Witnesses turning hostile common in criminal cases is not a ground for letting accused go scot free in presence of other supporting evidence

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Sunil Gaur and Pratibha M. Singh JJ., dismissed an appeal against conviction before it. The appellant had been convicted under Section 302 IPC for the pre-meditated murder of the deceased and pleaded for scaling down of the offence convicted for to culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 IPC.

The trial Court had convicted the accused relied on the dying declaration of the deceased (Ext. PW 3/A), the evidence of his wife (PW 3) and the evidence of the accused’ brother (PW 7). The appellant challenged the conviction on the grounds that the evidence of the initial investigating officer (PW 19) and the accompanying constable (PW 14) were inconsistent regarding the time of preparation of rukka (statement given) and that the same creates serious doubts as to authenticity of the prosecution’s case. Further, the appellant submitted that PW 7’s statements in the cross examination were vastly different than his statements in the examination-in-chief and hence, the ocular evidence is inconsistent and unreliable.

The Court took note of the submissions and held that the dying declaration of the deceased was fully corroborated by evidence of PW 3 who was an eyewitness to the incident. Her testimony remained unshaken in the cross-examination. Regarding PW 7 turning hostile, the Court observed that his cross-examination had taken place almost 13 months after recording of evidence and opined that such a long gap may have urged him to turn hostile.

Relying on the Supreme Court judgment in Ramesh v. State of Haryana, (2017) 1 SCC 529, the Court reiterated that it is common for witnesses to turn hostile in criminal cases and that it should not be a reason to let the accused go scot free if there are other evidences to support the charges against the accused. Explaining the importance attributed to a dying declaration, the court relied on Lakhan v. State of M.P., (2010) 8 SCC 514 to reiterate that a conviction can be upheld solely on the basis of a dying declaration meaning that a dying declaration is to be disbelieved only if there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the same. The rukka was thus held to be reliable evidence unshaken by the contradictory versions of PW 7. Appeal dismissed. [Vishal v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 8709, decided on 21-4-2018]

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