New Delhi: Courts can convict a person on the testimony of a sole witness and minor contradictions in the prosecution`s claim can be ignored, the Supreme Court has ruled.
"As a general rule, the court can and may act on the testimony of a single witness provided he is wholly reliable. There is no legal impediment in convicting a person on the sole testimony of a single witness," the apex court said while upholding the life sentence of two persons in a murder case.
"That is the logic of Section 134 of the Evidence Act, 1872. But if there are doubts about the testimony, the court will insist on corroboration... The time honoured principle is that evidence has to be weighed and not counted."
A division bench of judges BS Chauhan and AK Patnaik said while dismissing the appeals of Takdir Samsuddin Sheikh and another man for the murder of Moiyuddin Shaikh on September 21, 2000 at Vadodara over some financial disputes.
The apex court rejected the argument of the convict that their conviction was unsustainable as the prosecution claimed to have nabbed and seized the blood stained materials 13 days after the murder and the testimony of Bharat Rajendra Prasad Trivedi could not be relied upon as he was a friend of the deceased.
"Minor contradictions, inconsistencies, omissions or improvements on trivial matters without affecting the case of the prosecution should not be made the court to reject the evidence in its entirety," Justice Chauhan writing the judgement said. According to post mortem report, the deceased was inflicted 33 injuries with swords and knives and the prosecution relied mostly on the testimony of the sole eye witness Trivedi who was accompanying the deceased in a car when they were waylaid.
The sessions court on December 14, 2001 convicted and sentenced the accused to life imprisonment and the Gujarat High Court on May 4, 2009, dismissed their appeal upon which they appealed in the apex court.
Dismissing the appeal, the bench said courts after going through the entire evidence must form an opinion about the credibility of the witnesses and the appellate court in natural course would not be justified in reviewing the same again without justifiable reasons.
"The test is whether the evidence has a ring of truth, is cogent, credible and trustworthy or otherwise. The legal system has laid emphasis on value, weight and quality of evidence rather than on quantity, multiplicity or plurality of witnesses.”
"It is, therefore, open to a competent court to fully and completely rely on a solitary witness and record conviction. Conversely, it may acquit the accused in spite of testimony of several witnesses if it is not satisfied about the quality of evidence," the bench added.