Hostile witnesses:Not true always
Recently the people have read with great interest a case recently decided by the Supreme Court in which the Bench has ordered prosecution of a hostile witness in a murder case for backing out from their earlier statements made before the trial court.india Updated: Apr 24, 2006 00:12 IST
Recently the people have read with great interest a case recently decided by the Supreme Court in which the Bench has ordered prosecution of a hostile witness in a murder case for backing out from their earlier statements made before the trial court.
This has in fact a clear sign that no one can take the courts for a ride any longer. The idea is that a witness cannot be allowed to perjure himself by rescinding from testimony given on oath in Court.
The offence of perjury, as we all know, is serious offence and is also punishable with a sentence of seven years rigorous imprisonment with fine or with both. However, my own experience of criminal work at the Bar for not less than sixty years now tells me that these witnesses, at least most of them who become turncoats in court, have not seen the occurrence from the very beginning and are just introduced in the case under some influence or the other- it may be that of complainant or the police.
But when that influence is over, the witness wants to say what is really true as his own conscience is persuing him all the time. So we cannot affirmatively say that whatever the witness stated earlier was necessarily true and his subsequent statement was necessarily false.
It may be possible that his subsequent statement alone may be true which proves the innocence of the accused. Not much emphasis can be laid therefore on earlier statement also.In a country like ours where corruption and false implication is rampant and are a rule rather than exception, our courts too have to guard against such a contingency and see that not one innocent person should be punished.
Our trial courts are quite aware of this tendency and High Courts too are not lagging behind. But each case has to be decided on the facts and circumstances of that particular case.
The case related to State of Madhya Pradesh in which one Lal Mohammed was killed by Badri Yadav and Raju as alleged. The two eye-witnesses Mohd Ameen and Fakir Ali were examined in the trial court but they turned hostile when they were recalled on an application by the defence. The trial court was not inclined to believe their subsequent statement and convicted both Badri Yadav and accused Raju.
The High Court, however, set aside the trial courts' order finding that two eye-witnesses did not support the prosecution version at all in their subsequent statements. The High Court acquitted the accused Badri Yadav.
The proceedings against Raju stood abated due to his death during appeal.
The Supreme Court, however, set aside the order of acquittal by High Court and restored the conviction and sentence of Badri Yadav and ordered that a complaint under section 193 of Indian Penal Code for perjury be filed against the eye-witnesses Mohd Ameen and Fakir Ali.
The Supreme Court, while commenting on the High Court's approach in the case, was of the view that no reasonable person should have acted on such statements.
I have greatly appreciated the manner in which the two witnesses have been ordered to be prosecuted for the offence of perjury under section 193 of IPC. They did make two different statements on oath in court for which prima facie they are liable and they will have to explain at their trial.
Besides, this tendency of witnesses turning hostile at the trial has assumed alarming proportions of late which has to be checked with iron hand.
(The writer is former senior vice-president of Allahabad High Court Bar Association