New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that omissions in the statements of witnesses creating serious doubts about truthfulness of the testimony should be discarded as it is unsafe to convict a person based on that.

“Where the omissions amount to a contradiction, creating a serious doubt about the truthfulness of the witness and other witnesses also make material improvement while deposing in the court, such evidence cannot be safe to rely upon.

“However, minor contradictions, inconsistencies, embellishments or improvements on trivial matters, which do not affect the core of the prosecution case, should not be made a ground on which the evidence can be rejected in its entirety,” the apex court said.

A bench of justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar passed the judgement while upholding an appeal filed by a murder convict A Shankar challenging the life sentence awarded to him by the Karnataka High Court which had reversed the acquittal order passed by the Bangalore sessions court.

According to the prosecution, Shankar stabbed to death Murthy Prasad a hair cutting saloon owner on March 26, 1996, after he refused to pay him Rs 150 as an extortion money.

The deceased’s cousin Shankara (PW.8) was said to be the sole eye witness to the murder.

The Sessions court acquitted him of the charges but the high court, on an appeal from the state, awarded life imprisonment to Shankar by relying on the testimony of Shankara.

Aggrieved, the convict had appealed in the apex court citing various contradictions in the testimony of the eye witness.

Allowing the appeal, the apex court said that in all criminal cases, normal discrepancies are bound to occur in the depositions of witnesses due to normal errors of observation, memory loss, lapse of time or due to mental disposition such as shock and horror.

In the case of statements made by eye witness Shankara, there were contradictions which cannot be relied upon, the bench said.

“His presence also cannot be doubted in view of the fact that he himself got injured in the incident. However, the question does arise as under what circumstances he has told his sister and brother-in-law that his brother has been killed by accused-appellant when in his substantive statement before the court he has deposed that he came to know about the death of his brother after being discharged from the hospital and he remained there as indoor patient for 15 days.

“Such a statement made in the court also creates a doubt as to whether he could be the author of the complaint for the reason that in the complaint lodged by him on 26.3.1996 he has stated that his brother had died,” the bench said.

Hence, the apex court quashed the high court judgement and restored the acquittal order passed by the Sessions court.


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June 2021