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'Evidence Of Interested Witnesses Should Be Subjected To Careful Scrutiny & Accepted With Caution': Reiterates Allahabad High Court

Akshita Saxena
11 March 2021 4:36 AM GMT
Evidence Of Interested Witnesses Should Be Subjected To Careful Scrutiny & Accepted With Caution: Reiterates Allahabad High Court
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The Allahabad High Court has held that the testimony of an interested witness, though admissible, should be accepted by the Court after a careful scrutiny and corroboration with other materials placed on record. A Division Bench comprising of Justices Manoj Misra and Saumitra Dayal Singh observed, "an interested witness must be tested more carefully before any firm conclusion may...

The Allahabad High Court has held that the testimony of an interested witness, though admissible, should be accepted by the Court after a careful scrutiny and corroboration with other materials placed on record.

A Division Bench comprising of Justices Manoj Misra and Saumitra Dayal Singh observed, "an interested witness must be tested more carefully before any firm conclusion may be reached thereon."

In this context, the Bench referred to a decision of the Apex Court in Jalpat Rai v. State of Haryana, 2011 (14) SCC 208, where it was held,

"All that is necessary is that the evidence of interested witnesses should be subjected to careful scrutiny and accepted with caution. If on such scrutiny, the interested testimony is found to be intrinsically reliable or inherently probable, it may, by itself, be sufficient, in the circumstances of the particular case, to base a conviction thereon."

The Top Court had further held that no hard and fast rule can be laid down in the matter of appreciation of evidence. However, in evaluating the evidence of an interested or even a partisan witness, it is useful as a first step to focus attention on the question whether the presence of the witness at the scene of the crime at the material time was probable.

If so, whether the substratum of the story narrated by the witness, being consistent with the other evidence on record, the natural course of human events, the surrounding circumstances and inherent probabilities of the case, is such which will carry conviction with a prudent person.

It had observed,

"If the answer to these questions be in the affirmative, and the evidence of the witness appears to the court to be almost flawless, and free from suspicion, it may accept it, without seeking corroboration from any other source."

The observation was made while hearing an appeal against a conviction order passed by a Court of Additional District and Sessions Judge in October 2005, sentencing the Appellant herein to ten years' rigorous imprisonment for attempt to murder under Section 307 of IPC.

In this case, the Complainant had alleged that the Appellant along with other co-accused had opened fire at his family members on account of old village rivalry arising from successive elections to the post of village pradhan.

As to the manner of the occurrence, he described that the assailants opened fire at the victims after surrounding them from all four sides. He further claimed to be an eye-witness to the alleged incident.

In appeal, the High Court expressed doubt as to the allegation of indiscriminate firing made by the Complainant. It wondered how, if the accused persons open fired, the Complainant who himself was at the crime scene, did not get injured. It said,

"According to the testimony of Sureshpal Singh (PW-1), the victims had been completely over powered by the appellants and remained at the Crime Scene for about 10-12 minutes during which period they fired about 16-18 rounds of ammunition after reloading their weapons. If the firing was so 24 indiscriminate and purposeful to eliminate as many members of the rival party/family, it stands out that not a bullet was fired at the first informant Sureshpal Singh (PW-1) who was positioned under the "Chhappar" at a similar distance as the two deceased victims-Devendra Singh and Harvendra Singh @ Tika."

At this juncture, the bench noted that the parties in this case were in a bitter relationship from before and that the informant side had a grouse against the Appellant side on three counts. Thus, it observed that the testimony of the Complainant, an interested witness, should be tested more carefully.

"To find out the intrinsic worth of these witnesses, it is appropriate to test their trustworthiness and credibility in light of the collateral and surrounding circumstances as well as the probabilities and in conjunction with all other facts brought out on record," the Bench observed recalling the remarks of the Apex Court in Jalpat rai (supra).

In conclusion, the High Court dismissed the appeal on the ground that the testimony of other witnesses stood established and substratum of the prosecution story is consistent and corroborated in all material parts.

It remarked, "All other doubts would remain matters of unexplained chance… The fact that the two injured witness escaped with minor injuries and Sureshpal Singh (PW-1) escaped without being fired at are not facts or occurrences as may throw out the prosecution story in entirety as unbelievable."

Case Title: Rampal Singh & Ors. v. State of UP

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