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Abstract

Theoretically, everyone who witnesses the commission of violent crime may feel revolted by
the crime and ideally, may feel it is his duty to report the matter to the police and thereafter
give evidence in court. However, in the practical world, one finds considerable reluctance on
the part of our people to get involved in any matter in the process of criminal justice. In this
context, a close relation or friend of the victim may not share such reluctance and may come
forward to get involved in the process, irrespective of any prior ill feeling or enmity towards
the accused. The court in the case of Raju alias Balachandran & Ors. Vs. State of Tamil
Nadu1 dealt with various categorization of witness and the appreciation of evidence of a
witness. Through this paper, the researcher shall also do a briefly and critically analyse
whether the Court erred in delivering its judgment in the case State of Tami Nadu Case.2

Introduction

A witness in a criminal trial plays a pivotal role in a determining the fate of the case.
However, ironically the word "witness" has been defined nowhere in the Criminal Procedure
Code. In Madhuranatha v. State of Karnataka3, the term ‘witness’ was defined as a person
who is capable of providing information by way of deposing as regards relevant facts, via on
oral statements or statement in writing, made or given in court or otherwise. A ‘witness’ is
normally considered to be independent unless, he springs from sources which are likely to be
tainted.

In the present matter, the court dealt with categorisation of witness and the appreciation of
evidence of a witness. This is a multi-faceted judgment. However, there are few lacunas
which are present in this judgment. Before analysing the case and its facets in detail, let’s
understand the basic concept of interested witness.

INTERESTED WITNESS:

An interested witness is the one who is desirous of falsely implicating the accused, with an
intension of ensuring there conviction”4.

1
[Criminal Appeal No. 1614 of 2009], AIR 2013 SC 983
2
Ibid. Raju alias Balachandran & Ors. Vs. State of Tamil Nadu AIR 2013 SC 983
3
2014 (2) Kant LJ 158; 2014(84) ACR C 329; AIR 2014 (SC) 394.
4
Sahabuddin V. state of Assam (2012) 13 SCC 213; 2013 Cri. L.J 1252
In Takdir Samsuddin Sheikh V. State of Gujrat5, the meaning of the terms 'interested'
postulates that the witness must have some direct interest in having the accused somehow or
the other convicted for some other reasons. It is a settled position that the evidence of
interested witness is highly unreliable and the some cannot be accepted with corroboration. A
close relative is usually a natural witness. He is not considered as a interested witnesses as he
has not personal interest or material gain in becoming an interested witness.6

CREDIBILITY OF EVIDENCE OF INTERESTED WITNESS:

The Supreme Court, in Bhaskarrao vs. State of Maharashtra7, while acquitting 14 persons
accused in a murder case, observed that influence of bias in the testimonies of witnesses
having a strong interest in the result of a case, should never be overlooked. The court also
said that under the influence of bias, a man may not be in a position to judge correctly, even
if they earnestly desire to do so and he may not be in a position to provide evidence in an
impartial manner, when it involves his interest.

It is paramount duty of court to be more careful in the matter of scrutiny of evidence of the
interested witness.

The court analyses the evidence to determine carefully whether it is cogent and credible. 8 In
Sardul Singh V. State of Haryana9, the court held that the evidence of interested witnesses
should be scrutinized more carefully to find out whether it has a ring of truth . Evidence given
by the witnesses should not be discarded only on the ground that it is the evidence of
interested witness. Rejection of the such an evidence on the ground that is partisan would
invariably lead to failure of justice.

