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UNDERSTANDING “INTERESTED WITNESSES” WITH ANALYSIS OF RAKESH KUMAR VS. STATE OF HIMACHAL PRADESH

Paper Details Paper Code: CC-CLA-V2-13 Category: Case Commentary Date of Submission for First Review: March 28, 2022 Date of Acceptance: July 6, 2022 Citation: Drishti Jain, “Understanding “Interested Witness” with Analysis of Rakesh Kumar vs State of Arunachal Pradesh (2017 SCC Online HP 1720)”, 2, AIJACLA, 151, 151-162 (2022). Author Details: Drishti Jain, Student, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad



Abstract The Indian evidence law has evolved many folds over the years. Among the several important concepts that the Indian Evidence Act deals with, interested Witness is one. Witnesses are crucial in delivering justice and often they are the source of truth. However, the examination of witness and verifying the credibility adds to the challenges of trial courts. The question as to the credibility of interested witness still looms as a concern due to the lack of straightjacket formula. In this paper, there is an attempt made to understand the scope and meaning of interested witnesses. The paper seeks to analysis the position of law on interested witnesses and the approach the Indian courts have taken in dealing with matters where there were questions challenging the scope of interested witnesses. In the second half of the paper, there is an analysis of Rakesh Kumar v State of HP where the key issues in the case are discussed. Further, the concept is discussed and analyzed referring to 10 leading judgments. Keywords: Evidence, Interested witness, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, admissibility


INTRODUCTION

Since ancient times, there has been various code of conduct in criminal trials. From evolution of various kingdoms to the establishment of East India Company (EIC), there have been various rules and regulations governing criminal trial in India. Evidence has always played an important role in criminal trials. There was existence of various forms of practices in form of testing evidence. In both civil and criminal cases, evidence plays a pivotal role. In simple term, ‘witness’ means a person who convinces the court about the facts of the case, either positively or negatively; a person who has knowledge about the case in question and depose it at length in the court of law.

“The Black’s Law Dictionary has explained witness as, witness is one who sees, knows or vouches for something or one who gives testimony under oath or affirmation in person or by oral or written deposition, or by affidavit. Jeremy Bentham defined witnesses as the eyes and ears of justice. Section 3 of the IEA 1872[1] defines ‘evidence’. It is inclusive of evidence given by the witnesses and documentary evidence.[2]

In the case of Badullah vs. State[3], the court has defined the term ‘witness’ as, “ the term includes any person who has given a statement on oath and when a party does so he becomes a witness for on the record he is classes as a witness and numbered as a witness.[4] In another case, the High Court of Karnataka observed that ‘witness is an individual who can provide information by deposing before the court regarding the material facts either by way of oral or documentary submissions.[5]


I. Types of witnesses

In the case of Sampath Kumar vs. Inspector of police, Krishnagiri[6], the court held witnesses to be of following types-

(A) Who are dependable

(B) Who are undependable and

(C) Neither dependable nor undependable..

Thus, under the act there are eleven (11) kinds of witnesses[7]-

▪ Interested witness:

▪ Child witness:

▪ Independent witness

▪ Hostile witness:

▪ Eye witness:

▪ Related witness:

▪ Trap witness

▪ Illiterate witness

▪ Injured witness

▪ Police witness

▪ Natural witness

▪ Old age witness

▪ Partition witness

▪ Rustic witness

▪ Search witness

▪ Sex witness

▪ Solitary witness

▪ Unreliable witness

▪ Wonover witness

▪ Chance witness:

▪ Defence witness

▪ Disinterested witness:


II. Importance of witness

The importance of witnesses can be understood by the Jeremy Bentham’s definition of witness. He defined witness as “eyes and ears of justice”. Witnesses play crucial role in litigation of both criminal as well as civil matters. The procedure for summoning of witnesses differs in civil and criminal matters but evidently, witnesses are important for fair trial. Both the parties are allowed to present their witnesses in the court of law.

