::Motive in Criminal Case…Importance


As defined in Blacks Law Dictionary,

“Motive is the moving cause, the impulse, the desire that induces criminal action on the part of the accused; it is distinguished intent which is the purpose or desire with which the act is done.”

The definition of motive is not given in the Criminal Procedure Code or in Pakistan Penal Code. The evidence of motive is permissible as a relevant fact under Article 21 of The Qanun-e-Shahadat 1984, which is given as under,

“Any fact is relevant which shows or constitutes a motive or preparation for any fact in issue or relevant fact.”

The phenomenon of motive is of most importance and relevant in a criminal trial to prove the guilt of the accused. As well as the reliability of a witness, presence or absence of motive is relevant to prove the guilt. Thus, Motive behind a crime is relevant fact in which evidence can be led. The absence of motive is also a circumstance which is relevant for assessing the evidence placed before the Court. The circumstances which have been mentioned for proving the guilt of the accused are however not weakened at all by this fact only that the motive has not been established. It often happens that only the culprit knows what move him to take a certain cause of action.

Motive is that which means or induces a person to act in a certain way. In other words it is thing which is hidden in the mind of the devil and weathers the belief which produces that a state of mind is true or false, the motive remains the same, the truth or falsity of belief is not real question.

It is well settled that motive is a fact which is only within the knowledge of that person doing that. Act, which no human being but the party itself can define.

On the other hand where there is other evidence of guilt of an accused person, the weakness of motive does not carry any weight. It is well settled law that no motive needs either be alleged or proved in any criminal case based on direct or circumstantial evidence or combination of both. But if the crime is alleged to have been committed for a particular motive it is relevant to inquire whether the position of the crime fits in with the alleged motive. The motive is not an ingredient of an offence but the proof of motive helps the Court in coming to a correct conclusion when there is no direct evidence. Where there is direct evidence for involving an accused in a crime the absence of motive is not material.

(2000 SCMR 31)

Similarly motive, however, strong can not be the basis of conviction, where the evidence for conviction is not satisfactory. Even a strong motive can not fill the lacunae in such evidence.

(Onkara vs. The State 1974 PLJ 124)

The accused can not be convicted only because they had motive for the crime. In case titled as MUHAMMAD LATIF VS THE STATE reported in PLD 2008 SC 503, it was held,

“Motive is energetic force of mind which provides propelling force and gives impetus to perform any action or to do any act. Emotions are concealed in thoughts and mind of the accused, which remain secret and concealed till their exposure through words or actions and can be adjudged from events occurred or to have taken place or going to happen at relevant time. Motive is the cause, manner and method of thoughts in the mind of the person performing action which is hidden in the mind of the accused.”

Motive is primarily known to the accused and not to the complainant or to informant or any other witness of the occurrence unless it is impliedly or explicitly expressed. Informant and any other witness of the occurrence can explain and convey actions which were performed by accused in the commission of offence and express their conclusions drawn from happenings and events occurring or narrations supplied to them at relevant moment, incidents or occurrences, which can be considered the cause and the reasons for commission of offence by the accused. Real cause and force for the commission of offence is truly known to the accused. Others actually adjudge it and give the name as cause or reason for doing an act or series of acts of the accused person from the happenings or reproduction of spoken words, if those became to known to them from the accused or from any other source. Real motive is known to the accused and not any other person, who ornaments those actions by their own opinion or from happenings.

Absence of motive is not a Mitigating circumstance.


Old rules regarding of failure of prosecution to prove motive has changed through judgments of superior Courts with the passage of time. Lack of, absence, inadequacy, and weakness of motive, if any, set up by prosecution and failure to prove it or the motive shrouded in mystery, are not the grounds to withhold penalty of death or to order sentence of life imprisonment, if, other wise, prosecution has succeeded to prove its case beyond any doubt with regard to commission of offence.

