Irrelevant details which do not in any way corrode the credibility of a witness cannot be labelled as omissions or contradictions.

Indian Law Encyclopedia

It is a settled legal proposition that while appreciating the evidence of a witness, minor discrepancies on trivial matters, which do not affect the core of the prosecution’s case, may not prompt the Court to reject the evidence in its entirety. “Irrelevant details which do not in any way corrode the credibility of a witness cannot be labelled as omissions or contradictions.” Difference in some minor detail, which does not otherwise affect the core of the prosecution case, even if present, would not itself prompt the court to reject the evidence on minor variations and discrepancies. After exercising care and caution and sifting through the evidence to separate truth from untruth, exaggeration and improvements, the court comes to a conclusion as to whether the residuary evidence is sufficient to convict the accused. Thus, 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 witness. As the mental capabilities of a human being cannot be expected to be attuned to absorb all the details, minor discrepancies are bound to occur in the statements of witnesses. (Vide: Vijay @ Chinee v. State of M.P., (2010) 8 SCC 191.

In all criminal cases, normal discrepancies are bound to occur in the depositions of witnesses due to normal errors of observation, namely, errors of memory due to lapse of time or due to mental disposition such as shock and horror at the time of occurrence. Where the omissions amount to a contradiction, creating a serious doubt about the truthfulness of the witness and other witnesses also make material improvement while deposing in the court, such evidence cannot be safe to rely upon. However, minor contradictions, inconsistencies, embellishments or improvements on trivial matters which do not affect the core of the prosecution case, should not be made a ground on which the evidence can be rejected in its entirety. The court has to form its opinion about the credibility of the witness and record a finding as to whether his deposition inspires confidence. “Exaggerations per se do not render the evidence brittle. But it can be one of the factors to test credibility of the prosecution version, when the entire evidence is put in a crucible for being tested on the touchstone of credibility.” Therefore, mere marginal variations in the statements of a witness cannot be dubbed as improvements as the same may be elaborations of the statement made by the witness earlier. “Irrelevant details which do not in any way corrode the credibility of a witness cannot be labelled as omissions or contradictions.” The omissions which amount to contradictions in material particulars, i.e., materially affect the trial or core of the prosecution’s case, render the testimony of the witness liable to be discredited. (Vide: State Represented by Inspector of Police v. Saravanan and Anr., AIR 2009 SC 152; Arumugam v. State AIR 2009 SC 331; Mahendra Pratap Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2009) 11 SCC 334; Dr. Sunil Kumar Sambhudayal Gupta and Ors. v. State of Maharashtra, JT 2010 (12) SC 287; Vijay @ Chinee v. State of M.P., (2010) 8 SCC 191; State of U.P. v. Naresh and Ors., (2011) 4 SCC 324; and Brahm Swaroop and Anr. v. State of U.P., AIR 2011 SC 280).

Where the omission(s) amount to a contradiction, creating a serious doubt about the truthfulness of a witness and other witness also make material improvements before the court in order to make the evidence acceptable, it cannot be safe to rely upon such evidence. (Vide: State of Rajasthan v. Rajendra Singh (2009) 11 SCC 106.