The Delhi High Court has said that children who depose as witnesses in a criminal trial should be examined carefully or else it could lead to injustice.
A division bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Suresh Kait last week said: "We are noticing that the trial court judges and the public prosecutors are not alive to when witnesses depose in court. Children have no command over their language, much less on their thought process. They tend to confuse facts."
The court's observation came on an appeal filed by Mohammad Yunus alias Raja who was held guilty for murdering a boy after doing unnatural acts.
"As in the instant case, where the confusion is writ large, for the reason an unnatural conduct surfaces if what is being spoken of by witnesses who are minor is literally accepted. We expect the trial court judges to seek clarificatory questions in such situations so that truth emerges," the bench noted while dismissing the appeal of Raja.
"The role of a judge at a trial is often described as that of a neutral umpire, but that does not mean that he sits as a sphinx in his court. It is the duty of the judge, who is the recipient of facts and the trier of facts, to seek clarification on grey areas," the court said.
The case dates back to March 4, 2005 when a boy named Alam approached the police near Kauria Pul and stated that a man named Raja was committing bad acts with children forcefully by terrorising them with a blade. Alam managed to flee.
When the police reached the spot, it was found that Raja was involved in unnatural activities with another boy and also killed him.
In 2007, Raja was convicted for sex involving minors and murder.
"None can dispute that the deceased died a homicidal death on account of manual and ligature strangulation. The head of the victim striking, not with considerable force, a hard surface and certainly would be possible if a boy aged 12 years (age of the victim) offers resistance when sodomised on a street and the assailant tries to pin down the victim," the court observed.