Hostile witness must be recalled if he wants to depose: Punjab and Haryana HC
he Punjab and Haryana HC has said that a hostile witness in a criminal trial on account of threats or allurement if wants to depose ‘truthfully/differently’ must be re-called and re-examined.
The Punjab and Haryana high court has said that a hostile witness in a criminal trial on account of threats or allurement if wants to depose ‘truthfully/differently’ must be re-called and re-examined.
“The interpretation of Section 311 CrPC as given in the judgments are also to this effect that for the just adjudication of the case, a witness can be summoned, recalled and re-examined if his evidence appears to be essential for the just adjudication of the case. In fact, it is a duty cast upon the court to arrive at the truth and to ensure that justice prevails,” the bench of justice JS Bedi observed. Section 311 of CrPC deals with the power to summon material witnesses or examine persons present before a trial court.
The court’s observation came on the plea of an SBS Nagar resident, Surjit Singh, who was a complainant in an FIR registered in 2017 in which he had accused three persons of voluntarily causing grievous hurt to him and mischief. Pursuant to the framing of charges, the complainant witness turned hostile during the trial but later in May 2018 moved an application for his re-examination contending that his signatures were forcibly obtained on a compromise deed because of which he could not depose fairly and fearlessly. In July 2022, the trial court dismissed the application primarily on the ground that no complaint had ever been made by him before any authority about the alleged threats.
In the high court, the petitioner argued that he had turned hostile on account of duress and threats. Despite the compromise having been signed under duress, the accused did not honour the compromise because of which the petitioner was left with no alternative but to move the instant application, it was submitted.
The high court found that the application revealed the complainant was pressurised to sign a compromise to enable one of the accused, Amandeep Singh to travel abroad, who is now absconding. In such a situation, where the petitioner complainant is the real brother of Nirmal Singh (second accused) and the uncle of Kulwant Singh (third accused), merely because no application was moved to any authority regarding threats meted out to him, would not be a reason enough to dismiss the application in question. It appears to be a case wherein the petitioner-complainant was initially threatened and coerced into entering into a compromise and turning hostile in court. After the respondents-accused obtained a statement from him in their favour, they reneged from the terms of the compromise and only then did the instant application come to be filed, it added.
The high court, while quashing the trial court order, observed that re-examination of the petitioner would not amount to filling up a lacuna in the prosecution case or cause any prejudice to the accused as they would be given full opportunity to cross-examine the recalled witness. “…even otherwise, the earlier statement made by the witness is not going to be erased and wiped out from the record of the case. The trial judge is to decide the case based on the evidence already on record and the additional evidence which would be recorded on re-examination of the petitioner as a prosecution witness,” the court said adding that in view of this while deciding the case on merits, the trial court would take into consideration all the evidence available on the record.