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Use of Stock Witness by Police, Dilemma And Legal Implications

The police are sometimes accused of having some people with them ready to be used as witnesses when necessary. That is why such people are known as stock witnesses. They are also called pocket witnesses in police parlance in some areas. It is also often the case where the same witnesses feature on multiple cases.

Once, the Supreme Court observed that one of the witnesses had been involved in twenty-seven cases. The police trains stock witness to give appropriate evidence. They are trained to utter nothing other than that which the police want them to say. The police also tell them that they cannot talk in cross-examination. In its turn, it means that if such a witness cannot be applied for proving the offence itself, he is usually spoken as for his place in the circle of circumstances.

Stock witness is taught to say that which he has not seen. However, if he is questioned regarding other circumstance of the case during the cross examination, then he is sure to have been caught out. If a stock witness has been discovered among witnesses, then the court shall adopt adequate measures against such witness for violation of the court's decree.

Dilemma of Police

Law enforcement officers often find themselves grappling with a challenging dilemma: reluctance of the ordinary persons for testifying as a witness. However, some police officers including those in the narcotics control bureau, feel frustrated and adopt pragmatic measures. In this regard, a senior police officer from the NCB said, "What can we do?" People do not want to tell us what they themselves witnessed, as they see it.

This is because the ordinary citizen does not want to be involved in matters that concern police or courts. To tackle this hurdle, at times law enforcers identify persons ready to co-operate although such people have little information on the incidents in question. A senior police officer noted that such raids often took place at odd hours and getting people ready to go to such entities was a difficult task. Adopting this pragmatic viewpoint, we gain insights into the complicating factors involved in requesting assistance from the public during criminal investigations by police officers.

Legal Implication of using Stock Witness

"Stock witnesses" have serious legal implications because using them is generally considered immoral or even against the law. Most of times, these witnesses are hired for providing their testimonies and this, many a time, is done for monetary gains though no direct knowledge about the case has been gained by them.

This practice leads to various legal consequences. Stock witnesses lie on oath which is a problem that occurs after giving fake testimony. In addition, making a false statement or affecting other means of proving the case like using witnesses with no proper information for example, are elements that amount to obstruction of justice.

Moreover, courts could consider such recourse towards stock witnesses as an act of disrespect towards the legal institution causing some individuals involved into contempt of court. It is for this reason that a large number of stock witnesses undermine respect for the judicial system, leading to doubts about its neutrality.

Additionally, the consequences go beyond those found responsible for using stock witnesses. Some of these practices can lead to professional sanctions with law enforcement officials and attorneys, fines, or even disbarment. Similarly, court can strike some pieces of evidence off and even throw the entire case out if it detects inappropriate uses of witnesses or fabricated testimony that could influence the outcome of the case.

It should be highlighted, however, that in some jurisdictions and depending on particular cases stock witnesses could entail various legal implications. In general, this constitutes an offense against law and ethics and should be considered so by any existing system of law in order to preserve fairness of testimony at hearings.

Case Law:
  1. If witness is found to be stock witness, accused is entitled to acquittal. 1997 Cr LJ 3921 (Mad.).
  2. Stock witness may be police witness. 1994 Cr LJ 1020.
  3. In the case of Nana Keshav Lagad v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 2013 SC 3510), the Supreme Court laid down a proposition that the credibility of a stock witness's evidence about recovery of offensive weapons should not be shaken only because he deposed in some other case. It was further stated that each particular case should be evaluated in terms of the reliability of evidence and it does not mean that if the same witness testified on many occasions, then his deposition stands to be rejected automatically.

The credibility of stock witnesses is questioned due to a lack of direct knowledge on the subject and financial incentives. Such witnesses are commonly used in court cases for payment or due to other influence, but they do not have firsthand information about what they are saying. Stock witness describes people who usually participate in many such cases as police informants.

The main reason for the doubt in their credibility is as a result of little information available to them, influence of economic compensation and tendency to lie, as well as questions about their objectivity. Courts and legal systems understand these difficulties that can be faced when working with stock witnesses.

In evaluating the credibility of such individuals, it is paramount for the courts to look at variables like consistency, corroboration and general reliability linked with those declarations. For any fair trial process to be complete all witness's statements should be truthful and free from bias including those made by stock witness.

  2. Evaluation of Evidence, N. K. Acharya, Asia Law House, Hyderabad

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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