Doctrine of Double Jeopardy

Doctrine of Double Jeopardy

Constitution of India LAW EXPLAINED
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The Indian Constitution has been considered as the guarantor of the fundamental rights of its citizens. The Constitution also ensures that the fundamental rights of the offenders are also duly protected. Article 20 clause (2) of the Indian Constitution envisages protection against ‘double jeopardy’. The clause is in pertinence to a principle of criminology, “sit constat curiae quod sit pro una et eadem causa” which says that no one should be put in jeopardy twice for the same crime.

The doctrine of double jeopardy is based on a legal maxim’ “nemo debet bis vexari” which means that a man should not be put in peril twice for the same crime. The doctrine works as a procedural safety tool which ceases a second trial when an acquitted is either acquitted after a trial by a court of competent jurisdiction or convicted.

Article 20 (2) as enshrined in the Indian Constitution reads as –

“No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once[1].”

Essential elements for the applicability of doctrine double jeopardy:-

  • The accused person must have committed an offence.
  • The proceedings or prosecutions should have taken place before a court of competent jurisdiction or judicial tribunal.
  • The accused person should have been prosecuted or punished in the prior proceeding.
  • The offence needs to be same for which the accused was prosecuted priory.

The objective behind the introduction of this doctrine in the Constitution is to prevent harassment which is caused by multiple criminal proceedings for the same offence. This doctrine is similar in essence to the English principle of autrefois convict which is also mentioned in The Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973. Section 300 states that a person tried, convicted or acquitted once for an offence cannot be tried again for the same offence, while such conviction or acquittal remains in force, to be tried again for the same offence, nor on the same facts for any other offence for which a different change might have been made[2].

Termination of Jeopardy:-

  • When the jury verdict’s of acquittal.
  • Dismissal by a trial court.
  • When a mistrial is granted by the trial court.
  • On appeal after conviction.

Important Case Laws:-

Kalawati v. State of Himachal Pradesh[3] –

In the following case an accused person of murder was tried and acquitted. The State preferred an appeal against the acquittal. The accused could not plead against the acquittal as doctrine is inapplicable as there was no punishment for the offnce at the earlier prosecution.

Venkataraman v. Union of India[4]-

In the following case an enquiry was made on a public servant under the Public Service Enquiry Act, 1960 as a result he was dismissed. Further he was charged for the offence committed under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Court in its judgement held that mere enquiry does not amount to prosecution. Henceforth, the second prosecution will not attract the doctrine of double jeopardy.


The doctrine of double jeopardy has two facets for the protection. Firstly, it will not punish the accused who has been priory punished for the same offence. Secondly, it will not prosecute on the same charges on which he was earlier prosecuted. The Indian Constitution does not provide for double punishment for the same offence.


[1] Universal’s The Constitution of India Bare Act (2020)


[3] Kalawati v State of Himachal Pradesh, AIR 1953 SC 131

[4] Venkataraman v. Union of India AIR 1954 SC 375

This blog is written by Jaya Singh, Amity University.

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