SC: Trivial omissions in evidence don’t make witnesses concerned liars.

In the matter of Smt. Shamim v. State (GNCT of Delhi), on 19.09.2018, the highest court of the land enunciated that:

  • In a criminal trial, normally the evidence of the wife, husband, son or daughter of the deceased, is given great weightage on the principle that there is no reason for them not to speak the truth and shield the real culprit. The same principle can be applied when such a witness deposes against a closely related accused. (Para 9)
  • According to normal human behaviour and conduct, a witness would tend to shield and protect a closely related accused. There is no reason why the same reverse weightage shall not be given to the credibility of such a witness. (Para 9)
  • The evidence of an injured witness carries great weight as it is presumed that having been a victim of the same occurrence the witness was speaking the truth. (Para 11)
  • Minor discrepancies on trivial matters not touching the core of the case, hypertechnical 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. (Para 12)
  • 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. (Para 12)
  • Small/Trivial omissions would not justify a finding by court that the witnesses concerned are liars. (Para 12)
  • 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. If the inconsistencies go to the root of the matter then the defence may be justified in seeking advantage of incongruities obtaining in the evidence. But where the inconsistencies pertain to insignificant aspects then no such benefit may be available to it. (Para 12)
  • 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. One is as important as the other. Both are public duties which the Judge has to perform. (Para 15)

Copy of Judgement: Judgement 19-Sep-2018

-Tushar Kaushik

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