In a judicial proceeding or a trial, the examination of witness is a crucial
part to discover the truth and to validate the veracity of the witness. In
Indian Evidence Law, cross-examination is termed as questioning of a witness
called by the opponent (party). The motive behind cross-examination is not just
to ask questions to an opponent, but also to fortify and deduce the case.
The main purpose of cross-examination is to verify whether, the witness
presented is valid or not. It is one of the principles which is integral for the
ascertainment of the truth, and it is certainly one of the most effective
method. Procedure and principle of examination and cross-examination of the
witnesses are discussed under the Sections 135-166 of the Indian Evidence
Examination of a witness can be done in 3 steps; First, 'Examination-in-Chief'
which is the examination of a witness by the party who calls him; Second,
'Cross-Examination' which is the examination of a witness by the adverse party;
Third, 'Re-Examination' which is the examination of a witness, subsequent to the
cross-examination by the party who called him.
Main Objectives of Cross-Examination
- To develop favourable matters that hasn't been said during examination
- To reveal and establish that the statement provided by the witness is
- To establish any interest, the witness may have in the result of the
- To establish that the witness has been coached and has memorized his
- To reveal all the documents, that witness has attested to only that part
which is out of context.
- To check the witness's ability to hear, see, remember, and relate with
the correctness of what he affirmed to.
Principles of Cross-Examination
- The adverse party is allowed for a fair chance to cross-examine.
- Cross-examination is not only available to the adverse party, but the
party that calls the witness can also cross-examine him, if it was found
that the witness has becomes a hostile witness.
- Cross-examination without chief examination is not allowed.
- If a piece of evidence is given by police while interrogating the
witness which is disadvantageous to the party, then cross-examination in the
absence of examination-in-chief is allowed.
- If the Counsel is not present on the fixed date, then the witness can be
called for another date for the cross-examination.
- Once examination-in-chief is done, if after that the witness is failed
to present for cross-examination then it may cause incredibility of that
- If a witness seems to be confused during his/her cross-examination, then
the court has all the rights to ask questions to that witness.
- Cross-examination is always viva vice in nature.
Rules of cross-examination
There is no certain set of rules that lay down a proper conducting procedure of
cross-examination, it requires long term practice to lean the art of cross
examination. However, the Act sets out some guidelines to be followed for
cross-examination. According to Section 138 of the Act, cross-examination must
pertain to and must not deviate from the relevant facts. The adverse party has
the freedom to not restrict the questions to those introduced in the
Therefore, cross-examination of the witnesses who give the documents is not
permitted but cross-examination of a witness related to earlier statements made
in writing on relevant issues is allowed. According to Section 146 of the Act,
the cross-examining party may ask any question(s) to the witness to examine his
credibility, to understand who he is and his role, or reduce his credit by
harming his character. The witness has to answer all the relevant questions
asked to him.
At times irrelevant questions are allowed, if the statements given by the
witness, in any manner, critically affect the credibility of the witness.
However, there are some questions that are considered to be improper questions
such as, questions relating to those matters, which does not affect the
credibility of the witness and those claims against the character of a witness,
will hold no relevance to the evidence produced by the witness. During
cross-examination of the witness, the party has an option to not answer all
those questions which are improper or irrelevant.
Hostile witnesses are those witness, who from the manner in which he or she
provides the evidence, shows that he or she is not desiring of telling the truth
to the court. Dinesh Verma, Cross-Examination & Principles of Cross-Examination,
Corporate Law Articles
(2020) There is no precondition to declare a
witness hostile, the court has to examine whether the witness is hostile or not.
Questioning by a party to his own witness
As per Section 154 of the Act, a party with the consent of the court can
cross-examine his own witnesses when certain situation occurs, like when a
witness a turns hostile, at that time it is important for the party to examine
him. In the case of S. Murugesan v. S. Pethaperumal
AIR 1999 MAD 76, it
was contented that "Section 154 confers a description on the court to permit
cross-examination of the witness by the party who calls it and it doesn't
contain any specific condition or guidelines which made govern the exercise of
such discretion but it is generally expected that the judge will use his power
judiciously with proper justification."
Impeachment of witnesses:
Section 155 of the Act deals with the impeachment of the witnesses.
This section states three different ways to impeach the credit of the witness
- When a person provide the evidence and testify that the witness
presented is unworthy of credit.
- When it is proved that the witness has been bribed or has received the
bribe. In Case Bhogi Lal v. The Royal Insurance 26 ALJ 377, it was
contended that "when the witness in question has been merely offered a
bribe, and the demand of bribe made by the witnesses, should be proved."
- The credit of witness can be impeached if it proved that the statement
is inconsistent or contradictory with any part of his evidence provided by
him in writing or was reduced in writing. Majid v. State of Haryana,
AIR 2002 SC 382
Power of judge to ask question
The Learned Judge of the trail has the power to put forth questions and can
order the presentation of evidence under Section 165 of the Act. It is the duty
of the Learned Judge to look into all the matters which are open to ascertain
the truth and give an unbiased and effective judgement. In view of the Learned
Judge, in case there are questions that have been neglected or willfully
avoided, he can proposed question to the witness in that light. However, it is
integral that the judgement of the Court should not be based merely on those
In Ram Chander v. State of Haryana
1981 SCR (3) 12 , the Court stated
that "The presiding officer must cease to be a observer and a mere recording
machine. He must participate in the trail. He must show intelligent interest and
put question to witness in order to ascertain the truth. But this he must do,
without unreasonably trespassing upon the functions of the counsel of parties.
He must not play a part of a party nor should he frighten or bully the
Be it a civil or a criminal case, the cross-examination of the witnesses plays a
significant role to adduce and presentation of evidence and to prove the
relevant facts. The provisions of the Act, are very important for witness
protection, i.e, it safeguards the witness' interests to give statement without
any compulsion or fear. Section 135 to 166 of the Act, clarify aspects of the
examination of witnesses such as the rules, principle, how to check the
credibility of witness, what questions to be asked to the witness, the procedure
of examination, and other relevant things related to cross examination. In any
case, constructive cross-examination can make the party lose or win the trail.
However, cross-examination is a process of meticulous determination, hard work
and common sense. Therefore, it can wisely said that the structure of a
cross-examination when arranged and sequential results in a successful
proceeding for the client and Court and the art of cross-examination can be
mastered only with constant training and practice.