What is Motive ?
A motive is a thing or substance which cause a person to do a proposed act. It can be explained as an inducement or any particular reason to do any particular act or conduct by any person. Motive can mean anything that can cause, or prevent the happening of any particular action or conduct. In other words, it is the feeling or a reason for any person to do or not to do any particular act.
The Supreme Court of India has said that motive is something prerequisite for the intention which means that motive is something which prompts any person to form an intention in order to commit or prevent any particular act or any conduct. The motive is the moving power or the force of energy to do any act. In law, especially criminal law, a motive can be understood and explained as a cause that creates a certain mental status of a person which causes inducement in a person’s mind to do any particular act. Generally, the motive in itself is not an element of any given crime. However, the legal system typically allows motive to be proven in order to know the reasons of the accused behind committing any crime, especially when motives are hard to be identified.
There is hardly any act done without motive and the adequacy of motive is not necessary in all of the cases in doing any particular act. In the cases where evidence is found to be truthful and by which, it proves the conduct of the crime done by the accused, then motive takes a backseat and takes a secondary role in order to determine the conduct of the crime by any person.
Motive is relevant in all criminal matters whether the evidence is based on the testimony of the eyewitness or the circumstantial evidence. It provides the fundamental material behind the happening of the crime and explains the reasons of the accused by which he/she intends to do any particular act. But if all the proved circumstances and evidence related to the case proves the happening of the act of crime by the accused, then motive does not remain the primary object to look out for in proving the conduct of the crime and its presence or not does not remain an important issue.
In Sarup Singh v. State of Punjab, the evidence present in the case proved the participation and the involvement of the accused in the happening of the crime. In view of these circumstances and evidence, it would not be necessary to prove motive on part of the appellant.
What is the Key Difference between Motive and Intention?
In the ordinary sense and in our day to day life the motive and intention are used interchangeably. But in terms of the law, both motive as well as intention have different meanings and are not considered the same.
A motive is the reason of action whereas intention means a strong desire to do any particular action. Intention refers to the operation of the will which helps in directing a person to do a particular act. In other words, Motive means the reason behind the intention of any particular person to commit any particular act whereas, an intention can be described as the mere state of the mind of any individual which would be accomplishing a particular act.
For example:- if A kills B, then intention in this situation would be the state of the mind of the accused (Mr.A) which causes the death of the victim (Mr B) whereas the motive would mean the objective or the reasons which the person had in view viz. satisfaction, vengeance etc.”
The criminal law only takes into account man’s intention. The motive is something which prompts or compels a man to form an intention in order to commit a crime. In a criminal trial, in absence of direct evidence, the evidence of motive becomes important when there is only circumstantial evidence, whereas burden lies upon the prosecution to prove guilty intention where the intention is expressly stated.
Relevancy of Motive
Section 8 of the Evidence Act states that“Any fact is relevant which shows or constitutes a motive or preparation for any fact in issue or relevant fact”. It means that under Section 8 of the Evidence Act motive may be relevant when a case depends upon the circumstantial evidence. In a case based on circumstantial evidence, motive assumes a great significance as its existence is an enlightening factor in the process of presumptive reasoning. According to the Supreme Court, if in any given case, there are eye-witnesses which are giving testimony claiming that the accused has committed any offence (say theft) and if the eye-witnesses are proved trustworthy, then the motive of the accused of commission of the offence is not of much relevance.
Adequacy of Motive:-
Proving a motive is difficult. There can be instances where the crimes are committed with the slightest motive. It is not essential to prove the existence of motive when any heinous crime is committed. In some situations when offences are committed by habitual criminal or immoral person adequacy of motive is of little importance. It can be said that there is no single golden rule to prove any adequacy of motive in order to prove the happening of crime. One of the important factor to determine the adequacy of motive is the character of a man. But, if the prosecution has proved its case through sufficient evidence then motive becomes immaterial and there is no need to lay emphasis on the presence of motive in the commission of a crime.
