Supreme Court of India
Krishan Chander vs State Of Delhi on 6 January, 2016
Section 145 of the Evidence Act reads as under:
‘145. Cross-examination as to previous statements in writing.—A witness may be cross-examined as to previous statements made by him in writing or reduced into writing, and relevant to matters in question, without such writing being shown to him, or being proved; but, if it is intended to contradict him by the writing, his attention must, before the writing can be proved, be called to those parts of it which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him.’
Under Section 145 of the Evidence Act when it is intended to contradict the witness by his previous statement reduced into writing, the attention of such witness must be called to those parts of it which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him, before the writing can be used. While recording the deposition of a witness, it becomes the duty of the trial court to ensure that the part of the police statement with which it is intended to contradict the witness is brought to the notice of the witness in his cross-examination. The attention of witness is drawn to that part and this must reflect in his cross-examination by reproducing it. If the witness admits the part intended to contradict him, it stands proved and there is no need to further proof of contradiction and it will be read while appreciating the evidence. If he denies having made that part of the statement, his attention must be drawn to that statement and must be mentioned in the deposition. By this process the contradiction is merely brought on record, but it is yet to be proved. Thereafter when investigating officer is examined in the court, his attention should be drawn to the passage marked for the purpose of contradiction, it will then be proved in the deposition of the investigating officer who again by referring to the police statement will depose about the witness having made that statement. The process again involves referring to the police statement and culling out that part with which the maker of the statement was intended to be contradicted. If the witness was not confronted with that part of the statement with which the defence wanted to contradict him, then the court cannot suo motu make use of statements to police not proved in compliance with Section 145 of the Evidence Act that is, by drawing attention to the parts intended for contradiction.” (emphasis laid by this Court)
Supreme Court of India
Sat Pal vs Delhi Administration on 29 September, 1975
The terms "hostile witness", 'adverse witness", "unfavourable witness" "unwilling witness" are all terms of English law. At Common Law, if a witness exhibited manifest antipathy, by his demeanour, answers and attitude, to the cause of the party calling him, the party was not as a general rule, permitted to contradict him with his previous inconsistent statements, nor allowed to impeach his credit by general evidence of bad character. This rule had its foundation on the theory that by calling the witness, a party represents him to the Court as worthy of credit, and if he afterwards attacks his general character for veracity, this is not only mala fides towards the Court, but, it "would enable the party to destroy the witness if he spoke against him, and to make him a good witness if he spoke for him with the means in his hand of destroying his credit if he spoke against him" (see Best on Evidence" p. 630, 11th Edn.). This theory or assumption gave rise to a considerable conflict of opinion as to whether it was competent for a party to show that his own witness had made statements out of Court inconsistent with the evidence given by him in court. The weight of the ancient authority was in the negative.
Unmindful of this substantial difference between the English Law and the Indian Law, on the subject, the Calcutta High Court in some of its earlier decisions, interpreted and applied sec. 154 with reference to the meaning of the term "adverse" in the English Statute as construed in some English decisions, and enunciated the proposition that where a party calling a witness requests the court to declare him a "hostile" and with the leave of the court cross-examines the witness, the latter's evidence should be excluded altogether in criminal passes. This view proceeds on the doctrine enunciated by Campbell C.J. in the English case, Faulkner v. Brine(2), that the object of cross-examination of his own witness by a party is to discredit the witness in toto and to get rid of his testimony altogether. Some of these decisions in which this view was taken are: Luchiram Motilal v. Radhe Charan(3); E. v. Satyendra Kumar Dutt(4); Surendra v. Ranee Dassi,(5), Khijruddin v. E.(6), and Panchanan v. R.(7).
The fallacy underlying this view stems from the assumption that the only purpose of cross-examination of a witness is to discredit him; it ignores the hard truth that another equally important object of cross-examination is to elicit admissions of facts which would help build the case of the cross-examiner. When a party With the leave of the court, confronts his witness with his previous inconsistent statement, he does so in the hope that the witness might revert to what he had stated previously. If the departure from the prior statement is not deliberate but is due to faulty memory or a like cause, there is every possibility of the witness veering round to his former statement. Thus, showing faultiness of the memory in the case of such a witness would be another object of cross-examining and contradicting him by a party calling the witness. In short, the rule prohibiting a party to put questions in the manner of cross-examination or in a leading form to his own witness is relaxed not because the witness has already forfeited all right to credit but because from his antipathetic attitude or otherwise, the court feels that for doing justice, his evidence will be more fully given, the truth more effectively extricated and his credit more adequately tested by questions put in a more pointed, penetrating and searching way.
