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Supreme Court Says Quality and Not Quantity of Evidence Matters, Even One Eye Witness Account Enough

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The Supreme Court in Amar Singh v State held that the eye witness account of a single witness is allowed provided it is true, cogent, and trustworthy. Section 134 of the Evidence Act 1972 supports this.

Brief Facts 

As per the case of the prosecution, three brothers (PW-1, PW-11, and deceased) had together left the Mother’s house for their respective homes. PW-1 and PW-11 were walking a few paces ahead of the deceased when they heard him shouting. Upon turning, they found three persons attacking their brother. 

Allegedly the Accused Inderjeet Singh was armed with a knife while accused Amar Singh and Shiv Charan were armed with hockey sticks. PW-1 stated that he recognized all the three accused from before. The brothers tried to intervene but, the three persons aimed their weapons at them and threatened to kill. 

The deceased fell on the ground and lost unconsciousness. The accused persons then fled from the place. While they were taking care of the injured brother, a Police van arrived at the instance of an unknown informant 15 minutes later. The Police removed the deceased from the spot and took him to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.

The Appellants have approached this Court against their conviction under Section 302 IPC r/w Section 34 IPC. 

Arguments by Appellants

Shri Dushyant Dave Senior Counsel representing the appellants argues that the entire incident appears to be improbable. 

Also, he pointed towards the conduct of PW-1 as unnatural. He argued that the PW-1’s eye witness account does not inspire confidence. His conduct during the incident, and thereafter makes his presence on stop doubtful. 

The other two witnesses have turned hostile. Basing on the conviction of the accused, the testimony of a single eye witness is unsafe without corroboration from other pieces of evidence because his conduct was unnatural and inconsistent with the ordinary course of human nature making his presence at the site of the incident doubtful.

Arguments by Respondents

Ms Aishwarya Bhati Senior Counsel representing the State contended that two Courts have recorded a concurrent finding of guilt of the appellants based on the testimony of an eye witness which they found to be reliable and there exists no legal impediment for a conviction based on the same.

Also, she submitted that evidence of a hostile witness is not to be discarded as a whole. The relevant parts which are allowed in law can be relied upon by the prosecution. 

Further, the conviction cannot be assailed because of some lacuna in the investigation. It is settled that where the prosecution case is established by direct testimony of eye witness corroborated by medical evidence, failure or omission of the investigating officer cannot render the prosecution case doubtful or unworthy of belief.

Court’s Observation 

The Bench put down the law in cases based on eye witness accounts. They said that generally the Court can and may act on the testimony of a single eye witness provided he is wholly reliable. No legal impediment exists in convicting a person on the sole testimony of a single witness as per Section 134 of the Evidence Act, 1872. 

But if doubts arise about the testimony, Courts will insist on corroboration. The Court added that the “time-honoured principle is that evidence has to be weighed and not counted. On this principle stands the edifice of Section 134 of the Evidence Act. The test is whether the evidence has a ring of truth, is cogent, credible, and trustworthy or otherwise.”

The Court then observes that here the case of the prosecution rests on the sole testimony of PW-1. But the conduct of PW-1 and PW-11 as shown on record is unnatural. Though they claim to be present at the time of occurrence no attempt was made by them to save their brother from assault. This unnatural conduct against natural human behaviour casts a serious doubt of shadow on the presence of eyewitnesses on the spot at the time of occurrence. Moreover, the facts stated by PW-1 has not been corroborated by the other brother PW-11.

Then the Court acknowledged that PW-11 and PW-5 turned hostile. PW-11 was cross-examined by the prosecution. He denied having seen any fact put forth to him. The PW-5 denied having seen the attack. He also denied having identified the three Accused.

Further, the brothers did not attempt to take the injured to the clinic nearby or call the doctor for some first aid. Neither did they attempt to contact the police. Additionally, there were discrepancies in the column for the recording of the name of relative and victim. There are material discrepancies between ocular testimony and medical evidence.

Court’s Order

The Bench held that the Appellants must be given the benefit of doubt as the Prosecution’s case has material discrepancies and they have failed to prove a case against the accused. Hence, the Court set aside the impugned judgment.

Click here to view the Judgement.

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