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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Under section 118-134 of The Indian Evidence Act,1872 defines who can testify as a witness, how they can testify, what remarks would be deemed testimony and so on.
  • A credible witness is capable of giving testimony and worthy of belief.
  • a set of criteria for determining a witness's credibility was developedin the case of Gangadhar Behera and others vs. State of Orissa.
  • Every related witness is not an interested witness.

INTRODUCTION

Witnesses are critical to the administration of justice which is based on the principles of truth and impartiality. Because the testimony is given under oath, its conclusiveness and veracity are in the witness's favor. As a result, from the start of a criminal trial, witnesses play a critical role in the administration of justice.A witness is someone who has directly witnessed an occurrence. It might be a robbery, an accident or anything else. The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 undersections 118–134 addresses who can testify as a witness, how they can testify, what remarks would be deemed testimony and so on.A witness who must testify in front of the Court must at the very least be able to comprehend the questions asked to him and respond to them rationally. The capacity of a witness is discussed under sections 118, 121 and 133 of the Act.A credible witness is capable of giving testimony and worthy of belief. However, in the case of Gangadhar Behera and others vs. State of Orissa, a set of criteria for determining a witness's credibility was developed, which is as follows:

i. Witnesses' access to correct information.

ii. Witnesses' motive behind hiding the truth, if any.

iii. Whether witnesses agree in their testimony.

CREDIBILITY OF AN INTERESTED WITNESS

An interested witness is someone who has a direct interest in the outcome of the case and expects to benefit from it.

  • In Takdir Samsuddin Sheikh V. State of Gujrat: The phrase 'interested' implies that the witness has a direct interest in seeing the accused condemned for some other reason. It is well known that the testimony of interested witnesses is very untrustworthy and that some of it cannot be trusted without more proof.A natural witness is frequently a close relative. He is not regarded an interested witness because he has no personal interest or financial advantage in doing so.
  • In State of Haryana V. Shakuntala: The Hon'ble Court defined a "interested" witness as someone who has a direct or indirect interest in the accused who has been convicted due to animus or any other oblique reason.It is an undisputed truth that an interested witness' evidence is untrustworthy and requires verification before it can be accepted. Furthermore, it is widely established that interested witnesses want the accused to be convicted, therefore judicial care is required when considering such testimony as stated in State of Haryana vs. Shakuntala.It is a well-established principle that an interested witness' testimony cannot be dismissed on the basis that it is political evidence. The courts on the other hand, must exercise caution when analysing evidence that needs substantial confirmation. The acceptance of evidence is based on two factors: first, the court's scrutiny and second, prudence while assessing such evidences as suggested in Mano Dutt and Anr vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and State of Haryana v. Shakuntala. It is a well-established principle that an interested witness' testimony cannot be dismissed on the basis that it is political evidence.

The witness's interest does not necessitate an outright rejection of the evidence; rather, it necessitates a closer examination.Furthermore, the Supreme Court answered the question of the reliability and credibility of an interested witness' testimony in Joginder Singh vs. State holding that mere relationship cannot be used to discredit an interested witness' statements if they are supported by sufficient evidence as was reiterated in State of Bihar vs. Shaukat Mian as follows:Its credibility cannot be questioned just because he was a witness with a vested interest. The evidence of an interested witness must be carefully scrutinised. Furthermore, an interested witness, who is a relative of the victim is someone who is concerned about the victim's justice.

CREDIBILITY OF A RELATED WITNESS

As ruled in Jarnail Singh vs. State of Punjab, the common presumption is that a connected witness would not falsely testify against an innocent person because they would desire to see the genuine criminals punished.

However, the veracity of such witnesses' evidence should be scrutinised with caution.As stated in Raju alias Balachandran vs. State of Tamil Nadu and reaffirmed in A. Alagupandian vs. State of Tamil Nadu, the evidence of a related witness cannot be invalidated automatically since the witness's connection cannot be used to assess the credibility of the testimony. The Supreme Court ruled in Balraje vs. State of Maharashtra that there is no reason to dismiss the witnesses' version if after thorough study and review of their evidence it appears to be clear, coherent, and believable.

As a result, the truthfulness of the declaration is taken into consideration by the law. A related witness' credibility is unaffected by their relationship with either side and the court should proceed with caution when determining the admissibility of its testimony, depending only on the facts.

Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act states:No person who is or has been married, shall be competent to disclose any communication made to him during marriage by any person to whom he is or has been married; nor shall he be permitted to disclose any such communication, unless the person who made it or his representative-in-interest consents, except in suit between married person is prosecuted for any crime committed against the other.

