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Conviction Cannot Be Based Solely On The Testimony Of A Wholly Unreliable Witness : Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
7 Jun 2022 12:08 PM GMT
Conviction Cannot Be Based Solely On The Testimony Of A Wholly Unreliable Witness : Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that when the Court finds that a witness is "wholly unreliable", neither conviction nor acquittal can be based on the testimony of such a witness.

In this case, the Trial Court convicted Mahendra Singh, Pritam Singh, Santosh , Shambhu Singh and Lakhan Singh under Section 148, 302 read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code. The Madhya Pradesh High Court dismissed their appeals.

In appeal before the Apex Court, it was contended that Amol Singh (P.W.6) could not have witnessed the incident and therefore the conviction which is based on his testimony is vitiated. The State opposed the appeal and contended that merely because a minor contradiction/ inconsistency cropped up in the evidence of the witness, it cannot be a ground to disbelieve the truthfulness of the testimony of such a witness.

In this regard, the bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and Hima Kohli referred to Vadivelu Thevar vs. The State of Madras (1957) SCR 981and observed:

It could thus be seen that this Court has found that witnesses are of three types, viz., (a) wholly reliable; (b) wholly unreliable; and (c) neither wholly reliable nor wholly unreliable. When the witness is "wholly reliable", the Court should not have any difficulty inasmuch as conviction or acquittal could be based on the testimony of such single witness. Equally, if the Court finds that the witness is "wholly unreliable", there would be no difficulty inasmuch as neither conviction nor acquittal can be based on the testimony of such witness. It is only in the third category of witnesses that the Court has to be circumspect and has to look for corroboration in material particulars by reliable testimony, direct or circumstantial.

Referring to the evidence on record, the bench observed that that Amol Singh (P.W.6) could not have witnessed the incident. Allowing the appeal, the bench observed

"We therefore find that the evidence of Amol Singh (P.W.6) would fall in the category of "wholly unreliable" witness. As such, no conviction could be based solely on his testimony. We find that the corroboration sought by the High Court from the medical evidence was not justified. The medical evidence could only establish that the death was homicidal. However, it could 14 not have been used to corroborate the version of Amol Singh (P.W.6) that he has witnessed the incident."

Case details

Mahendra Singh vs State of MP | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 543 | CrA 764 OF 2021 | 3 June 2022

Coram: Justices BR Gavai and Hima Kohli

Counsel: Sr. Adv S. Nagamuthu for appellants, Deputy AG Ankita Chaudhary for the respondent - State

Headnotes

Criminal Trial - Witnesses are of three types, viz., (a) wholly reliable; (b) wholly unreliable; and (c) neither wholly reliable nor wholly unreliable. When the witness is "wholly reliable", the Court should not have any difficulty inasmuch as conviction or acquittal could be based on the testimony of such single witness. Equally, if the Court finds that the witness is "wholly unreliable", neither conviction nor acquittal can be based on the testimony of such a witness. It is only in the third category of witnesses that the Court has to be circumspect and has to look for corroboration in material particulars by reliable testimony, direct or circumstantial - Referred to Vadivelu Thevar vs. The State of Madras (1957) SCR 981. (Para 12-13)

Criminal Trial - Motive - Only because the motive is established, the conviction cannot be sustained. (Para 23)

Criminal Trial - The same treatment is required to be given to the defence witness(es) as is to be given to the prosecution witness(es). (Para 20)




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