FACTS & DECISION OF THE COURT:

The facts as stated in the judgement show that the appellant had some enmity with the
deceased over a local ritual. One day, the appellant along with his two sons attacked the
deceased. This was witnessed by the brother of the deceased, making him the eye witness in
this case. The deceased’s mother also succumbed to injuries during this fight. The issue
5
2011 (4) RCR (Criminal) 840 (SC).
6
Kartik Malhar V. State of Bihar 1996 (1) RCR (Cr) 308; Rakesh V. State of M.P (SC) 2011(4) RCR (Cri) 355;
Mst Dalbir Kaur and Ors V. State of Punjab AIR 1947 SC 472 (Para13)
7
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 408 OF 2014
8
Joginder Singh V. State 2009 Cri. LJ 2805; Munigadappa Meenaiah V. State of Andhra Pradesh 2008 Cri .L.J
3903; D. Sailu V. State of A.P 2008 Cri .L.J 686; Gali Venkatiah V. State of A.P 2008 Cri. L.J 690; Poonam
Chandriah V. State of A.P 2008 Cri. L.J 4298
9
AIR 2002 SC 3462
before the court was that whether the Trial Court and the High Court were both justified in
believing the testimony of the deceased’s brother who was a related and interested witness?

The court dismissed the appeal and upheld the conviction, thereby stating that the deceased’s
brother was a credible witness. However, it laid down the following proposition wherein it
classified the witnesses in four categories namely namely (i) a third party disinterested and
unrelated witness (such as a bystander or passer-by); (ii) a third party interested witness (such
as a trap witness); (iii) simply a related-cum- an interested witness (such as the wife of the
victim) having an interest in seeing that the accused is punished; (iv) a relatedcum- interested
witness (such as the wife or brother of the victim) having an interest in seeing the accused
punished and also having some enmity with the accused.10 But, more than the categorization
of a witness, the issue really is one of appreciation of the evidence of a witness. A court
should examine the evidence of a related and interested witness having an interest in seeing
the accused punished and also having some enmity with the accused with greater care and
caution than the evidence of a third party disinterested and unrelated witness. This is all that
is expected and required.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

A brief analysis of Paragraph 33, 34 & 32 of the said judgment in the case at hand, four
categries of witnesses can be made out. A third party disinterested and unrelated witness
(such as a by-stander or passerby); a third party interested witness (such as a trap witness); a
related and therefore an interested witness (such as the wife of the victim) having an interest
in seeing that the accused is punished; a related and therefore an interested witness (such as
the wife or brother of the victim) having an interest in seeing the accused punished and also
having some enmity with the accused. But the board also observed that more than the
categorization of a witness, the issue really is one of appreciation of the evidence of a
witness. A court should examine the evidence of a related and interested witness having an
interest in seeing the accused punished and also having some enmity with the accused with
greater care and caution than the evidence of a third party disinterested and unrelated
witness.

In paragraphs 30 to 32 of the judgment, Raju alias Balachandran referred to and specifically


dissented from the decision of a three judge Bench (O. Chinnappa Reddy, A.P. Sen and

10
Dr. K.S. Chauhan, “Law of Evidence” XLVIII ASIL 618-620, (2012)
Baharul Islam JJ.) in State of Rajasthan vs. Smt. Kalki and others.11 In this case, the widow
of the deceased victim was the sole eye witness to the occurrence which took place in her
house while her mother- in -law, who had been at some distance from the house, came
running to the scene and saw the accused leaving the place. The conviction entered by the
trial court was set aside by the High Court. The Supreme Court, in an appeal by the State,
confirmed the conviction, setting aside the High Court order.

As held by the SC, the acquittal made by the High Court was on two grounds, namely, that
Prosecuting Witness 1 (Hereinafter PW1) was a “highly interested witness” and there were
serious discrepancies in her evidence: The Supreme Court held that both the grounds were
invalid. Dealing with PW1, the three judge Bench held:-

“In the circumstances of the case, she (PW1) was the only and most natural witness;
she was the only person present in the hut with deceased at the time of the
occurrence. True it is she is the wife of the deceased. “Related” is not equivalent to
“interested”.

A witness may be called “interested” only when he or she derives some benefit from a
litigation, in the decree in a civil case, or in seeing an accused person punished. A witness
who is a natural one and is the only possible eyewitness in the circumstances of a case cannot
be said to be “interested”. In the present case PW1 had no interest in protecting the real
culprit and falsely implicating the respondents”.

