Can Testimony of Eye-Witness Be Discarded, Because He is Relative of The Victim

An appeal was filed before the Supreme Court by five accused, convicted under Section 148, 302 read with Section 149 of IPC, 1860.

Brief facts of the case-Karulal & Ors. Versus The State of Madhya Pradesh, are as follows

On 18.8.1993 Madhav Ji ( the deceased) was present on the field along with his son when he was attacked by Amra, Kachru, Karu, Surtaram, Lalu and Bhagirath. After hearing the cries of the deceased some people reached the spot and the accused fled.

The son of the deceased loaded his father in a bullock cart and started to proceed towards a hospital. When they crossed the house of the accused, their way was blocked by adambai, Munnabhai, Ramibai, Sitabai and Veniram who told them not to file a report. As many people had gathered at the spot, the bullock cart was allowed to move.

Before reaching the hospital, Madhavji succumbed to his injuries. The son of the deceased and Bhawarlal lodged a police report.

After the investigations were complete, the accused were charged under Sections 148, 302 read with Section 149 of the IPC. Four other people who had blocked the bullock cart were charged under Section 506 of the IPC.

During the trial, the accused( adambai, Munnabhai, Ramibai, Sitabai and Veniram) who had blocked the bullock cart were acquitted as there was not enough evidence to prosecute them.

While hearing the case against the six main accused, the Court examined many witnesses including the son, daughter and wife of the deceased.

Trial Court opined that all the testimonies of the eyewitnesses and other witnesses pointed towards the fact that the accused had assaulted the deceased and had tried to kill him.

The post mortem report was also examined, and it seemed to indicate the fact that the deceased died because of injuries caused by sharp and blunt weapons.

It was argued by the accused that they were falsely implicated in the case due to old enmity and they told the Court that the deceased died because he fell into a Nulla.

Two defence witnesses, the village chowkidar and one other person were also examined, but their statements were found to be untrustworthy.

Trial court held that the accused persons had intentionally caused the fatal injuries on the deceased Madhavji. Accordingly, they were convicted under Section 302 read with 149 IPC and were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Feeling aggrieved, the accused challenged the order in the High Court where the Court ruled that judgment passed by the trial court was correct, and the appeal was dismissed.

Judgement passed by the High Court was challenged before the Supreme Court of India.

Proceedings before the Supreme Court:-

Arguments raised by the counsel of the appellants:-

Learned counsel stated that the testimony of the deceased’s daughter and son should be discarded as they are closely related to the deceased. He further argued that the appellants were falsely implicated due to past enmity. It was also stated before the Court that some witnesses who had supported the prosecution’s case have turned hostile.

Contentions of the respondents.

Learned counsel who was representing the respondent argued that the evidence given by three witnesses conclusively supports the prosecution case. It was further argued that injuries sustained by the deceased and medical evidence also supports the case of the prosecution.

It was also stated that bitter relationships between the two groups provide a clear motive for the accused to attack the victim.

Reasoning of the Court

Hon’ble Supreme Court referred to Dalip Singh & Ors. Vs. The state of Punjab to consider the law on the evidentiary value of a related witness. In this case, the Supreme Court held that a witness should be independent unless there is enough material to prove that they have wrong intentions or if there was enough motive for the witness to implicate anyone falsely.

The Supreme Court further opined that a close relative of a victim will not ordinarily implicate someone innocent but will only implicate real perpetrators. 

It was noted that Bhawarlal was not related to the deceased, but his testimony matches the testimony given by the son and daughter of the deceased.

On the issue that the appellants were implicated because of past enmity, the Court ruled that If the witnesses are otherwise trustworthy, past enmity by itself will not discredit any testimony. The history of bad blood gives a clear motive for the crime. Therefore this aspect does not in our assessment, aid the defence in the present matter.

The Supreme Court further observed that even though some of the witnesses who had supported the case of prosecution have turned hostile. The Court found that there was enough evidence to prove that the accused had attacked the deceased.

Decision of the Supreme Court

The Hon’ble Supreme Court concluded that the Judgement passed by the Trial Court was correct and the High Court also rightly upheld the decision. In other words, the conviction of the appellants was good in law.

The appeal was dismissed accordingly.

Case Details:-

Title: Karulal & Ors. Versus The State of Madhya Pradesh

Case No. Criminal Appeal No. 316 of 2011

Date of Order:09.10.2020

Coram: Hon’ble Justice N.V. Ramana, Hon’ble Justice Surya Kant And Hon’ble  Justice Hrishikesh Roy

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