Is the Principle of "falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus" (false in one thing, false in everything) applicable in Indian context? The Supreme Court, in a judgment delivered on Thursday, reiterated the well settled position that the maxim has no application in India.
In Mahendran vs. State of Tamil Nadu, the bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hemant Gupta again dealt with the contention put forth on behalf of the accused-appellant that, if the testimony of the witness is found to be unreliable in respect of part of the statement, then the other part of the statement cannot be made basis to convict the accused.
To hold that the entire testimony of the witnesses cannot be discarded only because, in certain aspects, part of the statement has not been believed, the bench relied on a 2002 judgment in Gangadhar Behera vs. State of Orissa. The general principle of appreciation of evidence is that even if some part of the evidence of witness is found to be false, the entire testimony of the witness cannot be discarded, the bench said.
"The maxim "falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus" has not received general acceptance nor has this maxim come to occupy the status of rule of law. It is merely a rule of caution.", the Court added.
In Gangadhar Behera judgment, it was observed:
"Even if major portion of evidence is found to be deficient, in case residue is sufficient to prove guilt of an accused, notwithstanding acquittal of number of other co-accused persons, his conviction can be maintained. It is the duty of Court to separate grain from chaff. Where chaff can be separated from grain, it would be open to the Court to convict an accused notwithstanding the fact that evidence has been found to be deficient to prove guilt of other accused persons. Falsity of particular material witness or material particular would not ruin it from the beginning to end. The maxim "falsus in uno falsus in omnibus" has no application in India and the witnesses cannot be branded as liar. The maxim "falsus in uno falsus in omnibus" has not received general acceptance nor has this maxim come to occupy the status of rule of law. It is merely a rule of caution. All that it amounts to, is that in such cases testimony may be disregarded, and not that it must be disregarded. The doctrine merely involves the question of weight of evidence which a Court may apply in a given set of circumstances, but it is not what may be called 'a mandatory rule of evidence'."