Section 3 of the act provides for evidence produced by witnesses. To prove the validity of the evidence provided by either of the parties in the court of law witnesses are vital. Witnesses are also important in providing fair trial under Article 20 of the Indian Constitution.

In the case of Vikas Kumar Roorkewal Vs. State Of Uttarakhand[8], the Supreme Court while considering the position of witnesses in a criminal trial, opined that, witnesses plays an important role in delivering justice and stated that protection of witnesses through legislative measures will help in establishing fair trial in the judiciary.[9]


III. Understanding Interested and Partisan witnesses

Generally, it is understood that interested and partisan witnesses are similar and can be used interchangeably. Although the terms are used in similar sense, there is a thin line of difference the two. In the case of Kartik Malhar vs. State of Bihar[10], the court has observed that the word’ interested’ suggests that for a witness to be an ‘interested witness’ there should be some direct interest in accused case or animus for some other reason. In the case of Namdev vs. State of Maharashtra[11] the court has held that a close relative cannot be characterized as an interested witness however he can be called as a natural witness.

Partisan witnesses are partisan to the sense that they are called to support the cause of their party and if they don't support they are set to become hostile. There is a very thin line of difference between partisan witness and interested witness.


LEGAL ISSUES

I. Admissibility of Interested Witness

The legal debate regarding who can be categorised as an interested witness has been going on for several decades, and on several occasions, the courts have given guidelines and tests to determine the nature of the witness and when can such witnesses be categorised as interested witness. It has been observed by apex court of India that a witness who is a close relative cannot be held to be interested witness. To considering a witness as an interested witness, the court must establish that the said witness has some kind of vested interest against the accused or other convicts or must have interest in the result of the case.[12]Therefore, the relationship of the witness with the parties cannot be taken as the sole ground to categorise the said witness as interested witness.

Further, it is a well-established principle that, according to the English Law Dictionary, a witness who has a vested personal interest in the outcome/result of the ongoing case is an interested witness in the case. The Supreme Court also held that, when a witness is biased and aims at falsely implicating the accused in the ongoing case is an interested witness.[13] The motive to submit on bias against either of the parties automatically leads to develop a vested and personal interest in the final result of the case.[14] Therefore, it is key to understand that the mere relationship of the witness with either of the parties should not be taken as a ground to classify such a witness as an interested witness, instead, their personal interest in the out of the case or legal dispute should be taken into account.

II. Credibility & Appreciation of Interested Witness

The credibility of interested witness is a natural question raised by the parties before the trial courts across the country. Given the nature of the evidence by interested witness, there is a need for corroboration of the evidence provided by the interested witness with the facts and circumstances.[15] Since there is a vested interest and biases on part of the interested witness, the court are required to take due caution to ensure that there is no injustice made while considering the evidence by interested witness.[16]

Further, as far as the admissibility of the evidence by the interested witness is concerned, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that, the existence of the mere relationship between the witness and the party cannot be the grounds to discredit the evidence provided by the witness.[17] Moreover, the evidence of the interested witness should not be discredited only because it is made by partisan. Therefore, the courts should not blindly discredit the evidence or statements given by an interested witness but instead must decide after scrutiny[18] and caution in terms of diligence in accepting the evidence or testimony provided by the interested witness.


ANALYSIS OF 10 LANDMARK JUDGMENTS

In the case of Dalip Singh vs. State of Punjab[19], one of the earliest cases in relation to appreciation of evidence of interested witnesses it was observed by the Honourable Court a witness is normally to be considered independent unless he or she spring from sources which are likely to be tainted and that usually means unless the witness has call such as enmity against accused to wish to implicate him falsely ordinarily a close relative would be the last two screen the real culprit and falsely implicated in a fun person it is true when feeling run high and there is personal cause for enmity that there is a tendency to drive in an Ocean person against whom a witness as a great along with the guilty but Foundation must be late for such criticism and the effect of relationship far from being a Foundation is often a sure guarantee of truth.[20]

