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
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
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.
- If witness is found to be stock witness, accused is entitled to
acquittal. 1997 Cr LJ 3921 (Mad.).
- Stock witness may be police witness. 1994 Cr LJ 1020.
- 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
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
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.
Written By: Md.Imran Wahab
- Evaluation of Evidence, N. K. Acharya, Asia Law House, Hyderabad
, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected]
, Ph no: 9836576565