Witnesses may forget certain details with the passage of time, it says
The testimony of a witness in a criminal trial cannot be discarded merely because of minor contradictions or omissions, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.
The power of observation of every person varies. Witnesses may forget certain details with the passage of time. It may be a genuine case of memory lapse. These factors should not cause a prosecution case to crumble in court, it has observed.
A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy pronounced the recent judgment in a case of a fatal knife attack on a farmer in Gujarat after a dispute over the payment of rent for a tractor turned ugly. The crime happened in 2006.
The three accused were sentenced to life imprisonment and their appeal in the High Court also failed.
The accused argued in the apex court that the case against them were not proved beyond reasonable doubt. They contended that the case was based on the testimonies of two injured witnesses, whose depositions, if closely scrutinised, were full of holes.
The accused called the witnesses in the case “chance witnesses” whose evidence were not trustworthy enough to base their conviction on.
But Justice Reddy dismissed the line of defence. The court said the omission of irrelevant details like the non-seizure of a gold chain and a motorbike, did not colour the case against the accused.
“Only contradictions in material particulars and not minor contradictions can be a ground to discredit the testimony of the witnesses,” Justice Reddy emphasised the correct position of law.
The apex court dismissed the appeal, concluding that the “entire evidence of all the witnesses is examined with reference to medical and other evidence on record, it is clear that the prosecution has proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. All the accused have committed the crime with a common intention”.
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