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Principle of Preponderance of Probabilities

The legal standard of proof known as 'preponderance of probability' is utilized in civil cases, requiring the evidence presented to demonstrate a greater likelihood that a fact is true. In simpler terms, if the evidence indicates that something is more likely than not to have happened; it satisfies the preponderance of probability standard. This standard is less stringent than 'beyond a reasonable doubt,' which is applied in criminal cases.

In the field of civil law, a key aspect lies in the idea that the preponderance of probabilities can constitute the main determinative principle, especially where the standard is not beyond reasonable doubt but rather on the balance of probabilities. At its core, this principle imposes an obligation on a party asserting to prove that there exists an even higher likelihood than not, that their story about events is true.

The rule of preponderance of probabilities is the basis for the burden of proof in civil cases, which are decided by considering evidence against one another. In criminal cases, there is a requirement that proof must be beyond reasonable doubt; however, in civil cases generally proof may be based on a less standard. This means that the evidence presented should demonstrate that one version of events is more likely than another.

The basis of this principle is the notion of the �balance of probabilities.� Hence, the court or any adjudicating body, should weigh the facts brought forward by both parties and figure out which side is more likely to be right. It does not mean that what has been said by one party is necessarily true or must have happened, but it has a greater chance of being true because there is some evidence that supports that statement.

The preponderance of probabilities standard is based on fairness and practicality. In most civil cases, there are differing stories and competing facts that would make it unfair and unfeasible to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. So the law allows that many times it would be enough to pass a verdict based on which side�s evidence looks more plausible or who has a stronger point backed by a bigger bundle of evidence.

The standard of preponderance of probabilities is employed by courts in different civil issues, for instance, contract disputes, tort claims, family law problems, and administrative proceedings. Both parties are tasked with presenting evidence and arguments supporting their views, with the onus on the party seeking a claim or relief.

The standards to be followed for this standard are to duly consider the evidence that both parties have presented. This includes the determination of the credibility and reliability of witnesses, analysis of documentary evidence, and considering expert testimony given by either side. The purpose here is to come up with an opinion that will not be deemed unreasonable but supported by adequate material proofs as well as convincing arguments.

It is pertinent to note that absolute certainty is not always achievable in ascertaining the truth. In civil matters, the onus of proof lies on the party initiating the case and they need to provide adequate evidence to back up their side of events. Nonetheless, this burden does not require them to prove their case beyond any doubt, as this would be an unreasonable expectation.

The criminal cases are determined under another standard called �beyond a reasonable doubt� unlike the preponderance of probabilities. There will always be some ambiguity in determining guilt or innocence and it will be based on what more likely occurred when viewed by a rational person from all available facts and circumstances.

Another factor is that it creates fairness between both parties by ensuring they have equal opportunities for presenting their cases. This principle also rules out possible unjust verdicts that may result from lack of sufficient evidence used during trial whereby decision based on which story is more plausibly true amongst those presented can therefore be reached.

Because the preponderance of probabilities standard is generally less stringent even than the criminal beyond a reasonable doubt standard, the parties nevertheless bear a serious burden on a civil claim. Claimants have to present enough evidence to support their claim, of events is more likely to be true.

On the other hand, defendants do get the chance to dispute the evidence presented in the claim and to provide alternative arguments and evidence, intended to throw the claim into doubt.

Because the standard is malleable, courts can take into account the specific facts of each civil dispute. Factors such as the difficulty of achieving absolute certainty in the context of litigation and the commonsense nature of resolving disputes require a more flexible accommodation than would an inflexible standard. Perhaps the canon does not demand the absolute certainty necessary for a scientific or mathematical proof, but it does require that the evidence and legal arguments before a court be carefully and reasonably scrutinized.

In essence, the principle of preponderance of probabilities is a fundamental aspect of civil law that governs the resolution of conflicts by considering the strength of evidence presented by both parties. This principle utilizes the balance of probabilities, as opposed to the higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, as the threshold of proof in cases where the burden of proof lies. By requiring claimants to demonstrate that their version of events is more likely to be true, this standard promotes fairness and efficiency in resolving civil disputes.

Although it does not demand the same level of certainty as the beyond a reasonable doubt standard used in criminal cases, it still plays a crucial role in ensuring that decisions are made after a thorough examination of the available evidence. This concept recognizes the complexities and limitations involved in determining the truth in legal conflicts, and it advocates for fairness by allowing for a less biased evaluation of the evidence presented.

Explanation of the Principle of Preponderance of Probabilities:
Consider a situation where John and Sarah, who are neighbors, have a conflict over the possession of land that lies between their lands. According to John, the piece belongs to him as it is shown in an old map he found in his attic. On the other hand, Sarah declares that she has been caring for and using the piece for her garden for the past ten years.

As John appears in court, he pulls out the old survey map as proof of his ownership. Sarah, on the other hand, opposes with witnesses like her neighbors who affirm that she has been gardening in the disputed area for many years. She also has taken photographs that capture her nurturing the garden.

One possible solution is for the court to consider all evidence introduced by the parties and then try to decide who has a more promising ownership claim of the disputed property. Sarah�s long-time use and care of the land may outweigh John�s survey map as evidence of ownership, in favor of determining that she is the true owner. In this case, considering the totality of circumstances, it is likely that the court will decide in Sarah�s favor, on a balance of probabilities: that her claim has more chances of being real because of the weighty proofs presented.

This is an example of how the principle of the preponderance of probability applies in reality, with the court adjudicating to determine which party�s side of the story is more likely based on available evidence.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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