Eyewitness account no gospel truth: HC


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Court says they were duty-bound to test its veracity

New Delhi, June 27

The Delhi High Court has cautioned the judges of lower courts against accepting testimony of an eyewitness as "gospel truth", saying that they were duty-bound to test its veracity.

"It is unfortunate that we are repeatedly noting that the trial judges are gullibly accepting as gospel truth whatever is spoken of by those who claim to be eyewitnesses," a bench comprising Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Suresh Kait said.

"The trial judge was bound to consider whether an unsolved crime has (been) attempted to be solved taking help of persons who are likely to be under police pressure or whether witnesses have contrived to settle some score with the accused," it said.

The High Court's observation came while setting aside the conviction of a man by a lower court in a murder case.

Rejecting the testimonies of three eyewitnesses on under what circumstances the body of the victim was recovered, the bench said, "The instant case is a classic example of how people can manage to tell lies and unless a judge is vigilant, gross injustice may result." The trial court had relied on the eyewitness accounts for convicting the accused.

The court found several contradictions in the statements of the three eyewitnesses and in the records of the police regarding the time of arrest of the accused and the recovery of the dead body. Allowing the appeal of accused Amarpal against his conviction and sentence of life imprisonment awarded by a lower court, the bench also pulled up the police for implicating him.

"The appellant (Amarpal) was picked up and thereafter documents were fabricated to show as if the recoveries are at his instance but the investigating officer forgot that the crime team had left a report which recorded facts otherwise.

"It appears to be a case where at the police station the serial number of the entry register where FIRs have to be registered were kept blank, but number known and this is the reason why the crime team could write the FIR number even prior to the FIR being registered," the bench said.

While setting aside the conviction, the court said, "It is extremely unfortunate that the trial judge has mechanically noted the evidence without discussing the same."

Brushing aside the police version that the body and various other materials were recovered at the behest of accused Amarpal, the court, after analysing the evidence, said that "facts as have emerged were irreconcilably opposite of each other. One set of evidence led by the prosecution destroyed the other and vice versa."

Earlier, two other co-accused in the case, Foorkan and Idrish, were acquitted by the trial court for lack of evidence against them. — PTI