One of the major roles played in Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is of the witness.
Witness is a person who provides for evidence or himself testifies before a
court of law. Chapter IX and Chapter X of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 named Of
and Of Examination Of Witness
respectively, consisting of 49 sections
ranging from sec 118 to 166There have been various cases where witnesses are
harassed, bribed, threatened, abducted to do away with. The witness therefore
becomes very vulnerable and turns hostile at the trial of the case. Provided the
importance of a witness any law addressing the problem of hostile witness is a
Witness Under Indian Evidence Act
The Indian Evidence Act, Chapter IX, deals with witnesses. Both persons shall be
eligible to testify unless the court determines that they are unable to
understand questions due to their tender years, severe old age, disability,
whether physical or mental, or some other similar cause.
There is no use of the word "hostility" or any definition of hostility. These
terms are taken from the British legal system. When a prosecution witness is
called to provide testimony in a criminal trial, he appears in court but does
not affirm his prior evidence/statement that was registered or obtained by the
investigating agency. He's referred to as an adversarial witness or a hostile
Supreme Court inGura Singh v State of Rajasthantried to define hostile witness
and laid down that under the common law the hostile witness is described as one
who is not desirous of telling the truth at the instance of one party calling
him and an unfavorable witness is one called by a party to prove a particular
fact in issue or relevant to the issue who fails to prove such facts or proves
the opposite test.
Reasons For Witness Turning Hostile
Here we will be discussing reasons behind a witness tuning hostile.
- Absence of Witness Protection
The witness is now the one who has the ability to reveal the perpetrator's
identity and bring justice to the victim. As a result, the witness is subjected
to harassment and threats by the perpetrator or his associates. Alternatively,
the witness could be paid to remain silent. Due to the convict's wrath, the
witness withdraws.. In Mahender Chawla and Ors. v. Union of India (UOI) and
Ors the Hon'ble Court specifically held that one of the main reasons for
the witnesses to turn hostile is that they are not accorded appropriate
protection by the State. Clearly, threat to life, induced by coercion,
compulsion, violence, etc., may often result in witnesses from contracting
from truth, even if the same may go against their conscience or will.
- Absence of Adequate Facilities in the Court
Roles played by witnesses are unparalleled despite this fact the witnesses
are made to suffer in the process of appearing before the court due to lack of
basic facilities in the courts.The 14th Law Commission Reporthighlighted that
in several States, the witnesses are made to wait under trees in Court campuses,
or in the verandas of court houses. They are not protected from vagaries of the
weather. Even the sheds of the courts are dilapidated.
- Delay In Court Proceedings
Apart from factors mentioned above another factor responsible for witness
turning hostile is delay in court proceedings which results in the summoning of
witness to the court which causes inconvenience and hence the witness turns
hostile in order to get rid of summons.
- Accused granted Bail by the Court
Though the bail is a right of every person accused of a crime but criminal
granted bail even after doing a heinous crime acts as deterrence to the witness
as they loses the faith in judiciary and courage to fight the criminal.Cases
where high profile personalities are involved the court grants bail very easily
hence again the witness is discouraged to fight for justice alone.
Consequences Of Witness Turning Hostile
Low Conviction Rate The NCRB data revealed that over half of the trials in the country end in
the acquittal of the accused: he overall conviction rate at the end of 2017 was
48.8 percent. The conviction rates for theft and criminal breach of trust are
lower than the average: at 36 percent and 23.6 percent respectively.
Offence Of Perjury Section 191 of Indian Penal code binds a person legally to state truth not
only if bound by oath but also if bound by some law. Failing which he shall be
liable for giving of false evidence. Further section 164 of CrPC makes a person
liable of giving false evidence intentionally if he contradicts himself in the
Blow On The Faith In Judiciary Acquittals in criminal cases of the accused are what hinder people from
opting for criminal trial if anything happens to them. Judiciary should always
work in such a manner as to strengthen its faith amongst the public. However,
this strength is hampered when a witness turns hostile at serious turns of the
trial and thus results in the acquittal of the accused.
The issue of witness protection dates long back and has been a prominent problem
in the justice delivery system of India. The problems the witnesses go through
before, at the time and after the trial are big. They fear the life of their own
and their family members. Witnesses in cases involving high profile people are
vulnerable to criminal intimidation. This influence can be made either by use of
muscle power or money power.
There need to be more strict laws concerning the
protection of witness as is at the present. Strict laws protecting the witness
will be protecting witness from turning hostile and becoming a helping hand of
the court in delivering justice.