‘While appreciating the evidence of a witness, the approach must be whether the evidence of the witness read as a whole inspires confidence.’
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, while confirming a high court judgment convicting a woman for the murder of in-laws of her daughter, observed that no criminal case is free from shortcomings and the benefit would go to accused only if inconsistencies in prosecution evidence go to the root of the matter.
“The prosecution evidence may suffer from inconsistencies here and discrepancies there, but that is a shortcoming from which no criminal case is free. The main thing to be seen is whether those inconsistencies go to the root of the matter or pertain to insignificant aspects thereof. In the former case, the defence may be justified in seeking advantage of incongruities obtaining in the evidence. In the latter, however, no such benefit may be available to it,” the bench said in Shamim vs. State.
This was a case where the trial court had acquitted the accused taking into account some inconsistencies in the prosecution evidence, but the high court, reappreciating the same had convicted the accused. One of the prosecution witnesses against the accused was her daughter herself.
While appreciating the evidence of a witness, the bench said the approach must be whether the evidence of the witness read as a whole inspires confidence. “Once that impression is formed, it is undoubtedly necessary for the court to scrutinise the evidence more particularly keeping in view the deficiencies, drawbacks and infirmities pointed out in the evidence as a whole and evaluate them to find out whether it is against the general tenor of the evidence and whether the earlier evaluation of the evidence is shaken as to render it unworthy of belief. Minor discrepancies on trivial matters not touching the core of the case, hyper-technical approach by taking sentences torn out of context here or there from the evidence, attaching importance to some technical error without going to the root of the matter would not ordinarily permit rejection of the evidence as a whole.”
The court further said: “Minor omissions in the police statements are never considered to be fatal. The statements given by the witnesses before the police are meant to be brief statements and could not take place of evidence in the court. Small/Trivial omissions would not justify a finding by court that the witnesses concerned are liars.”
The bench, referring to deposition of witness, whose throat was slit in the occurrence causing loss of voice requiring hospitalization for two months, said evidence of an injured witness carries great weight as it is presumed that having been a victim of the same occurrence, the witness was speaking the truth.
With respect to deposition by a 13-year-old witness, who was subjected to intense cross-examination, the bench said: “She broke down during her evidence and cross-examination recalling the occurrence. Her cross-examination had to be deferred on more than one date. Notwithstanding the gruelling nature of her cross-examination which runs into approximately 14 pages, she withstood the same tenaciously. Her presence at the place of occurrence and injury caused during the occurrence has stood unshaken. The appellant was the only woman present. The question for the confusion of identity simply does not arise. The witness in her cross-examination specifically denied having been tutored, and from her evidence we find no reason to disbelieve her. There may be some inconsistencies in her evidence, minor and trivial in nature. But that cannot erase her credibility as a reliable witness to the occurrence.”