“In Ramashish Rai Vs. Jagdish Singh[21]the code made the made following observation 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 in micabal witnesses buy now it is well said to principal of law that enmity is a double digest sword it can be a ground for pores implication it can it also can be a ground for assault therefore a duty is the cast upon the court to examine the testimony of in make any vehicle with witnesses with due question and negligence.”[22]

“in the case of State of Jammu and Kashmir vs. Hazara Singh[23] Court while deciding on the question whether evidence of interested of partition witnesses can be appreciated in the court of law held that the substratum of evidence of an eye witness who is both interested and partition cannot be rejected merely on the ground that their testimony cost of partition character a note on the ground that they were not speaking the whole truth.”[24]

“In the case of State of Rajasthan vs. Chandu and others[25] the question before the court of Court of weather in cases where there are serious enmity between the complainant group and the accused group whether conviction based on sole testimony of an interested eye witness can be made. The court held that it is prudent to corporate evidence of the interested eye witness. The rule for such conviction is subjected to the limitation that the testimony of such a witness is trustworthy and consistent the court can rely upon the deposition of such witness.”[26]

“In Hari Obula Reddy Vs State of Andhra Pradesh[27] the court while deciding on the question whether evidence and testimony provided by an interested witness can be appreciated in the court of law a three judge bench of the court observed now it is a well settled that and evidence provided by interested for partition witness is not compulsorily and unreliable in nature even in that case partition ship by itself not form a valid ground for discrediting sworn testimony. it cannot be laid down as a fast rule evidence provided by interested witness cannot be taken as a basis of conviction unless cooperate to a material extent in material particulars by an independent evidence. in such cases it is necessary that such evidences are subjected to careful scrutiny t and should be accepted with caution. if in such scrutiny it is found that such testimony is found to be intrinsic Li reliable or probable it may by itself be sufficient in such circumstances of the case to base a conviction. although in the matter of appreciation of evidence no hard and fast rule can be laid down get in most cases in evaluating the evidence of an interested or even a partition witness it is useful as first step to focus attention on the question whether the presence of the witness at the scene of the crime at the material time was probable if so whether the substratum of the story narrated by the witness being consistent with the other evidence on record the natural cause of human events the surrounding circumstances and inherent probabilities of the case is such which will carry conviction with the prudent person if the answer to these questions will be in the formative and the evidence of the witnesses appears to the court to be almost flawless and free from suspicion it may accept it without seeking collaboration from any other source since perfection in this imperfect world is seldom to be found and evidence of witnessed more so of an interested witness is generally friends with embellishment and exaggerations however mean the court may look for some assurance the nature and extend of which will vary according to circumstances of a particular case from independent evidence circumstantial evidence or direct before finding the accused guilty on the basis of his interested testimony.”[28]

“In the case of Mutte Padharppa Ghigadolli vs. State of Karnataka[29]The settle position in law in regard to the evidence of interested witness is that the court should scrutinize the same with extra care and question as it would not be prudent to place Reliance on insert evidence to basic induction and further that in case such evidence is found reliable on swachh protonated the court may act on it without looking for Cooperative evidence one of the main principles of appreciation of evidence in criminal trial is that the evidence of witness who is not shown to be interested should be scrutinized carefully and if it is found that it is not artificial not an all-natural not improbable and does not suffer from intrinsic infimate is then it can be relied upon if it suffers from any of these undesirable factors evidence do given by an independent and in this interested witness ought not to be relied upon in the instant case two witnesses were interested and there was serious in formatting in their evidence there for Reliance could not be placed on their evidence.”[30]

