New Delhi: Minor inconsistencies in witnesses` testimony can be overlooked if the principal part of the oral and ocular evidence is in conformity with the medical evidence, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A bench of justices H L Dattu and Anil Dave gave the ruling, upholding the life sentences of two convicts Kathi Bharat Vajsur and Kathi Ramku Vajsur in a 1984 murder case relating to Gujarat`s Amreli district.
Kathi Fakira Vajsur, the prime accused in the case had died during the pendency of the trial.
The apex court concurred with the Gujarat High Court`s decision to reverse the acquittal by the trial court which had disbelieved the prosecution`s evidence.
"Perhaps the trial court took a hyper-technical view by primarily concentrating on minor contradictions to hold that the prosecution has failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
"We are not in agreement with the findings and conclusions reached by the trial court. When the medical evidence is in consonance with the principal part of the oral /ocular evidence, supporting the prosecution story, there is no question of ruling out the ocular evidence merely on the ground that there are some inconsistencies or contradictions in the oral evidence," observed Justice Dattu, who wrote the judgement.
Citing an earlier ruling of the apex court that there is no fixed pattern of reaction of an eyewitness to a crime, the bench said, "When faced with what is termed as "an unusual reaction" of an eyewitness, the Court must only examine whether the prosecution story is in anyway affected by such reaction.
"If the answer is in the negative, such reaction is
irrelevant. We are afraid that the unusual behaviour of the injured eyewitness, PW6, will not, in anyway, aid the appellants to punch a hole on to the prosecution story," the bench said.
In this case the convicts had shot dead Mulu Dada and injured (PW6) Jagu Dada, following a land dispute. While Mulu Dada died on the spot, Jagu, reportedly ran away and locked himself in a room to escape.
The defence took the plea that the trial court had rightly acquitted them as there was several inconsistencies in the prosecution`s claim including the conduct of Jagu.
"When an eyewitness behaves in a manner that perhaps would be unusual, it is not for the prosecution or the court to go into the question as to why he reacted in such a manner.
"In the instant case, cumulative reading of the entire evidence makes the prosecution story believable, thereby proving the guilt of the accused appellants beyond any doubt.
The high court in the impugned judgement has correctly appreciated the evidence on record, and we do not find any infirmity in the same, therefore we uphold the conviction of guilt and sentence imposed by the high court," the bench said.
The apex court directed that the appellants be taken into custody forthwith to serve life imprisonment.