(PLD 2008 SC 503)

Nawaz Ali and others VS The State (2001 SCMR 726)

Muhammad Ashraf VS The State (2001 SCMR 73)

Federal Ministry of Defence VS Liaqat Ali (2004 SCMR 1676)

Mukhtar Ahmad and others VS The State (PLD 2004 SC 563)

Muhammad Akbar VS The State and others (PLD 2006 SC 354)

Mst. Nazakat VS Hazrat Jamal and another (PLD 2007 SC 453)

Similar view was taken by the Supreme Court in case titled as GHALIB HUSSAIN VS MUHAMMAD ARIF reported as 2002 SCMR 29 in these words;

“In this context it has been held time and again by this Court that motive by itself neither proves nor disproves any assertion conclusively.”

Similarly same view was of Supreme Court in case titled as MOAZAM SHAH VS MOHSIN SHAH which was reported as PLD 2001 SC 458 in the following words:–

“Motive by itself neither proves nor disproves any assertion conclusively. Motive does help in determining the guilt of a person particularly of investigation, but it remains invisible to all in many cases except the offenders. When there is clear proof that person has committed the crime, motive or previous ill will becomes immaterial and is not necessary to sustain a conviction.”

In case of ABDUL RASHID VS UMIT ALI AND 2 OTHERS reported as PLD 1975 SC 227 it was held that, weakness of motive or even, its conspicuous absence might not be helpful to accused when unimpeachable ocular evidence is available.

In the case of MUHAMMAD SHARIF VS MUHAMMAD JAVEED ALIAS JEEDA reported as PLD 1976 SC 452 it was held that, avoiding deterrent punishment is a factor, which indirectly contributes to incidents of heinous crimes.

In case reported as ABDUL WAHAB ALIAS REHRA VS THE STATE (1999 SCMR 1668) this Court having taken into consideration more than 20 cases referred to therein held that, motive remains shrouded in mystery by itself was not a mitigating circumstance for lesser sentence. It was also held that motive would not play any effective role on the question of sentence, when it was established beyond reasonable doubt, from the evidence that accused had committed premeditated and cold blooded murder in a brutal manner. In this reported matter, an observation recorded in Appeal No. 174 of 1995 which was as under:–

“However, we may observe that the people are losing their faith in the dispensation of criminal justice by the ordinary criminal Courts for the reason that they either acquit the accused persons on technical grounds or take a lenient view in awarding sentence. It is high time that the Courts should realize that they owe duty to the legal heirs/relations of the victims and also to the society. Sentences awarded should be such, which should act as a deterrent to the commission of offences. As a result, we found no mitigating circumstance to commute the death sentence, a legal and appropriate sentence awarded by the trial Court and confirmed by the High Court.”

“To curb crime from the society is the need of the hour. One object of criminal justice is to award exemplary punishment to offenders in order to deter them from committing crimes and in this way also to serve a stern warning to those members of the society who have behavioral learning towards criminality.”

This view of the August Supreme Court is availably followed by the High Courts. In the case GHAFAR VS THE STATE reported as 2002 PCrLJ 1019, it was held by High Court that:–

“Lack of motive by itself is not a mitigating circumstance …….. Absence of motive altogether or inability of prosecution to prove motive does not affect the imposition of normal penalty of death, if the case against the accused otherwise proved.”

Similar view was held by High Courts in following cases:–

1998 SCMR 1764

1999 SCMR 637

1995 SCMR 1776

2001 SCMR 726

In case of NAWAZ ALI VS THE STATE (2001 SCMR 726(730)) it was held that:–

“It has been held time and again by this Court that in case of lack of motive altogether or if the prosecution is unable to prove motive for murder, it does not effect the imposition of normal penalty of death, if prosecution otherwise has been able to prove its case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Reliance may kept on AHMAD NASIR VS THE STATE (1977 SCMR 175), wherein this Court observed that:–

(Generally speaking motive, more or less, is a guess on the part of the prosecution witnesses. What truly motivates an accused person to commit a crime is best known to him and not to others. Absence of motive or failure on the part of the prosecution to prove it does not, therefore, adversely affect the testimony of the eye-witnesses if they be otherwise reliable.)