LOOPHOLES/ LACUNEAS IN THE JUDGEMENT:

In the above case, if the witness was shown to be previously inimical to the deceased, the
Bench was justified in scrutinizing his evidence with care and caution. In this view, it was
wholly unnecessary for the Bench to have considered the question whether the deceased’s
brother would fall within the class of “interested witness” merely because of his relationship
with the two victims, and if so, whether such an “interested” witness’s evidence was, in law,
required to be scrutinized with greater care and caution than the evidence of a third party
disinterested and unrelated witness. It is not as if this area is not covered by earlier decisions
of the Supreme Court; on the other hand, such decisions are a legion! Raju alias
Balachandran itself referred to a few earlier decisions, Dalip Singh vs. State of Punjab12,

11
1981 SCR (3) 504, 1981 SCC (2) 752
12
1953 AIR 364, 1954 SCR 145
Darya Singh vs. State of Punjab13, besides Waman vs. State of Maharashtra14, which in turn
relied on eight other decisions of the Supreme Court as also State Of Rajasthan vs Smt. Kalki
& Anr15 case which went against the tenor of the judgment in Raju alias Balachandran to the
effect that a witness who is related to the victim is “therefore an interested witness” whose
evidence is required to be scrutinized with greater care and caution.

CONCLUSION:

“The word “Interested” in the general or popular sense means only, “having an interest or
concern”. (See Chambers, 20th Century Dictionary, new edition 1996). But in the matter of
appreciation of evidence in criminal cases, courts, generally speaking, have not gone by the
popular meaning; courts have adopted a special meaningnamely, that a person can be
regarded as an interested witness only if he, activated by ill feeling towards the accused or for
extraneous reasons, wishes to ensure that accused is convicted and sent to
prison. “Extraneous reason” can only mean some reason other than the incident in which his
close relation or friend sustained serious injuries. Ordinarily, such “extraneous reason” can
only be ill feeling or strong antipathy towards the accused. This is what the Supreme Court
has consistently opined for over sixty years. Therefore the formulation in Raju alias
Balachandaran of a “related and therefore an interested witness (such as wife of the victim)
having an interest in seeing that the accused is punished” is far from correct. That a wife or
other close relation or friend will always have an interest in seeing that the accused is
punished is an assumption contrary to common sense and the stated position of the Supreme
Court. Such a close relation or friend, if he is a genuine eye witness, will be the last person to
falsely accuse an innocent person, the inevitable consequence of which will be to allow the
real assailant to escape the clutches of law. Such an attitude on the part of a close relation or
friend would be most unnatural or strange, unless the accused can show that the witness has
reason to do so for some specific reason or the other. However, an eye-witness who knew the
accused prior to the occurrence and had hostility towards them may have a vengeful attitude
towards them and may be prepared to give information or evidence against them. A witness
having ill will towards the innocent accused previously may be capable of involving the latter
falsely in the occurrence, whether or not the witness had seen the occurrence. But a close
relation or friend of the victim who has no such pre-existing enmity towards the accused has
no motivation to give information or evidence implicating the accused person as the assailant
in the case, if the he had witnessed the occurrence, since that would allow the actual assailant
to escape the clutches of justice. Of Course, in practice, nothing is ruled out. But in
scrutinizing and appreciating evidence, court is concerned only with “broad probability” and
not “extreme possibilities” having in view the provisions of Section 114 and the definition of
“proved” in Section 3 of the Evidence Act. When accused takes the stand of “false
implication”, that stand must be supported by some materials on record; that the eyewitness is
a close relative or friend of the victim, cannot be a substitute for such materials. The word
13
1965 AIR 328, 1964 SCR (7) 397
14
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 364 OF 2009
15
1981 SCR (3) 504, 1981 SCC (2) 752
“interested” has two dimensions – failure to perceive these different dimensions can lead one
astray. 19. In paragraph 34 of Raju alias Balachandran, the Bench found that PW5, the sole
eyewitness in the case was “someone who has an enmity with the accused and his evidence
needs to be scrutinized with great care and caution”. This proposition cannot be taken
exception to. What is taken exception to is the proposition that evidence of a “related
person” without previous enmity towards the accused should be treated at par with a witness
shown to have previous enmity with the accused.