Who is an accomplice?
A person who intentionally aids another person in commission of an offence is known as accomplice under the eyes of law. This type of activity is usually described as aid, abetment or encouraging, procuring, soliciting under the common law. The Indian Evidence Act has not the defined term therefore it is required to be understood in its ordinary sense. According to n Wharton’s Law Lexicon: Accomplice (fr. complice, Fr. complex, Lat., bound up with one in a project, but always in a bad sense), one concerned with another or others in the commission of a crime. In United States v. Neverson, Centruy Digest, Vol. 14, Col., it was said that who in some way or other is connected with the offence in questions, or who makes admission of facts showing that he had a conscious hand in the commission of the offence3 or when the witness sustains such a relation to the criminal act that he could be jointly indicted with the accused, he is an accomplice .
Concept of Accomplice through thelens of Indian Precedents
As defined in Sect 133 of the Indian evidence Acts ‘accomplice’ be explained on the basis of following principle which was laid down by Apex Court in R.K. Dalmia Vs. Delhi Administration . In this case Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that :-
“An accomplice is a person who- participates in the commission of the actual crime charged against an accused. He is to be particeps criminis. There are two cases however, in which a person has been held to be an accomplice even if he is not particeps criminis; Receivers of stolen property are taken to be accomplices of the thieves, from whom they receive goods, on a trial of theft. Accomplices in previous similar offences committed by the accused on trial deemed to be accomplices in the offence for which the accused is on trial, when evidence of the accused having committed crimes of identical type on other occasions be admissible to prove the system and intent of the accused in committing the offence charged”.
According to K.S. Nirmal vs State, AIR 1954 , “The mere fact, that one had knowledge that a crime had been committed or that he concealed or failed to disclose such knowledge, does not render him an accomplice. If, for example, the concealment is due to the witness’s anxiety for his own safety rather than to any desire to shield the criminal, he would not be an accomplice. Nor would a person who remains passively silent after obtaining knowledge of the commission of the crime be an accessory or accomplice within the rule as to the testimony of accomplices. To render a person an accomplice his participation in the crime must be criminally corrupt”.
An accomplice witness is one who is either being jointly tried for the same offence and makes admission which may be taken as evidence against a co-prisoner and which makes the confessing accused pro hac vice, a sort of witness, one who has received conditional pardon on the understanding that he is to tell all he knows and who may at time be regulated to the dock if he fails in his understanding .
“A person’s knowledge of the deliberations in the course of which the dacoity was planned, his having seen the accused departing for a particular purpose or his having accompanied the accused when the latter went for disposal of the stolen articles cannot be said to be an accomplice and his evidence does not require corroboration on material particulars”.
After analysing the above precedents it can be said that “accomplice” is a person who corporate with an offender in a criminal act and is also a first witness for prosecution. He is equally guilty and act in the capacity of associate or partner in a crime.
There is no proper definition under Indian Laws regarding approver. Therefore it is prudent to understand the term under common parlance. According to Black Law dictionary “approver” is an accomplice in crime who accuses other of the same offence, and is admitted as witness at the discretion of the court to give evidence against his companions in guilt.
He is an accomplice in crime who accuses others of the same offence, and is admitted as a witness at the discretion of the court to give evidence against his companions in guilt. Anciently it means one who, when indicted and are arraigned for treason or felony, confessed, before pleading, the charge against him took an oath to reveal all treasons and felonies within his knowledge, and accused his accomplices. No one could be an approver who was attainted or incapable of taking an oath .
Supreme Court made the following observation and gave the following guidelines with respect to approver
1. Approver is an competent witness and uncorroborated testimony shall not be illegal
2. Unless the approver is corroborated in material in particular she shall be presumed that an approver is a man of untrustworthiness by court.
3. Unless the evidence of the approver is corroborated in material particulars, the court should not ordinarily convict the approver
4. Direct and circumstantial corroboration is required.
5. A corroboration can be rejected if the evidence of an approver is intrinsically or inherently impossible or is otherwise unreliable or unacceptable.
