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Approver, Definition, Legal Position of Evidentiary Value of an Approvers Testimony And its Relevancy

The Criminal Justice System works with proving an accused person's guilt through several types of evidence. The prosecution has the enormous burden of establishing the accuser's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and ruling out all plausible explanations.

However, there are times when it is almost impossible to obtain evidence that will demonstrate the guilt of the accused, and as a result, the responsibility of the accused is not established due to a dearth of evidence. Evidence by way of Approver enters the scene at this point. This article discusses the topic of Evidence by the Approver and argues a number of goals to be accomplished.

The article begins with discussing the definition and meaning of the term "approver." This article also discusses the legal position in relation to the evidence presented by the approver's method. The part of this article covers the pertinent theory relating to the evidence presented by the approver.

Fourthly, it analyses the validity of the proof presented by the approver as well as the necessity of supporting proof. In the article's few paragraph discussed, the topic of Metamorphosis in the status of approver if he falters from truthful and complete disclosure of information is briefly discussed.

An approver is someone who has been charged with a crime but later confesses and agrees to testify for the prosecution. He receives a lighter sentence or perhaps a pardon as compensation for his confession and testimony. Such an agreement between the offender and the prosecutors enables a strong case against the defendant, aids in successful prosecution, and shortens the investigative period. Consequently, both parties stand to benefit.

An approver is an accomplice in theory. The co-conspirator participates in key phases of the crime's execution, such as planning, carrying out, or covering up, etc. According to K.K. Dalmia v. Delhi Administration, an accomplice is someone who voluntarily assists and cooperates with others in committing a crime. He is referred to as a particeps criminis, or an active participant in the crime.

Therefore the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 governs the admissibility of accomplice evidence. Whereas, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 , deals with the process of offering a pardon to the accused as well as the penalties for failing to comply with the requirements for the issuance of a pardon under Sections 306 and 308.

The term "approver" is neither defined nor used in the Criminal Procedure Code, but refer to a person who is believed to have been directly or indirectly involved in or privy to an offence and to whom a pardon is granted under Section 337 of the Code in order to secure his evidence against other offenders.

Since no independent evidence is available to hold the criminals accountable for their crimes in this State, organized crime situations like dacoities, the approach outlined in Section 337 is frequently used.

The word "approver" is used to refer to a person who is either directly or indirectly associated with an offence and to whom a pardon is granted under Section 306 of the Criminal Procedure Code with the intention of obtaining the person's evidence against other parties guilty of the offence.

In Ram Narain v. State of Bihar, the court noted that an approver is participles criminis, meaning that they were a co-conspirator in the crime but have agreed to testify against them and have asked for forgiveness in exchange for doing so.

However, this also casts suspicion on an approver's testimony, making them unfit to serve as a witness in a fair trial. For this reason, the courts must anxiously search for some corroboration in order to determine the authenticity and reliability of such evidence. There is always a possibility that the approver will provide false evidence in order to seek his own pardon.

An accomplice in crime who accuses others of committing the same act and is admitted as a witness at the court's discretion to testify against his partners in wrongdoing is described as an approver in Black's Law Dictionary. He is abbreviated to "King's Evidence."

Thus, it might be claimed that an approver is someone who participated in a crime but afterwards confessed and agreed to testify for the prosecution. In some circumstances, the approver may also be granted a pardon for the evidence they approved.

This benefits both the prosecution and the approver because it strengthens the case against the accused and shortens the time needed to investigate the offence.

Approver's confession is referred to as a "related confession" because it includes both an admission of guilt and an accusation that another person participated in the crime. If the opposing party's charge was found to be true, the accusing defendant was released. Otherwise, the accused man was found guilty based only on his own confession.

Evidentiary Value Of An Approvers Testimony

An approver is an accomplice in theory. The co-conspirator participates in key phases of the crime's execution, such as planning, carrying out, or covering up, etc. According to K.K. Dalmia v. Delhi Administration, an accomplice is someone who voluntarily assists and cooperates with others in committing a crime. He is referred to as a particeps criminis, or an active participant in the crime.

