Criminal Appeal No. 739 of 20177
Shahaja @ Shahajan Ismail Mohd. Shaikh Vs State Of Maharashtra
Date of Order:
Justice Surya Kant and Justice JB Pardiwala
Shahaja @ Shahajan Ismail Mohd. Shaikh - Petitioner
State Of Maharashtra – Respondent
The Supreme Court clarified the conditions and exceptions in the process of adducing ocular evidence in form of live witnesses and what is to be expected and not expected of them in a judicial process.
- The Supreme Court has taken cognizance of this appeal through a special leave application in which the accused is charged under Section 302 for murder as laid out in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- It was filed in response to the judgment by the High Court of Bombay which dismissed the appeal of the accused and upheld the judgment by the Ad-hoc Additional Sessions Judge, Sewree, Mumbai.
- The Deceased and the accused worked together in the Vile Parle area as laborers and used to sleep underneath or sometimes on the bridge located near the Vile Parle Railway Station.
- Accused and the deceased reportedly got into a fight in front of the ticket counter of the Vile Parle railway station on the night of 10/12/2006, which was witnessed by PW-1 Nandalal, a priest of the Hanuman Temple located near the designated sleeping spot of the laborers.
- Then at night, Nandalal upon hearing strange noises coming from the sleeping spot went to investigate the source. He saw the accused assaulting the deceased with a hammer, this act was also witnessed by a fellow laborer, PW-8 Udaysingh.
- The trial court decided to admit the eyewitness’s testimonies and sentenced the accused to a lifetime of imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 1,000/-. The decision of the trial court was challenged by the convict in the HC of Bombay which upheld the decision of the trial court and dismissed the appeal.
- Hence the present petition.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPLICANT
- It was argued by the learned counsel appearing for the applicant that the courts had committed a serious error in admitting the evidence of the eyewitnesses.
- The appellants pleaded that both the eyewitnesses were false and unreliable as with the nature of facts of the occurrence, it was not physically possible for both of them to be present at the time of occurrence of the alleged offense.
- Unnatural actions of PW- Nandalal was brought into question by the learned counsel as to why he did not file an FIR right away after the offense was committed and why he waited until the next day morning after the police sprung into action.
- Thus, the appellant pleads that the eyewitnesses should not have been adduced as evidence by the lower court and prays that the previous decisions be set aside.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE STATE
- Learned counsel appearing for the state pleaded that the Supreme Court may not disturb the findings of the lower courts under Article 136 of the Constitution.
- It was also submitted that there was no good reason not to believe the eyewitnesses’ oral testimony.
- The State further added how the murder weapon, the hammer, was discovered further adding credibility to the testimonies of the witnesses.
- Whether the assailed judgment and order that were issued by the High Court in error?
- It was held that when considering a witness's testimony, the question to ask yourself is if the testimony, taken as a whole, seems to ring true. Once that perception is formed, it is unquestionably necessary for the Court to scrutinize the evidence with greater attention.
- Further keeping in mind, the flaws, shortcomings, and errors identified in the evidence as a whole, and evaluate them to determine whether they are inconsistent with the overall thrust of the testimony provided by the witness and whether the earlier assessment of the evidence is shaken to the point where it is no longer credible.
- The court further implied that there may be a fair chance of the witnesses being overawed by the environment of the court and some nervousness is expected, similarly a witness cannot be expected to remember exact words of an important conversation or have a photographic memory of what exactly happened or the series of circumstances leading to the offence.
Following these guidelines to the facts of the matter, the court determined that both courts had the right to believe the two eyewitnesses and that there was no obvious flaw in their testimony that would lead one to assume they were not trustworthy or legitimate eyewitnesses. A few inconsistencies in the form of occasional omissions are insufficient to invalidate the entirety of the eyewitness testimony.
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