According to Ravinder Singh vs State Of Haryana , An approver is a most unworthy friend, if at all and he, having bargained for his immunity, must prove his worthiness for credibility in court. The approver’s evidence must show that he is a reliable witness. This test is common to all the witnesses. If this test is fulfilled, his evidence should be corroborated in material particulars to connect each of the accused persons with the commission of the offence. If the testimony of the approver is itself uninspiring and unacceptable justifying its outright rejection, it would be futile and unnecessary to look for corroborative evidence.
It is only when the approver’s evidence is considered otherwise acceptable that the court applies its mind to the rule that his testimony needs corroboration in material particulars connecting or tending to connect each one of the accused persons with the commission of the crime charged .
After the review of above precedents it can be said that an approver can be a competent witness against the alleged accused. His evidence is admissible and his uncorroborated testimony shall not stand as illegal. However, he must prove his worthiness for credibility in order to bargain for his immunity. The rule of corroboration is a settled rule and shall be required in case of testimony.
Co-accused has not been defined under Indian law .Therefore it is prudent to understand the term under common parlance. According to Macmillam Dictionary , Co-accused means “one of two or more people or organization accused of the same crime”.
Provision of Co-accused under Indian law
According to section 30 of Evidence Act, “When more persons than one are being tried, jointly for the same offence, and a confession made by one of such persons affecting himself and some other of such persons is proved, the Court may take into consideration such confession as against such other person as well as against the person who makes such confession.”
Evidentiary Value of Confessions Made By Co-Accused
This provisions has to be regarded as amounting to evidence is general way because whatever considered by the court is evidence. In that sense the circumstances as well as probabilities considered by the court will amount to evidence. But these are not defined as evidence U/S 3 of the Evidence Act .
According to Bhubani Scihu v. The Kind 1949 PC 257, The High Courts in India have a view that the confession of the coaccused can be used only in the support of other evidence. Clearly there must be another evidence. It cannot be made the foundation of conviction is correct.
The Supreme Court approved these observations of Privy Council in a case of Kashmira Singh v. State of M.P Where the other evidence against the accused is less satisfactory and the prosecution seeks to rely on the confession of the co-accused 
Point of distinction between accomplice, approver and co-accused.
1. Approver can only be regarded as always an accomplice whereas an accomplice need not necessarily be required to be an approver as in order to become an approver both the accomplice and co-accused is required to reveal the truth regarding offence or rather confess their criminal act for an exchange to grant concession from charges.
2. The confession and testimony provided by co-accused and accomplice respectively stand different from each as the former is tested by cross-examination and later by oath.
3. Corroboration of evidence in case of confession of co-accused is important whereas in case of approver’s testimony the corroboration can be rejected if the evidence of an approver is intrinsically or inherently impossible or is otherwise unreliable or unacceptable
4. Confession of the co-accused cannot form the basis of case whereas testimony of the approver is treated otherwise.
“The views of the authors are personal“
- United States v. Neverson, Centruy Digest, Vol. 14, Col
- R.K. Dalmia Vs. Delhi AdministrationAIR 1962 S.C. 1821 Para 141
- K.S. Nirmal vs State, AIR 1954
- R.V. Ramsoday Chuckerbutty (1873) 20 WR (Cr) 19
- K.S. Nirmal vs State, AIR 1954
- Jowitts Dictonary of English Law
- Ravinder Singh vs State Of Haryana 1975 AIR 856, 1975 SCR (3) 453
- State of Orissa v Bishnu Charan Muduli 1985 Cr LJ 1573 (Ori); State of Rajashtan v Teka 1978 Cr LJ (NOC) 241 (Raj) : 1977 Cr C 273.
- Haricharan Knrni v. State ofBihar, AIR 1964 SC 1184.
- Kashmira Singh v. State of M.PAIR 1952 SC 159.