Author : Ashwani Verma, Advocate at Delhi High Court
LANDMARK JUDGMENT ON : GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF APPRECIATION OF EVIDENCE :
Yogesh Singh v Mahabeer Singh 2016 : SC
ON REASONABLE DOUBT
State of U.P. v. Krishna Gopal 1988 : SC
It is a cardinal principle of criminal jurisprudence that the guilt of the accused must be proved beyond all reasonable doubts.
However, the burden on the prosecution is only to establish its case beyond all reasonable doubt and not all doubts.
25. Law cannot afford any favourite other than truth. To constitute reasonable doubt, it must be free from an overemotional response. Doubts must be actual and substantial doubts as to the guilt of the accused person arising from the evidence, or from the lack of it, as opposed to mere vague apprehensions.
A reasonable doubt is not an imaginary, trivial or a merely possible doubt; but a fair doubt based upon reason and common sense. It must grow out of the evidence in the case.
26. The concept of probability, and the degrees of it, cannot obviously be expressed in terms of units to be mathematically enumerated as to how many of such units constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt. There is an unmistakable subjective element in the evaluation of the degrees of probability and the quantum of proof. Forensic probability must, in the last analysis, rest on a robust common sense and, ultimately on the trained intuitions of the judge.
While the protection given by the criminal process to the accused persons is not to be eroded, at the same time, uninformed legitimization of trivialities would make a mockery of administration of criminal justice.
Kali Ram v. State of Himachal Pradesh : 1973 : SC
If two views are possible on the evidence adduced in the case, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the view which is favourable to the accused should be adopted.
State of Punjab v. Jagir Singh : 1973 : SC
A criminal trial is not like a fairy tale wherein one is free to give flight to one's imagination and fantasy. It concerns itself with the question as to whether the accused arraigned at the trial is guilty of the offence with which he is charged.
In arriving at the conclusion about the guilt of the accused charged with the commission of a crime, the court has to judge, the evidence by the yardstick of probabilities, its intrinsic worth and the animus of witnesses. Every case in the final analysis would have to depend upon its own facts. Although the benefit of every reasonable doubt should be given to the accused, the courts should not at the same time reject evidence which is ex facie trustworthy, on grounds which are fanciful or in the nature of conjectures.
ON Testimony of Child Witnesses
Prakash v. State of M.P : 1993 : SC
Baby Kandayanathi v. State of Kerala : 1993 : SC
It is well-settled that the evidence of a child witness must find adequate corroboration, before it is relied upon as the Rule of corroboration is of practical wisdom than of law.
Panchhi v. State of U.P : 1998 : SC
However, it is not the law that if a witness is a child, his evidence shall be rejected, even if it is a found reliable. The law is that evidence of a child witness must be evaluated more carefully and with greater circumspection because a child is susceptible to be swayed by what others tell him and thus a child witness is an easy prey to tutoring.
Testimony of Interested/Inimical Witnesses
Hari Obula Reddy v. The State of Andhra Pradesh : 1980 : SC : 3 - Judges Bench
It is well settled that interested evidence is not necessarily unreliable evidence. Even partisanship by itself is not a valid ground for discrediting or rejecting sworn testimony. Nor can it be laid down as an invariable Rule that interested evidence can never form the basis of conviction unless corroborated to a material extent in material particulars by independent evidence.
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.
Ramashish Rai v. Jagdish Singh : 2005 : SC
The requirement of law is that the testimony of inimical witnesses has to be considered with caution. If otherwise the witnesses are true and reliable their testimony cannot be thrown out on the threshold by branding them as inimical witnesses.
By now, it is well-settled principle of law that enmity is a double-edged sword. It can be a ground for false implication. It also can be a ground for assault. Therefore, a duty is cast upon the court to examine the testimony of inimical witnesses with due caution and diligence.
Jodhan v. State of M.P : 2015 : SC
A survey of the judicial pronouncements of this Court on this point leads to the inescapable conclusion that the evidence of a closely related witnesses is required to be carefully scrutinised and appreciated before any conclusion is made to rest upon it, regarding the convict/accused in a given case. Thus, the evidence cannot be disbelieved merely on the ground that the witnesses are related to each other or to the deceased. In case the evidence has a ring of truth to it, is cogent, credible and trustworthy, it can, and certainly should, be relied upon.
ON NEED OF INDEPENDENT WITNESS
Darya Singh v. State of Punjab : 1965 : SC
It is well-known that in villages where murders are committed as a result of factions existing in the village or in consequence of family feuds, independent villagers are generally reluctant to give evidence because they are afraid that giving evidence might invite the wrath of the assailants and might expose them to very serious risks.
It is quite true that it is the duty of a citizen to assist the prosecution by giving evidence and helping the administration of criminal law to bring the offender to book, but : it would be wholly unrealistic to suggest that if the prosecution is not able to bring independent witnesses to the Court because they are afraid to give evidence, that itself should be treated as an infirmity in the prosecution case so as to justify the defence contention that the evidence actually adduced should be disbelieved on that ground alone without examining its merits.
Raghubir Singh v. State of U.P : 1971 : SC
It was held that the prosecution is not bound to produce all the witnesses said to have seen the occurrence. Material witnesses considered necessary by the prosecution for unfolding the prosecution story alone need be produced without unnecessary and redundant multiplication of witnesses. In this connection, general reluctance of an average villager to appear as a witness and get himself involved in cases of rival village factions when tempers on both sides are running high, has to be borne in mind.
