Character When Relevant (Section 52 – 55)

Section 52: In civil cases character to prove conduct imputed, irrelevant

In civil cases the fact that the character of any person concerned is such as to render probable or improbable any conduct imputed to him is irrelevant, except in so far as such character appears from facts otherwise relevant.

Section 53: In criminal cases, previous good character relevant

In criminal proceedings, the fact that the person accused is of a good character, is relevant.

Section 53-A. Evidence of character or previous sexual experience not relevant in certain cases

In a prosecution for an offence under Section 354, Section 354-A, Section 354-B, Section 354-C, Section 354-D, Section 376, Section 376-A, Section 376-AB, Section 376-B, Section 376-C, Section 376-D, Section 376-DA, Section 376-DB or Section 376-E of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or for attempt to commit any such offence, where the question of consent is in issue, evidence of the character of the victim or of such person’s previous sexual experience with any person shall not be relevant on the issue of such consent or the quality of consent.

Section 54: Previous bad character not relevant, except in reply

In criminal proceedings the fact that the accused person has a bad character is irrelevant, unless evidence has been given that he has a good character, in which case it becomes relevant.

Explanation 1—This section does not apply to cases in which the bad character of any person is itself a fact in issue.

Explanation 2—A previous conviction is relevant as evidence of bad character.

Section 55: Character as affecting damages

In civil cases, the fact that the character of any person is such as to affect the amount of damages which he ought to receive, is relevant.

Explanation.—In Sections 52, 53, 54 and 55, the word “character” includes both reputation and disposition; but except as provided in Section 54, evidence may be given only of general reputation and general disposition, and not of particular acts by which reputation or disposition were shown.


1. Character when relevant :

Bhagwan Swarup v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1965 SC 682 : “……The explanation to section 55 clearly provides that evidence cannot be given of particular acts by which reputation or disposition were shown.Such instances would give rise to indeterminable issues which would have but a very remote bearing on the question in dispute . The way and the only way the law allows of your getting at the disposition and tendency of his mind, is by evidence as to his general character founded upon the knowledge of those who know anything about him and his general conduct.……..”