New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that
omissions in the statements of witnesses creating serious
doubts about truthfulness of the testimony should be discarded
as it is unsafe to convict a person based on that.
"Where the omissions amount to a contradiction, creating
a serious doubt about the truthfulness of the witness and
other witnesses also make material improvement while deposing
in the court, such evidence cannot be safe to rely upon.
"However, minor contradictions, inconsistencies,
embellishments or improvements on trivial matters, which do
not affect the core of the prosecution case, should not be
made a ground on which the evidence can be rejected in its
entirety," the apex court said.
A bench of justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar
passed the judgement while upholding an appeal filed by a
murder convict A Shankar challenging the life sentence awarded
to him by the Karnataka High Court which had reversed the
acquittal order passed by the Bangalore sessions court.
According to the prosecution, Shankar stabbed to death
Murthy Prasad a hair cutting saloon owner on March 26, 1996,
after he refused to pay him Rs 150 as an extortion money.
The deceased`s cousin Shankara (PW.8) was said to be the
sole eye witness to the murder.
The Sessions court acquitted him of the charges but the
high court, on an appeal from the state, awarded life
imprisonment to Shankar by relying on the testimony of
Aggrieved, the convict had appealed in the apex court
citing various contradictions in the testimony of the eye
Allowing the appeal, the apex court said that in all
criminal cases, normal discrepancies are bound to occur in the
depositions of witnesses due to normal errors of observation,
memory loss, lapse of time or due to mental disposition such
as shock and horror.
In the case of statements made by eye witness Shankara,
there were contradictions which cannot be relied upon, the
"His presence also cannot be doubted in view of the fact
that he himself got injured in the incident. However, the
question does arise as under what circumstances he has told
his sister and brother-in-law that his brother has been killed
by accused-appellant when in his substantive statement before
the court he has deposed that he came to know about the death
of his brother after being discharged from the hospital and he
remained there as indoor patient for 15 days.
"Such a statement made in the court also creates a doubt
as to whether he could be the author of the complaint for the
reason that in the complaint lodged by him on 26.3.1996 he has
stated that his brother had died," the bench said.
Hence, the apex court quashed the high court judgement
and restored the acquittal order passed by the Sessions court.