Witness relative

A5X8HE Open Dictionary

In Dalip Singh and others vs. The State of Punjab (AIR 1953 SC 364) it has been laid down as under :-

“A witness is normally to be considered independent unless he or she springs from sources which are likely to be tainted and that usually means unless the witness has cause, such as enmity against the accused, to wish to implicate him falsely. Ordinarily a close relation would be the last to screen the real culprit and falsely implicate an innocent person. It is true, when feelings run high and there is personal cause for enmity, that there is a tendency to drag in an innocent person against whom a witness has a grudge along with the guilty, but foundation must be laid for such a criticism and the mere fact of relationship far from being a foundation is often a sure guarantee of truth. However, we are not attempting any sweeping generalization. Each case must be judged on its own facts. Our observations are only made to combat what is so often put forward in cases before us as a general rule of prudence. There is no such general rule. Each case must be limited to and be governed by its own facts.”

The above decision has since been followed in Guli Chand and others vs. State of Rajasthan (1974) 3 SCC 698) in which Vadivelu Thevar vs. State of Madras (AIR 1957 SC 614) was also relied upon.

We may also observe that the ground that the witness being a close relative and consequently being a partisan witness, should not be relied upon, has no substance. This theory was repelled by this Court as early as in Dalip Singh’s case (supra) in which surprise was expressed over the impression which prevailed in the minds of the Members of the Bar that relatives were not independent witnesses. Speaking through Vivian Bose, J. it was observed :

“We are unable to agree with the learned Judges of the High Court that the testimony of the two eye-witnesses requires corroboration. If the foundation for such an observation is based on the fact that the witnesses are women and that the fate of seven men hands on their testimony, we know of no such rule. If it is grounded on the reason that they are closely related to the deceased we are unable to concur. This is a fallacy common to many criminal cases and one which another Bench of this Court endeavoured to dispel in – ‘Rameshwar vs. State of Rajasthan’ (AIR 1952 SC 54 at p. 59). We find, however, that it unfortunately still persists, if not in the judgments of the Courts, at any rate in the arguments of counsel.”

Again in Masalti and others vs. State of U. P. (AIR 1965 SC 202) this Court observed (Pp. 209-210, para 14) :

“But it would, we think, be unreasonable to contend that evidence given by witnesses should be discarded only on the ground that it is evidence of partisan or interested witnesses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The mechanical rejection of such evidence on the sole ground that it is partisan would invariably lead to failure of justice. No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to how much evidence should be appreciated. Judicial approach has to be cautious in dealing with such evidence; but the plea that such evidence should be rejected because it is partisan cannot be accepted as correct.”

 To the same effect is the decision in State of Punjab vs. Jagir Singh (AIR 1973 SC 2407) and Lehna vs. State of Haryana (2002) 3 SCC 76. Stress was laid by the accused-appellants on the non-acceptance of evidence tendered by some witnesses to contend about desirability to throw out entire prosecution case. In essence prayer is to apply the principle of “falsus in uno falsus in omnibus” (false in one thing, false in everything). This plea is clearly untenable. Even if major portion of evidence is found to be deficient, in case residue is sufficient to prove guilt of an accused, notwithstanding acquittal of number of other co-accused persons, his conviction can be maintained. It is the duty of Court to separate grain from chaff. Where chaff can be separated from grain, it would be open to the Court to convict an accused notwithstanding the fact that evidence has been found to be deficient to prove guilt of other accused persons. Falsity of particular material witness or material particular would not ruin it from the beginning to end. The maxim “falsus in uno falsus in omnibus” has no application in India and the witnesses cannot be branded as liar. The maxim “falsus in uno falsus in omnibus” has not received general acceptance nor has this maxim come to occupy the status of rule of law. It is merely a rule of caution. All that it amounts to, is that in such cases testimony may be disregarded, and not that it must be disregarded. The doctrine merely involves the question of weight of evidence which a Court may apply in a given set of circumstances, but it is not what may be called ‘a mandatory rule of evidence.’ (See Nisar Ali vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (AIR 1957 SC 366). Merely because some of the accused persons have been acquitted, though evidence against all of them, so far as direct testimony went, was the same does not lead as a necessary corollary that those who have been convicted must also be acquitted. It is always open to a Court to differentiate accused who had been acquitted from those who were convicted. (See Gurcharan Singh and another vs. State of Punjab (AIR 1956 SC 460). The doctrine is a dangerous one specially in India for if a whole body of the testimony were to be rejected, because witness was evidently speaking an untruth in some aspect, it is to be feared that administration of criminal justice would come to a dead stop. Witnesses just cannot help in giving embroidery to a story, however, true in the main. Therefore, it has to be appraised in each case as to what extent the evidence is worthy of acceptance, and merely because in some respects the Court considers the same to be insufficient for placing reliance on the testimony of a witness, it does not necessarily follow as a matter of law that it must be disregarded in all respects as well. The evidence has to be shifted with care. The aforesaid dictum is not a sound rule for the reason that one hardly comes across a witness whose evidence does not contain a grain of untruth or at any rate exaggeration, embroideries or embellishment. (See Sohrab s/o Beli Nayata and another vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, (1972) 3 SCC 751 and Ugar Ahir and others vs. State of Bihar (AIR 1965 SC 277). An attempt has to be made to, as noted above, in terms of felicitous metaphor, separate grain from the chaff, truth from falsehood. Where it is not feasible to separate truth from falsehood, because grain and chaff are inextricably mixed up, and in the process of separation an absolutely new case has to be reconstructed by divorcing essential details presented by the prosecution completely from the context and the background against which they are made, the only available course to be made is to discard the evidence in toto. (See Zwinglee Ariel vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1954 SC 15) and Balaka Singh and others vs. State of Punjab (AIR 1975 SC 1962). As observed by this Court in State of Rajasthan vs. Smt. Kalki and another (AIR 1981 SC 1390), normal discrepancies in evidence are those which are due to normal errors of observation, normal errors of memory due to lapse of time, due to mental disposition such as shock and horror at the time of occurrence and those are always there however honest and truthful a witness may be. Material discrepancies are those which are not normal, and not expected of a normal person. Courts have to label the category to which a discrepancy may be categorised. While normal discrepancies do not corrode the credibility of a party’s case, material discrepancies do so. These aspects were highlighted recently in Krishna Mochi and others vs. State of Bihar etc. JT 2002 (4) SC 186. Accusations have been clearly established against accused-appellants in the case at hand. The Courts below have categorically indicated the distinguishing features in evidence so far as acquitted and convicted accused are concerned.

As observed by this Court in State of Rajasthan vs. Teja Ram and others (AIR 1999 SC 1776) the over insistence on witnesses having no relation with the victims often results in criminal justice going away. When any incident happens in a dwelling house or nearby the most natural witnesses would be the inmates of that house. It would be unpragmatic to ignore such natural witnesses and insist on outsiders who would not have been seen anything. If the Court has discerned from the evidence or even from the investigation records that some other independent person has witnessed any event connecting the incident in question then there is justification for making adverse comments against non-examination of such person as prosecution witness. Otherwise, merely on surmises the Court should not castigate a prosecution for not examining other persons of the locality as prosecution witnesses. Prosecution can be expected to examine only those who have witnessed the events and not those who have not seen it though the neighbourhood may be replete with other residents also.


AIR 2003 SC 3617 : (2003) 2 Suppl. SCR 35 : (2003) 7 SCC 643 : JT 2003 (6) SC 348 : (2003) 6 SCALE 34 : (2003) CriLJ SC 3876

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