  • In Bishan Das V. Crown: The mere fact that testimony submitted by a wife against her husband was permitted in the Court of Session without objection notwithstanding the fact that it was taken by or on behalf of the husband did not remove the impediment established by Section 122 IEA. The words "related" and "interested" are not interchangeable. A witness's mere relationship with him or her would not be enough to exclude it. An interested witness cannot be a close relative who is a natural witness to the circumstances of the case.
  • In Bhagwan Swarup V. State of U.P and State of U.P. V. Paras Nath Singhand Swarn Singh V. State of Punjab: The fact that the witnesses are connected to one another is not a reason to ignore their testimony, according to the court. Relatives should have no vested motive in falsely accusing the accused or shielding the true perpetrator. There is no regulation that the testimony of the deceased's relatives must be substantiated in order to secure the offender's conviction. The facts and circumstances of each case are unique.
  • In Raja Gounder V. State of Tamil Nadu: The Hon'ble court stated that in the murder case, where there were no independent witnesses, the 302 IPC read with section 3 IEA applied. Because the disagreement was between brothers over a piece of property, the conviction on the basis of a connected witness was upheld. The family was embroiled in a quarrel. There were no impartial witnesses available. The incident was observed by the deceased's wife, and her testimony is believable since she would be the last person to implicate appellants, who are her in-laws.

EVERY RELATED WITNESS IS NOT AN INTERESTED WITNESS

Every witness who is linked to the deceased cannot be deemed to be a biased witness who would fraudulently testify in order to convict the accused. The statements of all relevant witnesses cannot be dismissed by the courts as a rule. Close relatives' testimony cannot be ruled out just because they are interested witnesses. The court has an obligation to thoroughly examine such witnesses' testimony, and if there is any doubt about their reliability, the court may dismiss their testimony.A close relative would normally be the last person to screen the true perpetrator and falsely accuse an innocent person. As a result, the mere fact of a relationship cannot be used to dismiss a witness' testimony. The fact that the witness is connected to the dead or did not describe the occurrence in the same language or in a natural manner, in the view of the court, has no bearing on the witness' credibility.

CREDIBILITY OF HOSTILE WITNESS

When a party summons in a witness to testify in its own favour, the witness instead testifies against the party who called him. This is a common occurrence in circumstances when witnesses refuse to offer answers in favour of the party calling them as a witness. The witness must be declared hostile by the court. The side calling the witness does not have the option of doing so. The witness's negative reference to the person who calls him aids the court in upholding or rejecting the witness's statement if it is critical to the case and the trial.

Citizens lose faith in the judicial system for resolving their disputes in court of law or are rendered helpless as a result of this problem, and in order to overcome this problem and redress or resolve their problems, they will resort to extra-constitutional or extra-legal measures, which will not only jeopardise democracy but also the rule of law. In every country's criminal justice system, the function of a witness is crucial, and by testifying under oath in a case, they aid the court in determining the truth. However, when witnesses become hostile, which is a typical occurrence in the criminal court system the situation becomes more complicated.

The prosecution's whole case hinges on a witness's false declaration. As a result, an increasing number of individuals are losing trust in the system's ability to provide justice to victims. Because as long as witnesses remain hostile and refuse to provide true depositions in court, justice will continue to suffer, and people's trust in the efficacy and reliability of the legal system will be weakened and broken.

Due to numerous court experiences where witnesses have been turned hostile due to threats, coercion, lures, and monetary considerations at the hands of those in power, their henchmen and hirelings, political clout and patronage, and innumerable other corrupt practises have been generously adopted to smother and suffocate truth and realities coming to the surface, truth and justice have become ultimate casualties.

  • In G.S.Bakshi V. State: The inference of hostility is drawn from the witness's answer and, to some extent, from his demeanour. Thus, a witness can be considered hostile if he is antagonistic in his attitude toward the party calling him, or if he conceals his true feelings and does not come out with the truth, and makes statements that are contrary to what he stated earlier or is expected to prove. When a prosecution witness becomes hostile by saying anything damaging to the prosecution case, the prosecution has the right to ask the Court to consider that witness as hostile.
  • In R.K.Dey V. State of Orissa: If a witness is telling the truth and his evidence goes against the interests of the party calling him, he is not always hostile. The main allegiance of a witness is to the truth, not to the party summoning him. As a result, a witness's adverse testimony does not make him or her unfriendly. When a statement is made in favour of the defence owing to animosity with the prosecution, it is referred to as hostility.
  • In Panchanan Gogoi V. Emperor: A hostile witness is one who, by the way he provides testimony, demonstrates that he is not interested in giving the truth to the court. This includes the fact that he is prepared to retract earlier assertions.

CONCLUSIONS

The rules in India regulating competency and witness protection are up to date and have been enacted with everyone in mind. By means of interpretations, the judiciary has enhanced this statute, increasing its scope and applicability. It makes little difference whether a person can talk or not; if he can comprehend and respond to inquiries, he can serve as a witness.Relationship has no bearing on a witness's credibility. When the statements of witnesses who are known to the affected party are credible, reliable, trustworthy, admissible under the law, and confirmed by additional witnesses or prosecution documentation evidence, the court has little cause to reject such evidence. Before coming to a conclusion, his statement should be properly examined and comprehended. It is critical that the court retain a good judicial attitude toward victim justice, and that when evaluating the reliability of a particular piece of evidence or testimony, the courts use appropriate caution and solely search for the truth.Any prejudice or presumptions must be avoided, and the courts should investigate these issues thoroughly.


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