Thursday, October 21, 2010

“Relevant parts of hostile witnesses' evidence can be used for conviction”

Undue importance should not be attached to discrepancies
Evidence of prosecution witnesses cannot be rejected in toto even if all of them turn hostile because of pressure from or influence of the accused, and it could be accepted by the court to the extent that their version is found dependable on a careful scrutiny for the purposes of conviction, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.
A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and Anil R. Dave said the evidence of hostile witnesses could not be discarded as a whole, and relevant parts admissible in law could be used by the prosecution.

Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam, quoting an earlier judgment, said: “It is a settled proposition of law that even if there are some omissions, contradictions and discrepancies, the entire evidence cannot be disregarded. An undue importance should not be attached to omissions, contradictions and discrepancies which do not go to the heart of the matter and shake the basic version of the prosecution's witness. As the mental abilities of a human being cannot be expected to be attuned to absorb all the details of the incident, minor discrepancies are bound to occur in the statements of witnesses.”

In a large number of cases, witnesses turned hostile, and this was no ground to reject other evidence if the same was based on the testimony of the investigating officer alone, it said. The evidence of hostile witnesses which was consistent with the prosecution case could be relied upon by the court.

Rameshbhai Mohanbhai and two others were awarded life sentence by a trial court in Gujarat for committing a murder. The Gujarat High Court confirmed the sentence. Their appeal is based on the ground that the witnesses had turned hostile, and there was no evidence to convict them.

Dismissing the appeal, the Bench pointed out that in this case, all the eye witnesses turned hostile owing to the influence and pressure of the accused, who included a sitting MLA of the ruling party. The trial court had gone into this aspect while convicting the accused. Furthermore, there was circumstantial evidence to link the chain of events to prove the prosecution case, the Bench said.

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