Proof of Motive
The motive, by itself is no crime, but evidence of motive can be considered to be relevant. Proof of motive can be essential and of much help when there is a case of circumstantial evidence. In the cases of circumstantial evidence, the evidence of motive of the accused can be useful for the court in order to find out the guilt of the accused. But in cases where crime is easily established with the help of direct evidences, then the proof of motive is not relevant in those situations. If there is clear evidence which is indicating that the accused had committed the crime, then the fact whether there was a strong motive in the mind of the accused becomes irrelevant and the person is guilty of the crime committed by him.
Example- where an eye-witness accepts the happening of the fact that he has seen a person stealing a bicycle and his statement is clear and truthful, then the issue of the motive of the accused to steal the bicycle will not be taken into consideration.
Landmark Judgments on Role of Motive in criminal matters
Sukhpal Singh v. Punjab
In the case of Sukhpal Singh v. Punjab, the Supreme Court held that the inability of the prosecution to establish motive in case of circumstantial evidence is not always fatal to the prosecution case. In the case of circumstantial evidence, motive becomes an important factor in determining the culpability of the accused but refused to consider it as the sole criteria to determine the culpability of any person.
In this case, the appellant before the Apex Court was a police officer, who was convicted under Section 302 IPC for the offence of murder on the basis of circumstantial evidences. It was argued on behalf of the appellant that in case of the circumstantial evidences, motive assumes great importance in order to establish the guilt of the accused and the prosecution’s failure to establish the motive of the accused behind doing of crime means that the benefit of doubt should go to the accused.
In this particular case as per the counsel for the appellant, they argued that this case is based on the circumstantial evidences and the prosecution is relying on the circumstantial evidence of the recovery of 38 caliber gun apart from cartridges and had submitted that no reliance can be placed upon the same. The contention of the appellant was that there is absolutely no motive on part of the accused to commit the crime of murder and as prosecution is not able to prove any motive of the accused, the accused should not be held guilty as there is no motive in case of circumstantial evidence and in circumstantial evidence, the motive is very necessary to establish the guilt of any person.
The Supreme Court held that in this case, no motive has been established against the appellant for committing murder. It is correct to say that in the cases of circumstantial evidence, the question of motive assumes great significance but the main issue is whether the inability of the prosecution to prove motive of the accused in the case of circumstantial evidence can prove to be fatal for the prosecution’s case.
In that case, the court inferred that in the case of circumstantial evidence, the presence of the motive for the accused will not only strengthen the case of prosecution but will prove the guilt of the accused but if in case where no motive has been proved for the accused in case of circumstantial evidences, it would not be fatal to the prosecution in totality.
Ramesh DurgappaHirekerur v. State of Maharashtra, 2017Bom 9109:-
While deciding on the criminal appeals filed against the judgment of conviction of the appellant-accused passed by the learned Trial Judge, the Bombay High Court has held the principle that motive assumes significance in case the case is based on the circumstantial evidence.
In this case, the appellants were convicted and were sentenced for offences under Sections 120(B), 302 and 201 read with section 34 of the Penal Code. The accused were alleged to have murdered the deceased. During the investigation, it was found that Accused 1 and Accused 2 had an active role in the conduct of the crime. After the prosecution had examined around 12 witnesses related to the case, the trial court convicted all the accused related to the case.
When the matter reached the high court, it analyzed the material available on record and found out that this case was based on circumstantial evidences. There was no eyewitness to the incident. The high court was of the opinion that though the matter was related to the circumstantial evidence but for the conviction,the prosecution must establish the chain of events which could prove the guilt of the accused person in the commission of the crime. It is essential for the prosecution to establish the circumstances on the basis of which the guilt of the accused can be established for conducting the crime.
Since the case was belonging to the circumstantial evidences, the guilt of a person can be proved only if the motive of the accused is proved behind the commission of the crime. If the prosecution is able to prove the wrongful motive of accused behind doing the crime or an unlawful act. Therefore, motive assumes significance in case of circumstantial evidence.