“In the case of Ram Kishan and others vs. State of U.P[31] the court while deciding the credibility of interested witness, it was held by the court that mere presence of M at the spot and his friendship with the deceased cannot be taken as a ground to discredit the evidence, if the contrary can be proved through any other satisfactory evidence. In an another case, it was held that if the names of interested witnesses are not listed in the First Information Report(FIR), their evidence cannot be rejected merely on the ground of the same”.[32]

“In the state of Rajasthan Vs. Tejaram[33]and others, it was held by the Hon’ble court that testimony of probable witnesses cannot be rejected merely on the ground that they were close relatives of the deceased, was decided by the court as improper.”[34]In another case, just because a person is related to deceased, his evidence cannot be discredited as held in the case of Bhagwan Singh vs. State of M.P.[35] in the case of “Baliradolivenkataramiah vs. State of Andra Pradesh[36], the High Court reversed the order of the trial court where all of the accused were convicted as they were inimical and interested witness. Out of 9 accused, 6 were acquitted and 3 were convicted. The court held that the same principal cannot be applied on everyone.”[37]


A DETAILED EXPLANATION OF THE CASE

Rakesh Kumar vs. State of Himachal Pradesh

I. Facts of the case:

▪ The present petition is filed under Sections 397 and 401 of Cr. P. Code

▪ The police received telephonic information on 30. 08.2006 by the Medical Officer of the Primary health centre P.H.C., Amb stating that a person who sustained serious injuries in a road accident is present in the hospital. The same was recorded in DDR no. 12

▪ ASI Prakash Chand and other police officers reached the hospital where they requested the Medical Officer for recording of statement which was denied by the M.O. on the ground of the patient being unfit for same.

▪ On the spot of the accident, the statement of Rajni devi, (sister-in-law of the deceased) was recorded u/s 154 of Code.

▪ Rajni Devi in her statement accused the driver (petitioner) for death of Smt. Nirmala Devi. She stated that she states that she belongs to Kuthiari and on the date of the incident she was travelling with her sister –in law in a bus to visit a private doctor at Amb as the son of the deceased was ill. Nirmala devi was seated near the front window and when she was deboarding the bus, the driver suddenly drove the bus and as the result of acceleration, she fell down and sustained injuries on head and other parts of the body. With the help of locals, she was admitted to P.H.C.

▪ On the basis of her statement, F.I.R was registered and investigation was carried by the police authorities. Spot map and statement of various others were recorded and the bus was subjected to mechanical investigation and no mechanical defect was found. Photographs of the bus were taken.

▪ A challan was prepared and case was instituted against the accused. The first hearing took place on 28.09.2006. The statement of accusation was put before the accused which he denied and claimed trial.

▪ The prosecution examined a total of 16 witnesses whereas the petitioner was tried under Sec 313 of the code of criminal procedure and the accused chose to not present any supporting document.

▪ After evaluation, the learned trial court convicted him. The petitioner filed an appeal in the sessions court Una and the same was dismissed by the court on 13.12. 2009.

▪ The petitioner has filed a revision petition with the prayer to quash and set aside the impugned judgment passed by the lower courts and free the accused of all the charges.


Important Concepts

Revision Jurisdiction: Section 397 and Section 401 of the code of criminal procedure, 1973 deals with revisionary jurisdiction of the high court.