It is important to note that the English statute differs materially from the law contained in the Indian evidence Act in regard to cross examination and contradiction of his own witness by a party. Under the English Law, a party is not permitted to impeach the credit of his own witness by general evidence of his bad character, shady antecedents or previous conviction. In India, this can be done with the consent of the court under s. 154. Under the English Act of 1865, a party calling the witness can "cross-examine' and contradict a witness in respect of his previous inconsistent statements with the leave of the court, only when the court considers the witness to be adverse'. As already noticed, no such condition has been laid down in secs. 154 and 155 of the Indian Act and the grant of such leave has been left completely to the discretion of the Court, the exercise of which is not fettered by or dependent upon the "hostility" or "adverseness" of the witness. In this respect, the Indian Evidence Act is in advance of the English law. The Criminal Law Revision J Committee of England in its 11th Report, made recently, has recommended the adoption of a modernised version of sec. 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 18-65, allowing contradiction of both unfavourable and hostile witnesses by other evidence without leave of the court.
In the case of an unfavourable witness, even in England the better opinion is that where a party contradicts his own witness on one part of his evidence he does not thereby throw over all the witness's evidence, though Its value may be impaired in the eyes of the Court (Halsbury, 3rd Edn. Vol. 15 Para 805).
In Bradley v. Ricardo(12), when it was urged as an objection that this would be giving credit to the witness on one point after he has been discredited on another, Tindal C.J. brushed it aside with the observation that "difficulties of the same kind occur in every cause where a jury has to decide on conflicting testimony".
In Narayan Nathu Naik v. Maharashtra State(13), the court actually used the evidence of the prosecution witnesses who had partly resiled from their previous statements, to the extent they supported the prosecution for corroborating the other witnesses.
From the above conspectus, it emerges clear that even in a criminal prosecution when a witness is cross-examined and contradicted with the leave of the court, by the party calling him, his evidence cannot, as a matter of law, be treated as washed off the record altogether. It is for the Judge of fact to consider in each case whether as a result of such cross-examination and contradiction the witness stands thoroughly discredited or can still be believed in regard to a part of his testimony. If the Judge finds that in the process, the credit of the witness has not been completely shaken, he may, after reading and considering the evidence of the witness, as a whole, with due caution and care, accept, in the light of the other evidence on the record that part of his testimony which he finds to be credit worthy and act upon it. If in a given case, the whole of the testimony of the witness is impugned, and in the process the witness stands squarely and totally discredited, the Judge should, as a matter of prudence, discard his evidence in toto.
Supreme Court of India
Attar Singh vs State Of Maharashtra on 14 December, 2012
This compels us to consider as to whether the conviction and sentence recorded on the basis of the testimony of the witness who has been declared hostile could be relied upon for recording conviction of the accused-appellant. But it was difficult to overlook the relevance and value of the evidence of even a hostile witness while considering as to what extent their evidence could be allowed to be relied upon and used by the prosecution. It could not be ignored that when a witness is declared hostile and when his testimony is not shaken on material points in the cross-examination, there is no ground to reject his testimony in toto as it is well-settled by a catena of decisions that the Court is not precluded from taking into account the statement of a hostile witness altogether and it is not necessary to discard the same in toto and can be relied upon partly. If some portion of the statement of the hostile witness inspires confidence, it can be relied upon. He cannot be thrown out as wholly unreliable. This was the view expressed by this court in the case of Syed Akbar vs. State of Karnataka reported in AIR 1979 SC 1848 whereby the learned Judges of the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Karnataka High Court which had discarded the evidence of a hostile witness in its entirety. Similarly, other High Courts in the matter of Gulshan Kumar vs. State (1993) Crl.L.J. 1525 as also Kunwar vs. State of U.P. (1993) Crl.L.J. 3421 as also Haneefa vs. State (1993) Crl.L.J. 2125 have held that it is not necessary to discard the evidence of the hostile witness in toto and can be relied upon partly. So also, in the matter of State of U.P. vs. Chet Ram reported in AIR 1989 SC 1543 = (1989) Crl.L.J. 1785; it was held that if some portion of the statement of the hostile witness inspires confidence it can be relied upon and the witness cannot be termed as wholly unreliable. It was further categorically held in the case of Shatrughan vs. State of M.P. (1993) Crl.L.J. 3120 that hostile witness is not necessarily a false witness. Granting of a permission by the Court to cross-examine his own witness does not amount to adjudication by the Court as to the veracity of a witness. It only means a declaration that the witness is adverse or unfriendly to the party calling him and not that the witness is untruthful. This was the view expressed by this Court in the matter of Sat Paul vs. Delhi Administration AIR 1976 SC 294. Thus, merely because a witness becomes hostile it would not result in throwing out the prosecution case, but the Court must see the relative effect of his testimony. If the evidence of a hostile witness is corroborated by other evidence, there is no legal bar to convict the accused. Thus testimony of a hostile witness is acceptable to the extent it is corroborated by that of a reliable witness. It is, therefore, open to the Court to consider the evidence and there is no objection to a part of that evidence being made use of in support of the prosecution or in support of the accused.