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Not to convict on uncorroborated testimony of sole eyewitness when his conduct is unnatural: SC

Amar Singh v. The State(NCT of Delhi) (Criminal Appeal No. 335 OF 2015) With Inderjeet Singh v. The State(NCT of Delhi) (Criminal Appeal No. 336 OF 2015), 12 October, 2020.

Counsel for the appellants: Shri Dushyant Dave, Learned Senior Advocate

Counsel for the State: Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, Learned Senior Advocate

The Hon’ble Supreme Court comprising of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Krishna Murari held in a case that when the conduct of eye witness is inconsistent with ordinary course of human nature it is not safe to convict the accused persons upon the uncorroborated testimony of the sole eye witness.

These two appeals are directed against the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court dismissing the criminal appeal filed by the appellants challenging the order of conviction against them under Section 302 IPC r/w Section 34 IPC.

On 3.8.1990, at about 10:00 PM, Parminder Singh along with his brothers, Devinder Singh@ Ladi and Amar Singh left the house for going to their respective houses. They were moving on foot towards taxi stand situate in Sukhdev Market. He and Amar Singh were about ten paces ahead of Devinder Singh @ Ladi . At about 10:10 PM, when they reached near the corner of Sukhdev Market, they heard Devinder Singh @ Ladi raising an alarm ‘Bachao-Bachao’ and on turning back, they saw that Amar Singh( not to be confused with the brother of the deceased) , and Shiv Charan were giving hockey blows and one Inder Singh, was giving knife blows to Devinder Singh @ Ladi. His brother Devinder Singh@ Ladi fell on the ground and Inderjeet Singh gave him many knife blows. When they tried to rescue their brother, all the above three accused persons brandished their knife and hockeys and warned that whosoever will come to save Devinder Singh, they will also kill him. Thereafter all of them ran towards Bhisham Pitamah Marg, his brother Devinder Singh became unconscious.Many persons including Sujan Singh assembled there. After sometime, PCR van came and removed Devinder Singh to AIIMS, where he was declared dead by the Doctor.

One of the accused Shiv Charan expired before the trial. The trial court convicted the other two accused under section 302 r/w section 34 of IPC, by relying on the sole testimony of the sole eyewitness P/W 1- Parminder Singh. The other two eyewitnesses P/W 5- Sujan Singh and P/W 11- Amar Singh turned hostile. They both contended that they couldn’t see the perpetrators because there was no light and the incident took place on late night.

Shri Dushyant Dave, Learned Senior Counsel for the appellants submitted that the entire incident appears to be inherently improbable. It was further submitted that the conviction and sentence of the appellants based upon the sole testimony of one eye witness, whose conduct was unnatural and inconsistent with the ordinary course of human nature making his presence at the site of incident extremely doubtful, is highly unsafe without corroboration from other piece of evidence.

Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, Learned Senior Counsel appearing for the State vehemently contended that two Courts have recorded concurrent finding of guilt of the accused appellants based on the testimony of an eye witness which they found to be reliable and there exists no legal impediment for conviction on the basis of the same. She further submitted that the conviction cannot be assailed merely because of some lacuna in investigation.

The court while explaining the edifice of convicting on the sole testimony of one eye witness referred to its judgment in Sunil Kumar v. State of Government of NCT of Delhi and observed the following:

16. There is no legal impediment in convicting a person on the sole testimony of a single witness. That is the logic of Section 134 of the Evidence Act, 1872. But if there are doubts about the testimony Courts will insist on corroboration. It is not the number, the quantity but quality that is material. The time honored principle is that evidence has to be weighed and not counted. On this principle stands the edifice of Section 134 of the Evidence Act. The test is whether the evidence has a ring of truth, is cogent, credible and trustworthy or otherwise.

Then, the Court went on to note the peculiar situations in the present that brings out the reasons as to why the conviction cannot be based on the sole testimony of one eye witness.Since there are serious doubtful aspects in the conduct of PW-1 Parminder Singh and his conduct does not appear to be natural it would not be safe to accept his evidence without corroboration more particularly when two other eye witnesses, one being a real brother of the deceased has turned hostile. (Para 25)

Then, the court observed the material discrepancy between ocular testimony and medical evidence. In this regard, the court noted the inconsistency in the statement of P/W 1 that the incident occurred within five minutes and the statement of P/W 17A that it must have taken a minimum of 15 minutes for the perpetrators to inflict 15 wounds I the body of the deceased. In this regard the court noted the following:

29. In the facts and circumstances of the case this was serious lapse on the part of the investigating officer. Though normally minor lapses on the part of the investigating officer should not come in the way of accepting eye witness account, if otherwise reliable. But in the circumstances of the case at hands where the conduct of sole eye witness is unnatural and there are various other surrounding circumstances which make his presence at the site of incident doubtful, such a lapse on the part of the investigating officer assumed significance and is not liable to ignored.

The court then made references to its judgment in Ishwar Singh v. State of U.P and Kartarey and Ors. State of U.P wherein the importance of medical witness is emphasized in the following words:

“It is the duty of the prosecution, and no less of the Court, to see that the alleged weapons of the offence, if available, is shown to the medical witness and is opinion invited as to whether all or any of the injuries on the victim could be caused with that weapon. Failure to do so sometimes, cause aberration of the course of justice."

In the above regard, the Court held the following:

32. The conviction of the appellants rests on the oral testimony of PW-1 who was produced as eye witness of the murder of the deceased. Both the Learned Sessions Judge, as well as High Court have placed reliance on the evidence of PW-1 and ordinarily this Court could be reluctant to disturb the concurrent view but since there are inherent improbabilities in the prosecution story and the conduct of eye witness is inconsistent with ordinary course of human nature we do not think it would be safe to convict the appellants upon the incorroborated testimony of the sole eye witness. Similar view has been taken by a Three Judge Bench of this Court in the case of Selvaraj V/s The State of Tamil Nadu Wherein on an appreciation of evidence the prosecution story was found highly improbable and inconsistent of ordinary course of human nature concurrent findings of guilt recorded by the two Courts below was set aside.

Consequently, the impugned orders of the Courts below were set aside and appeals were allowed. The appellants were directed to be released forthwith unless required in any other case.

Kalidharun K M.

View/ Download the Judgment: Amar Singh v. The State(NCT of Delhi)


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