The revision powers under Cr.P.C 1973 are available to the session’s judge under section 397 of code while the power of revision is available to the high court u/s 397 and 401 of code. The session judge as well as the high court can exercise their revision powers against the orders passed by any lower criminal court located in any given jurisdiction irrespective of the fact whether such order has been passed by either the JMFC or JMSC or the executive magistrate. However, a party filing revision before one court cannot file a second revision before the other court. Moreover, the powers of high court under section 401 Cr.P.C are much wider than the powers conferred under section 397 Cr.P.C. While invoking revision powers under section 401 Cr.P.C, the High Court may in its discretion exercise any of the powers conferred on a court of appeal by sections 386, 389, 390 and 391 or on a court of session by section 307 Cr.P.C. If the high court is of the opinion that a revision has been filed under a bona fide belief that no appeal lies against the order sought to be revised and that it is necessary in interest of justice to treat the revision petition as a petition of appeal, the same maybe treated as if an appeal has been preferred and may be dealt with according to law. In the case of Amur Chand Agrawal vs. Shanti Bose[38] the apex court of the country while explaining the scope of scope of criminal revision petition file that such protection should normally be exercise in exceptional cases when there is a glaring defect in the proceedings of the court or error of point of law aur there has been flag and miscarriage of Justice. Further the court in Akalu Aheer Vs. Ramdeo Ram[39] has held that the power being described in description discretionary in nature has to be exercised judicially and not arbitrary or lightly and in the same case for the observed that the judicial discretion as has often been said means a discretion which is informed by tradition method relies by analogy and discipline by system

Interested Witnesses: - a witness who appears to be interested in the success of the case in favour of any party is set to be a interested witness. Therefore, the relatives of a party may be normally understood as interested witness among others. In a criminal case a police officer has lodged FIR of any incident and he is also directed to investigate the said case, he can also be termed as a interested witness in view of certain decisions of different courts. The law relating to evaluation of interested witness has undergone drastic changes over the years. It is now well-settled that evidence of an interested witness cannot be discarded solely on the ground that the witness is a interested. The court evaluating the evidence of an interested witness has only to be extra cautions and careful while basin the judgment on the testimony of interested witness.in the present case Rakesh Kumar vs. State of Himachal Pradesh to the extent of questioning whether revision petition as filed before the court was correct and that weather the court has jurisdiction to entertain such a revision petition the court has Court has allowed the revision petition after examining various case laws on the matter in hand.


Analysis of the Case

In the present case, there were two main contentions before the court of law. First, whether the court can entertain the revision jurisdiction and second, whether evidence of the can be appreciated before the court of the law.

With respect to the first contention, court after hearing various judgments held that the present court has jurisdiction to entertain the revision petition and allowed the same. To the second contention, the court relied upon various judgments and on the basis of the facts and evidences on record and witnesses held that the evidence of sister in law of the deceased and others cannot be taken into consideration as on corroboration with independent evidence, it was found by the court that evidence and testimony of the interested witness in the case in doubtful and cannot be relied upon. The court came to conclusion based on previous judgments of both the Supreme Court and High Court. As stated above in the case of Hari Obula Reddy vs. State of Andhra Pradesh[40] and Ramashish Rai vs. Jagdish Singh[41] the court based on the above judgments entertained the evidence of the interested witnesses in the case and on careful scrutiny and on corroboration with other evidence, the court found the evidence of interested witness not worthy and thus decided in favour of the petitioner.

Judgment – the court decided in favour the petitioner. The court allowed the revision petition and set aside the order of the trial court and acquitted the petitioner and discharged the petitioner of all charge


CONCLUSION

The role of witness is very important in the justice system in India. There are several factors that make the contribution of witnesses critical to deciding a case before the trial courts as well as in appellate courts. There are various types of witness and one of the most crucial is interested witness given the complexity of the interested witnesses. There are several aspects to being an interested witness which may cause certain administrative barrier from the viewpoint of the investigating agency and the court. The relationship of the witness to the family of the accused, victim or by having vested interest in the property subject to legal conflict may create a position of interested witness.

There have been numerous cases laws decided in both the Supreme Court as well as several High Courts of states where key aspects of interested witness have been discussed. One of the most common questions of law before the courts is regarding the admissibility and credibility of the interested witness. The courts must consider the independence of the contribution ought to have been made by the interested witness and must not only rely on the relationship of the interested witness with the parties at conflict. Further, the quality of the witness must be given more focus and preference over the quantity. There is also a need to develop infrastructure for the protection of interested witnesses, which will also aid in ensuring that the interested witness is not influenced by the parties.

