Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the law on the credibility of the testimony of an interested eye-witness, the bench of NV Ramana and SA Nazeer, JJ held:

“If the evidence of an eyewitness, though a close relative of the victim, inspires confidence, it must be relied upon without seeking corroboration with minute material particulars. It is no doubt true that the Courts must be cautious while considering the evidence of interested witnesses.”

The Court was hearing the appeal of a man who was accused of abusing and attacking a shopkeeper with iron rod who was heading home in the evening with his father. The shopkeeper later succumbed to the injuries on his head. The accused had assaulted the deceased after a prior tussle between them during the daytime at the shop of the deceased over a financial transaction. One iron rod being the weapon of assault was also recovered at the instance of the accused.

The father of the deceased was the sole eye-witness in the case and the therefore, the entire case depended upon the veracity of his testimony. The accused, hence, argued that he was an interested witness and hence, his testimony can be relied on. He also argued that if the eyewitness was present at the time of the incident then why didn’t he receive any injury? To this, the Court answered:

 “It is not necessary that to prove an offence, every eyewitness who had seen the accused hitting the victim should also receive injuries.”

The Court, hence, calling the father of the deceased a ‘natural’ witness to the incident, noticed that the chain of events and the circumstantial evidence thereof completely supports the eyewitness’s statements which in turn strengthens the prosecution case with no manner of doubt.

As a word of caution for the courts, the bench said:

“When analyzing the evidence available on record, Court should not adopt hyper technical approach but should look at the broader probabilities of the case. (…)  Particularly in the criminal cases, from the date of incident till the day they give evidence in the Court, there may be gap of years. Hence the Courts have to take all these aspects into consideration and weigh the evidence. The discrepancies and contradictions which do not go to the root of the matter, credence shall not be given to them. In any event, the paramount consideration of the Court must be to do substantial justice.”

[Khurshid Ahmed v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 529, decided on 15.05.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Mukta Gupta and Navin Chawla, JJ. partly allowed an appeal, modifying the appellant’s conviction under Section 302 to Section 304 Pt. II IPC, consequently, reducing the sentence thereunder from life imprisonment to RI for 7 years while upholding the conviction and sentence under Section 25 of the Arms Act.

The brief facts of the case are that at around 9:00 p.m. on 07.03.2012, the deceased was allegedly stabbed by the appellant following a quarrel between them. Harish (PW 4), was the sole witness to the crime, while Ashok (PW 5) And Charan Pal (PW 6) had arrived shortly after the occurrence. The deceased was taken to the hospital by the trio where he was declared ‘brought dead’. PW 4 deposed that he had been taking a walk after a meal and upon reaching the 19 Block Chowk near a shop, he saw the appellant and deceased quarrelling, soon after which, the appellant raised a knife and stabbed the deceased on the chest. The resulting commotion caused the public to assemble near the crime scene, among which PW 5 and PW 6 were also present. They deposed to seeing the deceased lying in a pool of blood and also deposed to PW 4 being present there. The appellant was arrested soon after and he disclosed the location of a knife which was recovered soon after. The FSL report opined that the injury was ante-mortem, sufficient in the ordinary course to cause death, and was delivered by a single-edged sharp weapon, which could have been the recovered knife. The blood stains on the clothes of the witnesses matched with the blood of the deceased, also there was enough evidence at the crime scene to tie the occurrence to that particular place.

The appellant argued that the prosecution did not put forward any other eye witnesses except PW 4, whose deposition cannot be relied upon as he is an uncle of the deceased and hence, an interested witness. The Court rejected this argument, stating that there was nothing in PW 4’s deposition which could be doubted upon. He lived in the vicinity of the crime scene, and was out for a walk at 9:00 p.m.. Further, no reason was put forth suggesting that PW 4 would falsely implicate the appellant.

The Court relied on the Supreme Court judgment of State of A.P. v. S. Rayappa(2006) 4 SCC 512 while rejecting this contention, where the Supreme Court had elaborately stated that a testimony of witness inspiring confidence cannot be discarded on the sole ground that he, being, a relative of the deceased is an interested witness. The term ‘interested’ postulates that the person concerned must have some direct interest in seeing the accused person being convicted, either because of animosity or some other reason. The Court had further observed that it has become increasingly difficult to have witnesses depose before the Court because of various reasons including harassment and intimidation, as a result of which, criminal cases are being dragged on for years. The Supreme Court had opined that in such circumstances the only natural witness available to the prosecution would be a relative of the deceased. The Supreme Court had also shed light on the mindset of such witnesses, stating that witnesses who are related to the deceased would, in all probability, depose in such a way so as to implicate the real culprit so that the guilty is punished. The only catch being that related witnesses are to be examined cautiously.

The Court, however, agreed to the argument that there was no pre-meditation on part of the appellant and the case fell under Exception 4 to Section 300 IPC. Appeal partly allowed. Sentence modified. [Deepu v. State,  2017 SCC OnLine Del 12402, decided on 16.12.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where 5 appellants, convicted under Section 302 read with Section 149 IPC, had approached the Court with the plea of setting aside the order of conviction, the Court, rejected the plea and held that once it is found that the witnesses, who are eye witnesses, were present and they have truthfully narrated the incidence as it happened and their depositions are worth of credence, conviction can be based on their testimonies even if they were related to the deceased.

In the present case, the informant’s uncle was killed while saving him from the appellants who had intended to kill him over a property dispute. The appellants had argued that no independent witnesses were examined in the present case and all the witnesses who were examined were related to the deceased. The Court rejected the said contention and said that in the cross-examination or otherwise it has not even been brought out by the defence that there were other persons at the scene of occurrence who were independent persons. It was further noticed that there were six eye witnesses and three of them were injured eye witnesses, which is a weighty factor to show the actual presence of these witnesses at the scene of occurrence.

The Bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and N. V. Ramana, JJ. said that the credibility and trustworthiness of the eye witnesses could not be shaken by the accused persons. The only requirement, while scrutinising the interested witnesses, is to examine their depositions with greater caution and deeper scrutiny is needed and the same has been done by the Trial Court and the Patna High Court in the present case. [Kamta Yadav v. State of Bihar, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1112, decided on 06.10.2016]