Court may act on the testimony of a single witness provided he is wholly reliable

Delhi High Court: Deciding an appeal filed by the State against acquittal of the accused for an offence under Section 354 of the Penal Code, the Bench of Sunita Gupta, J., reversed the acquittal and held that there is no legal impediment in convicting a person on the sole testimony of a single witness. In a case where an FIR was filed against the gym instructor and who despite the complainant’s refusal, forceably, in the garb of giving her a body massage pressed her thighs and touched her private parts, the accused was acquitted by the Metropolitan Magistrate on the ground that during the cross-examination of the complainant, it had come that  there was one more lady present inside the gym and that lady was not examined by prosecution. Since that lady was an independent witness, conviction could not be based on the solitary testimony of the complainant. The Public Prosecutor submitted that the trial court fell in error in acquitting the respondent solely on account of non-examination of one more lady who was alleged to be present in the gym and no reason was assigned as to why the testimony of the complainant should be disbelieved.

On the other hand, learned counsel for the respondent submitted that this appeal is against acquittal and, therefore, no interference is called for. It was further submitted that the prosecution case is based on solitary testimony of the complainant.

Rejecting the reasoning of the trial court and in the light of the above arguments, the Court held that the law under Section 134 of the Evidence Act, 1872 states that the Court may act on the testimony of a single witness on a condition that he is wholly reliable according to the wellsettled principle that evidence has to be weighed and not counted. The Court further held that non-investigation regarding presence of any other girl in the gym at the time of incident can be termed as lapse on the part of Investigating Officer however, the defect in the investigation cannot be a ground for acquittal and if primacy is given to such negligent investigation or lapses by perfunctory investigation, the faith and confidence of the people in the criminal justice administrated would be destroyed. Thus, merely that some other girl was present in the gym, who was not examined by prosecution is not enough to draw an adverse inference against the prosecution. [State (NCT of Delhi) v. Pratap Singh, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 3207, 25 May 2016].

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