Testimony of Witness cannot be discarded in Toto- Supreme Court

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August 29, 2018

Testimony of Witness- In this case, taken up by the Supreme Court yesterday, the Court while recognizing the substance of testimony of witness noted that testimony of witness cannot be discarded in toto merely due to the presence of embellishments or exaggerations.

Case name: Menoka Malik and others v. The State of West Bengal and others

The instant case is a case of unlawful assembly leading to death of five persons and injury to 24 persons. On evaluation of the material on record, the trial Court acquitted all the accused by giving them the benefit of doubt inter alia on the ground that several witnesses were found to have admitted to have made disclosures of allegations for the first time before the Court and that the investigation officer disclosed a number of contradictions in the evidence of eye witnesses. It was also observed by the Trial Court that the medical evidence was contrary to the ocular testimony.

In revision, the High Court did not interfere with Trial Court’s order, hence the instant appeal was filed by the informant before the Supreme Court.

Bench’s Verdict

The Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court while allowing the appeal in the case has made some significant observations regarding the substance of testimony of witnesses and the same is enumerated below:

  • The Apex Court noted that there was not any significant   variation in the testimonies of all the witnesses. The Court opined that in case where large number of people had gathered to assault a smaller group of people, it is but natural to have certain minor variations in the evidence of eye-witnesses. The Supreme Court observed that the Court should not expect from the witnesses to depose in a parrot-like fashion.
  • Testimony of a witness cannot be discarded in toto-The Supreme Court observed that the testimony of witness cannot be discarded in toto merely due to the presence of embellishments or exaggerations. The Doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means “false in one thins, false in everything” has been held to be inapplicable in Indian scenario, where the tendency to exaggerate is common.
  • That it is the duty of the Court to separate the chaff from the grain. Moreover, minor variations in the evidence will not affect the root of the matter, inasmuch as such minor variations need not be given major importance, inasmuch as they would not materially alter the evidence/credibility of the eye witness as a whole.
  • Ocular/Eye Testimony prevails over Medical Evidence– Other issue involved in the present case pertained to conflict between the medical evidence and ocular testimony. The Supreme Court in the case has categorically held that medical evidence cannot override the evidence of ocular testimony of the witnesses. If there is a conflict between the ocular testimony and the medical evidence, naturally the ocular testimony prevails i.e. where the eye witness is found to be trustworthy and credible, medical opinion pointing to alternative possibilities is not accepted as conclusive.

The entire case can be accessed here.