SC: Omission of Witness Name in FIR isn’t Fatal to Prosecution Case


July 11, 2018

Case name: Motiram Padu Joshi v. State of Maharashtra

Date of Judgment: July 10, 2018

In the case, the Two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices R. Bhanumathi and Ranjan Gogoi have deliberated on some essential aspects of Criminal Law particularly the issue whether relationship can be a ground affecting the credibility of a witness?

In the case, the Appellant challenged the Bombay High Court’s order, whereby the Court while reversing the judgment of the acquittal of the appellants, convicted them under Sections 147, 148, 302 read with 149 IPC and sentenced them to undergo life imprisonment.

Aggrieved by the aforesaid order of High Court, the Appellants approached the Supreme Court assailing the High Court’s order on the ground that PW2 (prosecution witness) was brother of deceased and hence his testimony was doubtful. The Appellant also alleged that the names of PW3 and PW4 were not mentioned in the FIR.

The Supreme Court in appeal dismissed the Appellant’s contentions and made the following observations in the case:

  • That relationship is not a ground affecting the credibility of a witness. That it is unreasonable to contend that evidence given by related witness should be discarded only on the ground that such witness is related[1].
  • Omission to give the names of assailants or the names of witnesses in the FIR is not fatal to the prosecution case – With reference to Appellant’s contention that evidence of PWs 3 and 4 is sought to be assailed on the ground that their names were not mentioned in the FIR and that they are interested witnesses, the Apex Court noted that the FIR is not an encyclopedia which should contain all the details of the incident. FIR is not an encyclopedia which is expected to contain all the details of the prosecution case. It may be sufficient if the broad facts of the prosecution case about the occurrence appear. Omission as to the names of the assailants or the witnesses may not all the times be fatal to the prosecution, if the FIR is lodged without delay.
  • That unless there are indications of fabrication, the Court cannot reject the prosecution case as given in the FIR merely because of omission. Omission to give the names of assailants or the names of witnesses in the FIR is not fatal to the prosecution case.
  • With reference to the contention that PWs 3 and 4 did not go to the rescue of the deceased and that on seeing the accused who were armed with weapons, both of them went inside the house, the Apex Court observed that evidence cannot be doubted merely on the ground that the witness had not acted in a particular manner.
  • It was further opined that everyone reacts in his own special way. There is no set rule of natural reaction. To discard the evidence of a witness on the ground that he did not react in any particular manner is to appreciate evidence in a wholly unrealistic and unimaginative way[2].
  • That while appreciating evidence of witness, approach must be whether the evidence of witness read as a whole appears to have a ring of truth and consistent with the prosecution case or to find out whether it is against the general tenor of the case. Their evidence cannot be doubted merely because they belong to opposite faction. All that is required is that their evidence is to be scrutinized with care and caution.

The entire case can be accessed here.

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[1] Mohabbat v. State of M.P., (2009) 13 SCC 630

[2] Rana Partap v. State of Haryana, (1983) 3 SCC 327