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Testimony of a Deceased Witness and its evidentiary value

In the realm of legal proceedings, a crucial question often arises when a witness who has been examined-in-chief passes away before the completion of their cross-examination. This scenario poses a challenging dilemma for courts in assessing the value and weightage to be given to the testimony of such a deceased witness.

This article delves into the legal framework surrounding this issue, particularly in the context of a recent case involving Dr. Tim Black, whose testimony was relied upon even though he expired before his cross-examination was completed.

Legal Precedents and Principles:
In the case of Krishan Dayal Vs Chandu Ram, 1969 SCC OnLine Del 134, the High Court of Delhi established a significant legal precedent. It ruled that a witness's statement in examination-in-chief does not become inadmissible merely due to the witness's subsequent death before cross-examination. The court can consider whether the testimony in question has been corroborated by surrounding circumstances.

A similar viewpoint was upheld by the High Court of Calcutta in Somagutta Sivasankara Reddy v. Palapandia Chinna Gangappa, MANU/AP/1284/2001.

In the case at hand, Dr. Tim Black was examined through video conferencing due to his illness. His cross-examination took place over a span of three days, from 19th to 21st August, 2014, at the High Commission of India in London. However, Dr. Black sadly passed away on 11th December, 2014, before the cross-examination could be completed. The central question that arises is the weight to be given to his testimony under the circumstances.

The Hon'ble High Court of Delhi, taking guidance from the aforementioned legal precedents, aptly recognized that Dr. Tim Black's testimony should not be summarily dismissed due to his demise before cross-examination.

Instead, the court was tasked with assessing the testimony's credibility and reliability based on the evidence presented. Notably, the court found that Dr. Black's testimony had been sufficiently corroborated by the evidence of Mr. V.K. Govil. In this case testimony of Dr. Tim Black was relied by the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi as the same was duly corroborated by other witness.

The concluding Note:
The legal framework surrounding the testimony of a deceased witness, particularly when cross-examination remains incomplete, is well-established through judicial precedents. In such cases, the courts have consistently held that the testimony should not be deemed inadmissible solely due to the witness's death. Instead, the court must determine the weight to be attached to the testimony by considering the facts and circumstances of the case and assessing whether it is corroborated by other evidence.

Case Law Discussed:
Case Title: Marie Stopes International Vs Parivar Seva Santha
Date of Judgement:20/09/2023
Case No. C.S.Comm 298 of 2018
Neutral Citation No: 2023:DHC:6806
Name of Hon'ble Court: Delhi High Court
Name of Hon'ble Judge: Amit Bansal, H.J.

Information and discussion contained herein is being shared in the public Interest. The same should not be treated as substitute for expert advice as it is subject to my subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and presentation of the fact and issue involved herein.

Written By: Advocate Ajay Amitabh Suman, IP Adjutor - Patent and Trademark Attorney
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9990389539

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