The criteria for appreciation of oral evidence

Before appreciating evidence of the witnesses examined in the case, it would be instructive to refer to the criteria for appreciation of oral evidence. While appreciating the evidence of a witness, the approach must be whether the evidence of witness read as a whole appears to have a ring of truth. Once that impression is found, it is undoubtedly necessary for the Court to scrutinize the evidence more particularly keeping in view the deficiencies, drawbacks and infirmities pointed out in the evidence as a whole and evaluate them to find out whether it is against the general tenor of the evidence and whether the earlier evaluation of the evidence is shaken as to render it unworthy of belief. Minor discrepancies on trivial matters not touching the core of the case, hyper-technical approach by taking sentences torn out of context here or there from the evidence, attaching importance to some technical error committed by the investigating officer not going to the root of the matter would not ordinarily permit rejection of the evidence as a whole.

If the court before whom the witness gives evidence had the opportunity to form the opinion about the general tenor of the evidence given by the witness, the appellate court which had not this benefit will have to attach due weight to the appreciation of evidence by the Trial Court and unless the reasons are weighty and formidable, it would not be proper for the appellate court to reject the evidence on the ground of variations or infirmities in the matter of trivial details. Minor omissions in the police statements are never considered to be fatal.

The statements given by the witnesses before the Police are meant to be brief statements and could not take place of evidence in the court. Small/trivial omissions would not justify a finding by court that the witnesses concerned are liars. The prosecution evidence may suffer from inconsistencies here and discrepancies there, but that is a short-coming from which no criminal case is free. The main thing to be seen is whether those inconsistencies go to the root of the matter or pertain to insignificant aspects thereof. In the former case, the defence may be justified in seeking advantage of incongruities obtaining in the evidence. In the latter, however, no such benefit may be available to it. In the deposition of witnesses, there are always normal discrepancies, howsoever, honest and truthful they may be. These discrepancies are due to normal errors of observation, normal errors of memory due to lapse of time, due to mental disposition, shock and horror at the time of occurrence and threat to the life. It is not unoften that improvements in earlier version are made at the trial in order to give a boost to the prosecution case albeit foolishly.

Therefore, it is the duty of the Court to separate falsehood from the truth. In sifting the evidence, the Court has to attempt to separate the chaff from the grains in every case and this attempt cannot be abandoned on the ground that the case is baffling unless the evidence is really so confusing or conflicting that the process cannot reasonably be carried out. In the light of these principles, this Court will have to determine whether the evidence of eye-witnesses examined in this case proves the prosecution case.[STATE OF U.P. Vs. KRISHNA MASTER AND OTHERS]


Categories: CIVIL