still use indirect evidence to prove their case.

Sometimes it’s easier to know the difference with an example. If your brother involves you and says he saw it snow today, then there’s evidence that it had been snowing. If your brother told you that he awakened and saw snow on the bottom, then there’s indirect evidence that it snowed. He didn’t see it snow, but it’s an inexpensive inference that if there’s snow on the bottom, it must have snowed. It is important to keep in mind that if the very fact finder relies on indirect evidence, then the conclusions must be reasonable and natural. Evidence can still be admitted albeit it’s going to seem weak. Ultimately, the jury or the judge (whoever is the fact finder) has the last word decision on what proportion weight to offer a specific piece of evidence – this is often referred to as the strength of the evidence.

Evidence can make or break a case — understanding the various forms and kinds of evidence can change the result of any given case.

What is Evidence?

As per Section 3 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 evidence includes both oral and written evidences. Oral evidence includes all the statements which the court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses, in reference to matters of fact under inquiry. Documentary evidence includes all documents including electronic records. The evidence is any matter of incontrovertible fact that a lawsuit offers to prove or disprove on a specific issue during a particular case.

There are many types of evidences such as-:

  • Eyewitness
  • Participants
  • Prior Statements by the defendants
  • Documents
  • Physical Evidence
  • Scientific Evidence like fingerprints, DNA etc.

Apart from these, there are two basic sorts of evidences, under which the above mentioned sorts of evidences are generally covered. They are-:

  • Direct Evidence, and
  • Circumstantial Evidence (commonly called Indirect Evidence)

What is Direct Evidence?

“Direct Evidence” is evidence that establishes a specific fact without the necessity to form an inference so as to attach the evidence to the very fact. It supports the reality of an assertion (in legal code, an assertion of guilt or of innocence) directly, i.e., without the necessity for an intervening inference. It directly proves or disproves the very fact.

So evidence is real, tangible, or clear evidence of a fact, happening, or thing that needs no thinking or consideration to prove its existence. It doesn’t require any sort of reasoning or inference to reach the conclusion.

Though direct evidence is taken into account to be superior to indirect evidence, one of the drawbacks of direct evidence is counting on the evidence completely without thinking or reasoning to prove its existence. For instance, within the case of an eyewitness, he/she may lie or might not be ready to understand if the event occurs quickly or at the time of high stress to the eyewitness. Also, it can happen that the eyewitness may maliciously testify i.e., intentionally testifies wrongly (though he may get prosecuted for perjury i.e., lying under an oath, which will happen only when the judge or jury orders to counter examine the intensification of the witness.

What is Circumstantial Evidence?

Circumstantial Evidence is the evidence that doesn’t point on to the very fact. Reasoning must be made or an inference, that links indirect evidence to the specified fact the party is trying to prove. In this way, the jury or the judge uses reasoning and logic to grope to the conclusion, unlike in, direct evidence where the judge or the jury relies on the words of the witness. During this type, any evidence has got to be evaluated by cross-checking, for the reliability of the source.

Nowadays, indirect evidence is more often given more importance than direct evidence, because more often in legal code, evidence is misused and justice gets impaired. As an example, fingerprints are indirect evidence.

Under the Indian Evidence Act, “circumstantial evidence” is included under the expression “relevant facts” and it is provided that all “relevant facts” require being proved by some evidence oral or documentary, that is to say, by direct evidence[1].

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 a nature that it can possibly cause no other inference.


Chandmal v. Province of Rajasthan[2], the court has held that in circumstances where the case is totally in light of the circumstantial proof the three conditions must be satisfied:

  • The conditions on which we rely for proving must be built up immovably.
  • The conditions must be exact and that they should point towards the blame of the individual who is denounced.
  • When all of the conditions taken generally they ought to shape a complete chain and there must be no escape clause within the chain. It must show that the blamed just could have administered the wrongdoing and nobody else could have done it.

In the instance of Sathya Narayan v. State[3], it’s been held that in specific cases it’s conceivable where no immediate proof or observer is accessible; in such a circumstance the court can grant conviction exclusively on the premise of circumstantial proof if the accompanying five standards are connected:

  • “The conditions from which the finish of blame is to be drawn need to be fully constructed. The conditions must be or need to and not could be built up[4].
  • The realities so settled need to be predictable just with the speculation of the blame of the denounced, in other words, they ought to not be clarified on another theory apart from that the charged is blameworthy.
  • The conditions need to be of a decisive sort and propensity
  • They need to avoid each conceivable theory apart from the one to be demonstrated
  • There must be a sequence of confirmation so entire as to not leave any sensible ground for the finish of the charged and will demonstrate that conflicting with the guilelessness of the blamed, what’s more, must demonstrate that altogether human likelihood the demonstration probably is finished by the accused.”

In another case of Khem Karan v. State of U.P[5], the court stated that: “If all the circumstances and therefore the evidence point towards the guilt of the accused and there’s no possibility of the other alternative hypothesis then in such a situation only the accused are often convicted solely on the idea of indirect evidence .”


Evidences are often either direct or circumstantial. Evidence establishes a fact. Samples of evidences are eyewitness statements and confessions. Indirect evidence, on the opposite side, requires that a judge or jury make an indirect judgment, or inference, about what happened.

For example, if a fingerprint or hair found at the crime scene matches that of a suspect, jurors may infer that the print or hair is indeed that of the defendant, and since it had been found at the crime scene, links the defendant to the scene[6].

Circumstantial evidence isn’t absolute proof; instead, it provides a general idea of what happened. Most frequently, evidence identified through forensic science is circumstantial, though evidence like witness and victim statements or suspect confessions may impact the ME’s interpretation of test results or his reconstruction of the crime scene[7].

Circumstantial evidence often is far more reliable than direct evidence. Eyewitnesses are notoriously bad at identifying suspects or recalling events. After all, people tend to interpret what happened rather than simply playing it back sort of a film loop.

Furthermore, indirect evidence is more objective and is more likely to supply a reliable answer. An eyewitness could also be wrong the maximum amount as half the time, but fingerprints and DNA evidence can, more often than not, accurately distinguish the individual in question from the opposite 7 billion people on Earth.

[1] https://blog.ipleaders.in/direct-evidence/

[2] AIR 1976 SC 917.

[3] 2013 (80) ACC 138 (SC).

[4] https://blog.ipleaders.in/direct-evidence/

[5] AIR 1974 SC 1567 (3JJ).


[7] https://www.dummies.com/education/science/forensics/direct-versus-circumstantial-evidence/

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