Appabhai v. State of Gujarat : 1998 : SC
Experience reminds us that civilized people are generally insensitive when a crime is committed even in their presence. They withdraw both from the victim and the vigilante. They keep themselves away from the Court unless it is inevitable. They think that crime like civil dispute is between two individuals or parties and they should not involve themselves. This kind of apathy of the general public is indeed unfortunate, but it is there everywhere whether in village life, towns or cities. One cannot ignore this handicap with which the investigating agency has to discharge its duties. The Court, therefore, instead of doubting the prosecution case for want of independent witness must consider the broad spectrum of the prosecution version and then search for the nugget of truth with due regard to probability, if any, suggested by the accused.
Discrepancies in Evidence
Rammi @ Rameshwar v. State of M.P : 1999 : SC
It is well settled in law that the minor discrepancies are not to be given undue emphasis and the evidence is to be considered from the point of view of trustworthiness.
The test is whether the same inspires confidence in the mind of the Court. If the evidence is incredible and cannot be accepted by the test of prudence, then it may create a dent in the prosecution version. If an omission or discrepancy goes to the root of the matter and ushers in incongruities, the defence can take advantage of such inconsistencies.
It needs no special emphasis to state that every omission cannot take place of a material omission and, therefore, minor contradictions, inconsistencies or insignificant embellishments do not affect the core of the prosecution case and should not be taken to be a ground to reject the prosecution evidence. The omission should create a serious doubt about the truthfulness or creditworthiness of a witness.
It is only the serious contradictions and omissions which materially affect the case of the prosecution but not every contradiction or omission.
Leela Ram v. State of Haryana : 1999 : SC
It is indeed necessary to note that one hardly comes across a witness whose evidence does not contain some exaggeration or embellishment-sometimes there could even be a deliberate attempt to offer embellishment and sometimes in their over anxiety they may give a slightly exaggerated account. The court can sift the chaff from the grain and find out the truth from the testimony of the witnesses.
Total repulsion of the evidence is unnecessary. The evidence is to be considered from the point of view of trustworthiness. If this element is satisfied, it ought to inspire confidence in the mind of the court to accept the stated evidence though not however in the absence of the same.
ON ABSENCE OF MOTIVE
Bipin Kumar Mondal v State of West Bengal : 2010 : SC
It is a settled legal proposition that even if the absence of motive, as alleged, is accepted that is of no consequence and pales into insignificance when direct evidence establishes the crime.
Therefore, in case there is direct trustworthy evidence of witnesses as to commission of an offence, motive loses its significance. Therefore, if the genesis of the motive of the occurrence is not proved, the ocular testimony of the witnesses as to the occurrence could not be discarded only on the ground of absence of motive, if otherwise the evidence is worthy of reliance.
ON DEFECTIVE INVESTIGATION
C. Muniappan & Ors. v. State of Tamil Nadu : 2010 : SC
The law on this issue is well settled that the defect in the investigation by itself cannot be a ground for acquittal. If primacy is given to such designed or negligent investigations, the faith and confidence of the people in the criminal justice administration would be eroded.
Where there has been negligence on the part
There may be highly defective investigation in a case. However, it is to be examined as to whether there is any lapse by the IO and whether due to such lapse any benefit should be given to the accused.
Where there has been negligence on the part of the investigating agency or omissions, etc. which resulted in defective investigation, there is a legal obligation on the part of the court to examine the prosecution evidence dehors such lapses, carefully, to find out whether the said evidence is reliable or not and to what extent it is reliable and as to whether such lapses affected the object of finding out the truth.
Therefore, the investigation is not the solitary area for judicial scrutiny in a criminal trial. The conclusion of the trial in the case cannot be allowed to depend solely on the probity of investigation.
ON NON RECOVERY OF WEAPON
Lakhan Sao v. State of Bihar
It is an established proposition of law that mere non-recovery of weapon does not falsify the prosecution case where there is ample unimpeachable ocular evidence.
ON SEC 157 CrPC
Pala Singh v. State of Punjab : 1972 : SC
It has been consistently held by this Court through a catena of judicial decisions that although in terms of Section 157 Code of Criminal Procedure, the police officer concerned is required to forward a copy of the FIR to the Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of such offence, promptly and without undue delay, it cannot be laid down as a Rule of universal application that whenever there is some delay in sending the FIR to the Magistrate, the prosecution version becomes unreliable and the trial stands vitiated.
When there is positive evidence to the fact that the FIR was recorded without unreasonable delay and investigation started on the basis of that FIR and there is no other infirmity brought to the notice of the Court, then in the absence of any prejudice to the accused, it cannot be concluded that the investigation was tainted and the prosecution story rendered unsupportable.
ON INQUEST u/s 174 CrPC
Sambhu Das v. State of Assam
It is well-established that inquest report is not a substantive piece of evidence and can only be looked into for testing the veracity of the witnesses of inquest.
The object of preparing such report is merely to ascertain the apparent cause of death, namely, whether it is suicidal, homicidal, accidental or caused by animals or machinery etc. and stating in what manner, or by what weapon or instrument, the injuries on the body appear to have been inflicted.
ON MEDICAL vs OCULAR EVIDENCE
State of Haryana v. Bhagirath : 1999 : SC
The evidentiary value of medical evidence is only corroborative and not conclusive and, hence, in case of a conflict between oral evidence and medical evidence, the former is to be preferred unless the medical evidence completely Rules out the oral evidence.
ON 313 CrPC vs Acquittal
Nar Singh v. State of Haryana : 2015 : SC
This case is an authority for the proposition that accused is not per se entitled for acquittal on the ground of non-compliance of mandatory provisions of Section 313 Code of Criminal Procedure.
ON SITE PLAN
Prithvi v. Mam Raj : 2004 : SC
An authority for the proposition that site plan is not a ground to disbelieve the otherwise credible testimony of eye-witnesses.