New Delhi: While dwelling upon the offence of perjury and its adverse impact on the criminal justice system, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday said Indian law does not take into account the causes for this "malaise" which has plagued prosecutions.
"Beyond the bare fact of the hostility of the witness and the application or administration of penal law (perjury), the legal regime in India does not recognize the underlying causes for this malaise which has plagued criminal prosecutions," a bench of justices Ravindra Bhat and G P Mittal said.
The observations by the bench came in its 103-page verdict directing prosecution of Bollywood actor Shyan Munshi and a ballistic expert for turning hostile in the sensational Jessica Lall murder case.
The court, however, absolved 17 other witnesses from the charge of giving false evidence during their deposition in the trial.
The court, in its judgement, said while those witnesses,
who are threatened with harm to themselves or their family need to be protected, those that abuse the system by turning hostile for monetary or other considerations should be dealt with severely and made to stand trial.
"Witnesses who need to be supported and protected from threats of harm to themselves or their family members or even their business interests should be given wholehearted and unconditional protection.
"Those who cynically abuse the system by turning hostile for monetary or other extraneous consideration, have to be dealt with severely, and made to stand trial for perjury and other such offences," the bench said.
The High Court further said seriousness of perjury can be seen in the increasing trend of witnesses turning hostile, leading to acquittal of offenders in a large number of criminal proceedings.