Earlier in TALIB HUSSAIN AND OTHER VS THE STATE (1995 SCMR 176) it was held that;–

(There was no legal requirement that in order to award maximum penalty of death in a murder case, motive should be proved. If the prosecution proves the case against the accused, in a murder case, beyond reasonable doubt, the normal sentence is death. If normal sentence is not to be awarded, the Court can do it, but weakness of motive does not make out case of mitigating circumstances for reduction of sentence. The trial Court as well as the learned High Court accepted evidence produced by the prosecution and this Court also while granting leave to appeal observed the conviction of the appellants was justified on the basis of evidence produced by the prosecution. Absence of Motive and fact that appellants are brothers inter se are no grounds in law for awarding lesser punishment.)”

It was held in a case reported as 2006 SCMR 1744:–

“Statutory requirement that the Court has to give reason for awarding capital punishment in view of section 367(5) Cr.P.C.”

Absence of motive is no ground to award lesser punishment………..weakness of motive or its absence might not be helpful to the accused when unimpeachable ocular evidence is available, Reliance can be made to:–

2006 SCMR 1744

2005 SCMR 1568

PLD 2001 SC 458

“It is settled law that the absence of motive is no ground to award lesser punishment.”

(2005 SCMR 1568)

“It is settled law that each and every case to be decided on its peculiar circumstances and verdict given in a criminal case must be confined to the facts of the reported case and can not be universally applied to all cases.”

(2001 SCMR 25)

the view in above mentioned case reported as 2005 SCMR 1568, titled as HAROON RASHID VS THE STATE, in following words:–

“So far as the quantum of sentence is concerned, no mitigating circumstance has been put forward by the learned council for the appellant except that the motive was said to be weak or not proved, which this Court time and again held that it can not be a good ground to award lesser punishment as same is always found to be in the mind of the assailant.”


Contrary to the views mentioned above, the apex Courts have also opposite view, that is in the favor of defence. There are many cases in which the absence of motive has been considered as mitigating circumstance and the accused not awarded exemplary punishment given under the law. In the case JAHANZEB VS THE STATE reported as 2003 SCMR 98, it was held:–

“Where motive is alleged by the prosecution is not satisfactorily proved on record, such factor may be considered while deciding the quantum of sentence.”

Similar view was taken in the case FEROZ KHAN VS THE STATE, reported as 2002 SCMR 99, as follows:–

“Motive has remained shrouded in mystery and although lack of motive at times had not been accepted by Supreme Court as mitigating circumstance, but when one or two motives were set up and the prosecution witness were wavering and jumping from one motive to another. It had been assumed the matter of mitigating circumstance………..Conviction of the accused was consequently maintained, but his sentence of death was reduced to imprisonment for life in circumstances.”

Reliance may also be placed upon:–

2002 SCMR 163

PLD 1960 SC 387

PLD 1965 SC 188

1997 SCMR 1284

Similar view was taken in the case of YOUSAF VS THE STATE, reported as 2002 YLR 863:–

“Motive for the occurrence alleged in FIR was not proved and complainant has changed his stance at the trial which could be taken as a mitigating circumstance for awarding lesser punishment.”


(1)     if there is reliable evidence of guilt of accused proved, motive not be an important aspect.

(2)     Where there is direct evidence for implicating an accused in an offence, the absence of proof of motive is not material.

(3)     Now it is the well settled law that where there is direct evidence of an acceptable nature regarding the commission of offence is available, the question of motive can not loom large in the mind of the Court.

(4)        It is never incumbent on the prosecution to prove motive, because the motive is known by the proprietor of the crime and may not be known to other.


Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan Ex-member Punjab Bar Council.


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