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Perjury rap shows the way

The court that conducted the retrial of the Best Bakery case in Mumbai has shown the way.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 02:47 IST
Samanwaya
Samanwaya
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The court that conducted the retrial of the Best Bakery case in Mumbai has shown the way. On Friday, it invoked its power to punish hostile witnesses for perjury, possibly the first time a court has done so in a high-profile case.

The court issued notices, returnable by March 20, to key witness Zahira Sheikh and her family (all of whom turned hostile) asking why they should not be prosecuted for making false statements under oath. If found guilty, they face a maximum seven years in jail and can also be fined.

Although courts in India have the power under sections 191 and 193 of the IPC to punish for perjury, this power is rarely invoked. In other countries, such convictions are fairly common: author Jeffery Archer was convicted in the UK, so was the key witness in the Kanishka case in Canada.

The Mumbai trial court judge's decision to invoke his powers of perjury could well be the beginning of a welcome trend in criminal jurisprudence if other courts in the country follow suit.

Incidentally, the court hearing the Jessica Lall case chose not to exercise this option when the witnesses turned hostile. The witnesses who turned hostile in the case included Shayan Munshi on whose complaint the FIR was filed.

Courts are expected to exercise this option if prima facie it seems the witness has turned hostile. This may make witnesses stick to their stand and give hope to the families of the Jessica Lalls and Priyadarshini Mattoos.

First Published: Feb 25, 2006 02:47 IST