September 21, 2018
In this recent case, the Three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court deliberated on the Court’s approach in appreciating the evidence of witness. The Court in the case has categorically stated that minor and trivial omissions shall not frustrate the credibility of a reliable witness.
Case name: Smt. Shamim V. State of NCT of Delhi
Date of Judgment: September 19, 2018
In the case, the appellant had been convicted by the High Court under Sections 302/307/34, I.P.C. and sentenced to life imprisonment reversing Trial Court’s order which had acquitted the Appellant. The appellant in the case was also denied the benefit of any remission in sentence, till she completes twenty five years of custody.
The appellant assailed the High Court’s verdict on the ground that there was no material to conclude a common intention on part of the appellant as it had not been conclusively established that she was present during the assault.
Here it would be relevant to mention that the appellant in the case is the mother of the deceased and one of the main witness in the case was her other daughter of 13 years who confessed about the crime committed by her mother i.e. appellant.
The Three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on the following grounds:
- The Court while dismissing the appeal noted that the appellant told the witness that she had got the deceased killed because the witness did not listen to her and that her husband would be killed next. In cross-examination she reiterated the same. The Supreme Court was of the view that this statement of the witness was a corroborative evidence being a voluntary extra judicial confession, considering the nature of relationship between the witness and the appellant.
- The Supreme Court further opined in the case that while appreciating the evidence of a witness, 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.
- That 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.
- That 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.
- That 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.
- That 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.
- Each criminal trial is but a quest for search of the truth. The duty of a judge presiding over a criminal trial is not merely to see that no innocent person is punished, but also to see that a guilty person does not escape.
The entire case can be accessed here.