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Conviction Can Be Based On Sole Eye Witness Testimony Only If He Is Wholly Reliable, Reiterates SC [Read Judgment]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
13 Oct 2020 8:05 AM GMT
Conviction Can Be Based On Sole Eye Witness Testimony Only If  He Is Wholly Reliable, Reiterates SC [Read Judgment]
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The Supreme Court has observed that conviction can be based on the testimony of a single eye witness so long he is found to be wholly reliable.The bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari observed thus while setting aside concurrent conviction of murder accused observing that the conduct of the sole testimony of one eye witness in this case, was...

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The Supreme Court has observed that conviction can be based on the testimony of a single eye witness so long he is found to be wholly reliable.

The bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari observed thus while setting aside concurrent conviction of murder accused observing that the conduct of the sole testimony of one eye witness in this case, was unnatural and therefore highly unsafe without corroboration from other piece of evidence.

In this case, three eye-witnesses were examined before the Trial Court. Two of them turned hostile. However, the court convicted the accused duo on sole testimony of eyewitness. The Allahabad High Court upheld the conviction. The Apex Court bench, while considering appeal, noted the settled legal position that a Court can and may act on the testimony of single eye witness provided he is wholly reliable. It said:

As a general rule the Court can and may act on the testimony of single eye witness provided he is wholly reliable. There is no legal impediment in convicting a person on the sole testimony of a single witness. That is the logic of Section 134 of the Evidence Act, 1872. But if there are doubts about the testimony Courts will insist on corroboration. It is not the number, the quantity but quality that is material. The time honoured principle is that evidence has to be weighed and not counted. On this principle stands the edifice of 8 Section 134 of the Evidence Act. The test is whether the evidence has a ring of truth, is cogent, credible and trustworthy or otherwise.

Taking note of the deposition made by the eye witnesses, the bench observed that though they claim to be present at the time of occurrence no attempt was made by them to save their brother from assault.

"It seems very unnatural that two brothers present on the spot will not even make slightest attempt to intervene and try to save the other brother being assaulted, merely on the threat extended by the assailants armed with hockey sticks and a knife. This unnatural conduct totally against natural human behaviour casts a serious doubt of shadow on the presence of eye witness on the spot at the time of occurrence...
There was a medical clinic of Doctor Bhardwaj just nearby the place of incident and the first endeavour of the two brothers would have been to take injured brother to the clinic for immediate medical aid or try and get some medical aid from the clinic of Doctor Bhardwaj."

The court also found fault with the prosecution not obtaining the opinion as to whether such injuries could have been caused by knife with a broken tip by showing him the same. Taking note of this, the bench opined that the conduct of sole eye witness is unnatural and there are various other surrounding circumstances which make his presence at the site of incident doubtful. Therefore, the bench set aside the concurrent conviction and observed that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond doubt and they deserve to get the benefit of doubt. 

Case : AMAR SINGH vs. STATE (NCT OF DELHI) [ CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 335 OF 2015]
Coram: Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari
Counsel: Sr. Adv Dushyant Dave for appellant, Sr. Adv Aishwarya Bhati for state

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