In my opinion the judgment of the court was correct, firstly, it was decided on the merits of the case and secondly, the adherence to previous judgments rendered the judgment correct. The principle of Criminal law that ‘unless proven guilty, no one should be punished’ and ‘Hundreds of criminals should be punished but not a single innocent should be held guilty’ were upheld. It is important to note that, the interested witness cannot be discredited merely on the basis that there exists a relationship with the party, but instead there is a need to establish that the interested witness has given corroborative evidence which indeed is crucial and consistent with the face and circumstances, if there is irregularity, only then it should discredited. Therefore, the truthfulness of the statements, testimony or evidence provided by the interested witness must be the grounds for acceptance or rejection and not the mere relationship with the parties. There is an increasing burden on the courts and investigating agencies to dissect the statements made by the interested witness and engage in corroboration to arrive at a conclusion about the credibility and admissibility of the testimony by the interested witness. Further, the courts must invest in care and diligence in record the testimony and statements by the interested witness to ensure that the corroboration is effective and to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice. The scrutiny of the testimony given by the interested witness will also play a key role in categorized and admitting the evidence by interested witness.

[1]Indian Evidence Act, 1872 [2]Ibid [3]Badullah vs. state , 1961 A.W.R. (HC) 89 page. 91; A.I.R 1961 All. 397 [4] Id [5]Madhu @Madhuranatha vs. State of Karnataka, 2014(2) Kant LJ 158; 2014(84) ACR C 329; AIR 2014(SC) 394 [6]Sampath Kumar vs. Inspector of police, Krishnagiri, 2012 (2) RCR ( Cri) 231 (SC) [7]The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 [8]Vikas Kumar Roorkewal Vs. State Of Uttrakhand, (2011) 2 SCC 178 [9]Id [10]Kartik Malhar v. State of Bihar, 1996) 1 SCC 614 [11]Namdev vs State of Maharashtra, (2007) 14 SCC 150: (2009) 1 SCC (Cri) 773. [12]Kartik Malhar v State of Bihar, (1996) 1 SCC 614 [13]Sahabuddin v State of Assam, (2012) 13 SCC 213 [14]Samsuddin Sheikh v State of Gujarat, 2011 (4) RCR (Criminal) 840 SC [15]GutturthiEswara Rao v State of AP, 2005 CrLJ 1632 (AP) [16]State of Haryana v Shakuntla, 2012 (2) RCR (Cri) 845 (SC) [17]Joginder Singh v State, 2009 Cri L J 2805 [18]GutturthiEswara Rao v State of AP, 2005 CrLJ 1632 (AP) [19]Dalip Singh vs State of Punjab 1953 SC 364 [20]Id [21]Ramashish Rai Vs Jagdish Singh(2005) 10 SCC 498 [22]Id [23]State of Jammu and Kashmir vs Hazara Singh AIR1981 SC 451 [24]Id. [25]State of Rajasthan vs Chandu and others JT 2002 10 80 427 [26]Id [27]Hari Obula Reddy Vs State of Andhra Pradesh 1981 3 675 [28]Id [29]MuttePadharppaGhigadolli vs. State of Karnataka 1980 Cr LJ 1065, 1069 [30]Id. [31]Ram Kishan and others vs. State of U.P, AIR 2004 SC 4768 [32]State Of Bihar vs. Ram Padareth Singh, AIR 1998, SC 2606 [33]Rajasthan Vs. Tejaram 1999 CriLJ 2588 (SC) [34]Id [35]Bhagwan Singh vs. State of M.P. AIR 2002, SC 1621 [36]Baliradolivenkataramiah vs. state of Andra Pradesh, 1994, BBCJ 51 (SC) [37]Id [38]Amur Chand Agrawal vs. Shanti Bose(1973) SCC 328 [39]Akalu Aheer Vs. Ramdeo Ram, (1973) 2 SCC 583 [40]AIR 1981 SC 82 [41] AIR 2005 SC 335

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