In his ruling in Ramaswami Goundan v. R, Sir Subramania Ayyar provided a clear description of the approver, which is "an accomplice witness is one who is either being jointly tried for the same offence and makes admissions which may be taken as evidence against a co-prisoner and which make the confessing accused pro hac vice a sort of witness, or one who has received a conditional pardon on the understanding that he is to tell all he knows, and who may at any time be relegated to the dock if he fails in his undertaking."

The co-conspirator may have been aware that the crime would be committed but failed to take any action to stop it, or they may have engaged in other actions intended to make the crime less difficult to commit or less likely to be seen. Because they were personally involved, this provides the approver a somewhat unique perspective on the crime, making their testimony extremely valuable to the prosecution.

Having said so, it should be noted that it is customary to describe such testimony of fellow accusers as "1-" without providing any additional evidence. Their and the other conspirators' comments do not carry the same weight as those of independent witnesses.

The main three justifications for being sceptical of such claims are as follows:
  1. A co-conspirator is more likely to lie under oath in an effort to absolve himself of responsibility.
  2. Because he participated in the crime and is therefore presumed to be immoral, a co-conspirator is more likely to disregard the oath; and
  3. Because he gives his testimony under the promise of a pardon if he discloses everything he knows against the people he committed the crime with, and this hope would cause him to favour Corroboration of an accomplice's evidence is therefore crucial and will be covered in more length in a subsequent chapter.

Relevancy Of Evidence By Approver

An accomplice is a competent witness against his co-accused and his testimony against the accused is admissible, according to the Indian Evidence Act, 1872's Section 133. Furthermore, the fact that a testimony was unsupported by additional evidence does not make a conviction invalid. However, it has long been accepted practice in the legal community that the requirements of Illustration (b) to Section 114 of the Evidence Act must also be read in conjunction with Section 133 of the Evidence Act.

Illustration (b) of Section 114 of the Act states that an accomplice is a person who is unworthy of credit unless and until the evidence presented by the approver is corroborated by additional evidence. This section of the Act deals with facts that the Court may assume in a specific case.

Illustration (b) is a rule of guidance when dealing with evidence by the approver, where Section 133 is the rule; however, it is a presumption juris et de jure and not an absolute rule of law.

Thus it can be said that the combined effect of both the Sections is:
"That though the conviction of an accused on the testimony of an accomplice cannot be said illegal, yet the courts will as a matter of practice, not accept the evidence of such a witness without corroboration in material particulars".

The Supreme Court's excellent decision in R. v. Baskerville makes it clear that the judge must caution the jury about the risks involved in convicting someone based solely on their uncorroborated testimony; however, the jury must also be informed that doing so is legal under the circumstances. The supporting evidence that is utilized to support such an approver's testimony must be independent and able to link the accused to the offence.

In Mahadeo v. King, the Privy Council confirmed that the requirement that such evidence by the approver be corroborated with independent evidence is essentially a rule of law rather than a rule of practice.

Accomplices are frequently required in order to bring the primary perpetrator to justice because they are frequently interested and notorious witnesses whose testimony must be admitted.

Double Test Theory

Lord Reading established the prudent rule that an accomplice's testimony should not be believed without adequate corroboration in Rex v. Baskerville. In the Sarwan Singh v. State of Punjab Case, it was established that corroboration is insufficient and that the accomplice's evidence must be trustworthy.

The double test for approver evidence was established in the seminal case of Sarwan Singh v. State of Punjab. The High Court in the current case considered the approver's testimony, which was supported by other testimony, without taking into account the substantial flaws, contradictions, and improbabilities in that testimony. The court emphasized this point by ruling that:

Prior to the Court's consideration of the issue of corroboration and its sufficiency or otherwise:
  1. Is the approver a trustworthy witness, even as an accomplice? This is the first and most important question to ask. If the response to this question is negative for the approver, the situation is resolved, and it is not necessary to assess whether his testimony has been corroborated or not. In other words, an approver's evaluation of the evidence must pass two tests. His testimony must demonstrate his credibility as a witness, and all witnesses must pass this test.
  2. Second, If the aforementioned requirement is met, the second test that must be used is that the approver's proof must obtain adequate support. This test is unique to situations where the evidence, like that of the approver, is flimsy or suspect.