Tarseem Kumar v. Delhi Administration. (1994 SCC (Cri.) 1735),
The Supreme Court, in this case, held that normally, behind every criminal act there is always the presence of motive in the mind of accused which compels any person to commit any offence and because of this, the investigating agencies as well as courts while examining the involvement of the accused person in the commission of the offence try to ascertain the motive of the accused behind the commission of crime. But in cases where the prosecution has proved before the court the involvement of the accused in the commission of the criminal conduct with the help of all the evidences and materials presented before the court of law, the motive loses its importance and it is immaterial for the courts to consider the motive of the accused in the commission of the crime.
But, in case the whole matter is based on the circumstantial evidence, motive assumes greater importance. If each of the circumstances submitted on behalf of the prosecution clearly establishes the motive of the accused in order to commit the crime and the court accepts, the accused can be convicted by considering motive proved on the basis of the circumstantial evidences.
Mulakh Raj v. Satish Kumar (1992 SCC (Cri.) 482):-
The Supreme Court in this judgment held that the role of motive becomes of great significance in case the case is related on the circumstantial evidence but anyone, in order to commit any act, has a motive in his/her mind and the failure to discover motive on the part of the accused does not signify the non-existence of the criminal act in entirety. Proof of motive is never the sole criteria for determining the conviction of any person for any particular act. If the facts of the case are clear which clearly indicates the involvement of the accused in the criminal act, then it is immaterial for the court to know the motive of the accused behind the doing of the crime.
In virtue of Section 8 of the Evidence Act, the motive is an important element to be considered as evidence but it is not easy to prove motive as the reasons in order to commit any particular act or the mental state of accused cannot be seen from outside. Motive can be considered to be useful evidence when the case is based on the circumstantial evidence and no direct evidences.
In these types of cases, the inadequacy of motive present in the mind of the accused can be pleaded as defence and if the motive is proved to be doubtful for the accused, then the case can go in favour of the accused.
But the prosecution is not bound to prove the motive in a situation where direct evidences are there in the case and then adequacy or presence of motive for an accused person becomes of very less importance.
Indian Evidence Act has made every effort to include as many aspects of the evidence which are necessary and in that way it can be considered as a comprehensive piece of legislation. The relevance of motive in criminal matters has been explained under Section 8 of the Evidence Act. The court, while deciding on the matter in which Section 8 plays an important role, must exercise caution and utmost care.
If the evidence is based on circumstances, the courts should scrutinize and evaluate the evidences in a reasonable manner so as to reach to correct observations related to the case which would further lead to the fair judgment as the evidences in case of circumstantial evidences are not direct and are unclear. If there is any reasonable doubt present in evidence, then the benefit of doubt must be given to the accused.
Garner, Bryan A., Black’s Law Dictionary (Eight Edition), Thomson Publications, 2005
Gross Hyman, A Theory of Criminal Justice, 1979
 Justice Khastgir, Criminal Mnaual, Kamal Law House, Kolkata, 2005
Dr. V. Krishnamachari, The Law of Evidence, Fifth Edition, 2004
C.D. Field’s, Commentary on Law of Evidence Act 1872 (13th Edition), 2013
Ratanlal&Dhirajlal: The Law of Evidence (21st Edition), 2006
Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act
From the article titled “ Motive, Preparation and Conduct”, VasaniTejas, www.legalbites.in, 29 October, 2019
State of MP vs. Dhirendra Kumar, AIR 1997 SC 318
 Supra note 4
Supra note 6
 Supra note 4
Criminal appeal No. 1697 of 2009.
 Supra note 14
Ramesh DurgappaHirekerur v. State of Maharashtra, 2017 Bom 9109
Tarseem Kumar v. Delhi Administration, 1994 SCC (Cri) 1735
Mulakh Raj v. Satish Kumar 1992 SCC (Cri.) 482
 Supra note 4
GhoshAbhirup, “Motive Preparation and Previous or subsequent Conduct, legalserviceindia.com