Consequently, It can be concluded that the approver must apply a twofold test to evidence, with the first test being the same for every witness and the second test of corroboration being unique to tainted evidence.

A court may presume the presence of certain facts under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, and Illustration (b) expressly states that an accomplice is not deserving of credit unless he is supported by relevant evidence.

As a result, even though the law allows for the conviction of an accused person based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice, the rule of prudence, which is embodied in Illustration (b) of Section 114 of the Evidence Act, serves as a reminder to the courts that an accomplice generally isn't worthy of reliance unless his testimony is supported by relevant details.

As a result, the courts have determined that the testimony of an approver may be used as evidence to record a conviction of an accused person if it is supported by direct or circumstantial evidence in pertinent details. The statement of an approver has typically been viewed with suspicion by the courts because he is generally regarded as a person of low morals and not entirely trustworthy who is willing to let down his former accomplices in order to gain his pardon. As a result, before recording a conviction, the courts insist on independent corroboration of his testimony.

Extent And Nature Of Corroboration

In Rameshwar v. State of Rajasthan, the Hon'ble Supreme Court addressed the issue of the degree of corroboration necessary with an approver's evidence, concluding that the kind and degree of corroboration must inevitably vary depending on the specifics of each case as well as the alleged offence.

So, the guidelines that must be followed are as follows:
  1. Independent evidence is simply necessary to support the approver's testimony and make it credible and reliable; it is not necessary for it to support the accused's conviction.
  2. Such unbiased proof must also link the accused to the crime's commission.
  3. Normally, the evidence of one accomplice would not be sufficient to confirm that of another since the corroboration must come from different sources, not from the approver. The fact that such testimony was not supported by other independent sources of evidence does not, however, make a conviction invalid.

The Objective Of Pardon

Many times, the crime is performed in a way that leaves no trace or clues that could lead to its discovery. To enable the discovery of potentially damning items and other evidence that would not otherwise be accessible, pardon is granted for the arrest of the other criminals.

To ensure that those who commit heinous and serious crimes are held accountable, the Legislature introduced Section 306, the code of criminal procedure. and limited its application to the class of cases mentioned therein. According to the Hon. Supreme Court's ruling in Suresh Chandra Bahri v. State of Bihar, anyone connected to the crime, whether directly or indirectly, is eligible for a pardon.

The Shifting Back Mechanism

The accused gets released from the case and becomes a prosecution witness after securing a pardon under Section 306, the code of criminal procedure. He remains a witness for the prosecution as long as it does not certify under Section 308 (1), the code of criminal procedure. that he has broken the terms of the pardon, and the prosecution is required to cross-examine him as a witness in both the committing court and the trial court.

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872's caveat to Section 132 states that the approver's evidence cannot, however, be used against him in any criminal proceedings that have the potential to directly or indirectly implicate him.

When the Public Prosecutor, in accordance with Section 308 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, issues a certificate of non-compliance of conditions, the pardon is forfeited, he is demoted to the status of an accused, and he is no longer able to testify against the defendant.

However, in certain situations, the approver must be tried separately, and any testimony provided by him or her is inadmissible against the approver and is no longer admissible as evidence against the co-accused. The only exception to this rule is that the approver's evidence may be used against them in a subsequent trial where they will have the chance to demonstrate that they cooperated with the pardon requirement.

In the end, there is still some uncertainty regarding the approver's legal position, but in the recent high- profile case the former finance minister, Mr. P. Chidrambram, was the approver that involved testimony from approvers. The primary witness against him in the INX Media case, which received significant media attention and gave rise to a heated political debate, was Indrani Mukherjee (Approver).

However, the legal standard for determining an accused person's credibility has long been established. In accordance with the double test theory, the court must be convinced that further evidence exists in order to prove the accused's guilt, which explains the requirement of independent evidence being corroborated along with the approver's testimony.

Additionally, the accused is always required to provide a "True and Full Disclosure" of the facts; otherwise, they would have to stand trial again and will be considered co-accused. The law also stipulates that the evidence presented by the approver in such circumstances cannot be used to prove his or her guilt in the matter, striking a balance between their rights and those of the accused.


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